Midwest Floods: Both Nebraska Nuke Stations Threatened

By Rady Ananda

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June 27 UPDATE Protective flood berm collapses at Ft Calhoun nuclear plant; KSU has radioactive leak

June 20 UPDATE: On June 17, the NRC published another Event Report by Fort Calhoun. A hole in the floor (caused by what?) has led to flooding, threatening the pumps. “Flooding through this penetration could have impacted the ability of the station’s Raw Water pumps to perform their design accident mitigation functions.”
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About 5 million* acres in the US corn belt have flooded, which will spike the cost of gas and food over the next several months. Worse, several nuclear power plants sit in the flooded plains. Both nuclear plants in Nebraska are partly submerged and the FAA has issued a no-fly order over both of them.

On June 7, the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant filed an Alert with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission after a fire broke out in the switchgear room. During the event, “spent fuel pool cooling was lost” when two fuel pumps failed for about 90 minutes.

On June 9, Nebraska’s other plant, Cooper Nuclear Power Station near Brownville, filed a Notice of Unusual Event (NOUE), advising it is unable to discharge sludge into the Missouri River due to flooding, and therefore “overtopped” its sludge pond.

The Fort Calhoun TFR (temporary flight restriction) was issued the day before the nuclear Alert. The FAA issued another TFR on June 7 for the Cooper plant.

Other flood-related TFRs were issued on June 13 for the Garrison Dam in Bismarck, North Dakota and on June 5 for rescue operations in Sioux City, SD.

Under the four-level nuclear event scale used in the US, an NOUE is the least hazardous. In an Alert, however, “events are in process or have occurred that involve an actual or potential substantial degradation in the level of safety of the plant,” according to the NRC.

Despite some media reports, Ft Calhoun is not at a stage 4 level of emergency, which under the US scale, would be “actual or imminent substantial core damage or melting of reactor fuel with the potential for loss of containment integrity.”

If that rumor refers to the seven-level International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, a Level 4 incident requires at least one death, which has not occurred.

Continued flooding does threaten the plants, however. As nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen explains in the above video, cooling pumps must operate continuously, even years after a plant is shut down.

One group, the Foundation for Resilient Societies, has proposed solar panels and other high-reliability power sources to supply backup cooling for the fuel pools at nuclear plants.

Thomas Popik told Food Freedom that FRS “invited the Chief Nuclear Officers of nearly every nuclear power utility to comment” on their proposal and only heard back from one operator. Otherwise, not one CNO has officially responded to the NRC-filed proposal.

While hindsight might be 20/20, the lack of foresight can be blindingly deadly when it comes to radioactive waste that lasts tens of thousands of years for the measly prize of 40 years of electricity.

The Ft. Calhoun plant — which stores its fuel rods at ground level according to Tom Burnett — is already partly submerged.

“Ft. Calhoun is the designated spent fuel storage facility for the entire state of Nebraska…and maybe for more than one state. Calhoun stores its spent fuel in ground-level pools which are underwater anyway – but they are open at the top. When the Missouri river pours in there, it’s going to make Fukushima look like an x-ray.”

In 2010, Nebraska stored 840 metric tons of the highly radioactive spent fuel rods, reports the Nuclear Energy Institute. That’s one-tenth of what Illinois stores (8,440 MT), and less than Louisiana (1,210) and Minnesota (1,160). But it’s more than other flood-threatened states like Missouri (650) and Iowa (420).

“But that’s not all,” adds Burnett. “There are a LOT of nuclear plants on both the Missouri and Mississippi and they can all go to hell fast.”

The black triangles in the below image prepared by the Center for Public Integrity show the disclosed locations of nuclear power plants in the US, minus research and military plants. (Red lines indicate both Mississippi and Missouri rivers):

Fort Calhoun is the smallest nuke plant in the nation, with one pressurized water reactor generating less than 500 MW. The NRC relicensed the plant thru 2033, giving it a lifespan of 60 years. Cooper was first commissioned in 1974 and has been relicensed thru 2034, also giving it a 60-year lifespan.

Since June 7, Cooper has been running under “Abnormal Operating Procedures” when river depth topped 38.5 feet (895 feet MSL), flooding the north access road. Sandbags and extra diesel fuel were brought in, reports WOWT.

As of 1:15 pm ET on June 16, the river height of just over 40 feet near Cooper is still 5 feet below the elevation required for a plant shutdown. Near Fort Calhoun, the river is even lower as of 1:15 pm ET on June 16 (under 32 feet).

In 1993, the Cooper Nuclear Station was critically flooded, prompting an emergency shut down:

Photo: Diane Krogh/Lighthawk.

The Midwest floods will seriously impact food and gas prices over the next year. Angela Tague at Business Gather suspects the lost farmland is behind the price spike to $7.55 a bushel for corn — twice last year’s price. Tague notes that the corn shortage will have far-reaching consequences:

“Corn is a key ingredient in ethanol gasoline, feeds America’s livestock and is found in many food products including soft drinks and cereal. Prices will undoubtedly increase steadily at the grocery store, gas pump and butcher shop throughout the summer as Midwest flooding continues along the Missouri River basin. Not only are farmers losing their homes, land and fields — ultimately their bank accounts will also suffer this season.”

And let’s not forget all that genetically modified seed washing south to contaminate natural fields.

Click here to hear the entire 40-minute podcast of Robert Knight’s 5 o’clock Shadow radio show interviewing Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates.

Click here to hear Gundersen’s testimony before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards on Thursday May 26, 2011.

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Last updated June 20.

* Not “tens of millions” — source to be provided shortly.

63 responses to “Midwest Floods: Both Nebraska Nuke Stations Threatened

  1. Thank you, Rady, for this story. I hadn’t heard about it anywhere else. Just isn’t as important as Anthony Weiner’s weiner, I guess.
    Of course, this can’t really be happening. The NRC and nuclear industry keep telling us how this is impossible in America. We are just so brilliant that there is no danger in our country from an accident in the world’s most potentially deadly technology. We have everything covered redundantly and are ever vigilant and never guilty of cutting corners to save money. We are so good that we can build plants in flood plains and along fault lines and still sleep soundly.
    And while we see our crops destroyed by flooding, England and other places are seeing theirs threatened by drought. The same utility companies assure us that this has nothing to do with climate change caused by our addiction to fossil fuels. A doubling of the cost of corn will mean starvation for many people in the world. But of course this is but a small taste of what we have to look forward to in the coming decades. As society, we obviously suffer from a group insanity, for we lack the will to save ourselves and future generations.

    • thanks, Bodhi…

      agreed these practices are insane… folks need to stand up en masse to decommission these nuke plants.

      • folks need to stand up en masse to decommission these nuke plants.

        Were exactly do we get the energy to replace these plants? There are over 400 world wide and you got your choice coal/wind/solar/Natural Gas/Nuclear. All are going to hurt the environment some way, but to shut them all down is really just not logical. Coal dirt air, Natural Gas CO2, Wind farms would take half the farm land we got, solar the same. Now nuclear fuel is recyclable and this plants in the US are the safest on the planet. So what do we do? We need electricity to even post here our thoughts.

        • it’s true we need to use less, but of all the energy sources foisted on us by big business, nuclear is the most insane.

          A recent report by Professor Benjamin Sovacool says that, on average, there has been one nuclear accident resulting in at least $330 million in damage every year for the past 30 years.

          “The meltdown of a 500-megawatt reactor located 30 miles from a city would cause the immediate death of an estimated 45,000 people, injure roughly another 70,000, and cause $17 billion in property damage.”

          That’s what we have at Ft Calhoun — 500 MW reactor 20 miles north of Omaha.

          You get 40 years of electricity for thousands of years of radioactivity.

          Some of the waste is also used to create nuclear bombs.

          I say, dump the nukes entirely.

  2. fearmongering at its finest. and no, i’m not a shill.

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  7. Amazing this isn’t a big story on the lame stream media for all the reasons you listed. As for the no fly zone over Ft Calhoun and how serious the situation is, I tend to think we have no real idea of what’s going on and the real story has yet to come out…. just like Fukushima.
    Gee, wonder why I’m so cynical? Could it be because governments that are in bed with corporations have an agenda and LIE consistently?

    Perhaps Rick the Nuclear Power Shill up there hasn’t paid attention to what’s going on with that Japanese plant that’s been in meltdown mode for months.. Were the public told the truth and dangers from day one, NO! Are they still underplaying the story and LYING about the amounts and dangers of radiation spewing forth and spreading across the planet?. YES!

    We’ve gotten to the point that we cannot believe anything that comes out of the mouths of those that work for the “Ministry of Truth.” In fact, if they say there is no danger, run for your lives .

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  16. two days after this article was posted, MSM comes out with a response. All is safe in Nebraska

    yeah, right.

  17. Pingback: Both of Nebraskas Nuclear Power Plants Now Threatened By Floods. Both partially submerged and the FAA has just issued a no-fly order over both of them. « Here In Reality

  18. lol coming from “crisisjones” of course i’m a punk. you people fall for the most obvious psy-ops it’s ridiculous.

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  20. I used to be in the Coast Guard Auxiliary and one of the patrol routes would go by the nearby nuclear plant. If the snipers were bored, they’d use laser sights on the boat as it went by.

  21. June 25 UPDATE:

    http://hawaiinewsdaily.com/2011/06/guess-whos-coming-to-dinner-at-the-fort-calhoun-nuclear-plant/

    Earlier this month, workers at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant surrounded the reactor and other key parts of the facility with a massive water berm called an “AquaDam”.

    Fort Calhoun had a foot-deep pool next to the reactor for spent fuel rods. The pool was so full in 2009 that they were sealing the fuel rods up in dry casks and sticking them in an on-site ‘mausoleum’.

    This, of course, is why there is a no-fly zone around the plant — someone might realize that wherever the fuel casks and underground fuel pools are, they are NOT inside the condom.

    Hat tip and a bow to Arthur Hu for finding the dry-storage bunker, half-submerged OUTSIDE the condom. It’s the smaller brown building adjacent to the white tank.

    No one really knows what their condition is – or even if the spent fuel is still on-site. No one in the major media is asking the question, and the operators aren’t saying.

    So who made the dry storage cask containers at Fort Calhoun?

    That would be Transnuclear, Inc.

    And who owns Transnuclear? Areva.

    And what else is Aveva doing?

    Selling water purification tanks and systems to TEPCO for Fukushima.

    What else does Areva do? Anything it wants, since it’s a giant multinational behemoth.

    UPDATE 6/24/11

    Lynda Waddington of The Iowa Independent has now confirmed that the dry storage casks WERE exposed to the flood, and outside the berm:

    http://iowaindependent.com/57751/nrc-spokesman-no-need-for-nebraska-spent-nuclear-fuel-casks-to-be-protected

    Note also the following article published today in the New York Times:

    http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2011/06/24/24climatewire-a-nuclear-plants-flood-defenses-trigger-a-ye-95418.html?pagewanted=1

    Last October, the NRC issued a notice of violation against the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant operator, Omaha Public Power District (OPPD). NRC inspectors said that facility ”would experience a loss of offsite power and loss of intake structure” in the event flood waters reached 1008 feet above sea level.

    According to the article, the Missouri River reached a high of 1007 feet yesterday.

    UPDATE 6/23/11

    This is us moving a 6 million dollar transformer. Scroll down for how good we done!

    http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=14547

    Rumor control stopped making much sense after June 17. No more pictures and the only thing they say is the standard “Pay no attention to the water. We’re perfectly safe. We planned this all along.” “Didn’t we, George?” ”Ah, ayup.”

    http://public-blog.nrc-gateway.gov/2011/06/17/rumors-and-the-rising-river/

    Ft. Calhoun is Just above Omaha – which is about 5 ‘ above flood stage. 194,000cubic feet/sec of water is flowing by there right now. It is the middle black triangle on the right. http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/classic.php?m=flood&r=ne&w=map

    shareshare
    Dr. Tom is a retired scientist who is now farming on the Big Island of Hawaii. He blogs at http://tergeist.wordpress.com

    ####

    My comment:

    Ft Calhoun has a 40-foot deep spent fuel pool, which filled up in 2006

    Since then it’s been building above ground dry storage casks

    http://www.enterprisepub.com/news/article_c622e2ac-55a5-5c14-b1b2-d8adfe92484a.html

    And here’s a huge picture of the site in case you can figure out where “mausoleum-like concrete structures outside the nuclear plant” are:

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