nuclear plant safety-??

This information about recent nuclear “events” at nuclear reactor sites in the US  is compiled from the NRC website, Scientific American, and other sources.  Information taken from the NRC is in red. My comments are in black.  I will continue to add information and commentary over time. Newer info at the top.


6/25/11 Hi res pics of Calhoun Plant

(looks like they are from 6/20) and some spent fuel cask explanations, pics and diagrams on this site

6/23/11 Q&A from with NPPD and OPPD

More safety questions addressed about both Calhoun and Cooper in this article.

6/17/11 rumor control from the NRC public blog here.

Reasons for the No Fly Zone are clarified on this entry and also the steps taken as of June 16 to help insure the Calhoun plant safety from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s public blog. NRC public blog.

6/15/11 FT Calhoun Nuclear Plant Flooding and NOTA- NO FLY Zone

As the Missouri River continues to rise, this picture shows a plant that looks to be just a few sandbags short of major disaster.

The Calhoun reactor has been shut down since April for refueling. On June 7th,  a fire at the plant knocked out it’s ability to cool it’s spent fuel pools. After 90 minutes, cooling ability was restored. A Scientific American article about the incident can be found on this link.

A No Fly Zone was established above this flooding plant the same day. Reason given? HAZARDS-until further notice. This is apparently standard procedure in case of a fire at a nuclear plant. The FAA- NOTA report can be found at this link.  The question remains though, why is it still in effect with the fire out days ago?

OPPD, the operator of  the plant, addresses rumors about it on their website here.From their vantage point, everything is safe. Take a look at that picture in high res, and see if you agree.

Up to date river gauge graphic at Blair above Fort Calhoun on the Missouri.

Missouri River near Blair

A flood/event calculator for another Nebraska nuclear power station- Cooper, can be found at the NPPD website here.

update 6/1711: NRC event notification for Fort Calhoun. They are keeping a very close on this and rightly so!

Power Reactor Event Number: 46965
Region: 4 State: NE
Unit: [1] [ ] [ ]
RX Type: (1) CE
Notification Date: 06/16/2011
Notification Time: 14:46 [ET]
Event Date: 06/16/2011
Event Time: 12:30 [CDT]
Last Update Date: 06/16/2011
Emergency Class: NON EMERGENCY
10 CFR Section:
50.72(b)(3)(ii)(B) – UNANALYZED CONDITION
50.72(b)(3)(v)(D) – ACCIDENT MITIGATION
Person (Organization):
Unit SCRAM Code RX CRIT Initial PWR Initial RX Mode Current PWR Current RX Mode
1 N N 0 Cold Shutdown 0 Cold Shutdown

Event Text

ADDITIONAL PENETRATION IDENTIFIED FOR MITIGATION DURING WALKDOWN “Operations identified a potential flooding issue in the Intake Structure 1007 ft. 6 in. level. The area of concern is a the hole in the floor at the 1007 ft. 6 in. level where the relief valve from FP-1A discharge pipe goes through the raw pump bay and discharges into the intake cell. There is one penetration of concern. Flooding through this penetration could have impacted the ability of the station’s Raw Water (RW) pumps to perform their design accident mitigation functions. “Efforts are in progress to seal the penetration. “This eight-hour notification is being made pursuant to 10 CFR 50.72 (b)(3)(v).” The licensee notified the NRC Resident Inspector.

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Power Reactor

6/7/11-Too Hot and trouble? Now that could never happen, right?

The  event below took place  during a record heat wave across the US. Essentially,  it was too hot  outside for the back-up generators to run if they were needed. In other words, if something had happened, say flooding or fire or power interruptions to the plant that required backup power to cool the reactor or spent fuel ponds,  there would be none. The temperature of the air was above 100F and the back-up diesel generators used to power the plant in emergencies are inoperable above that temperature. The temp peaked at 101.4

Power Reactor Event Number: 46934
Region: 3 State: MN
Unit: [1] [ ] [ ]
RX Type: [1] W-2-LP,[2] W-2-LP
Notification Date: 06/07/2011
Notification Time: 17:43 [ET]
Event Date: 06/07/2011
Event Time: 13:49 [CDT]
Last Update Date: 06/07/2011
Emergency Class: NON EMERGENCY
BOTH EMERGENCY DIESEL GENERATORS DECLARED INOPERABLE DUE TO EXCESS OUTSIDE AMBIENT AIR TEMPERATURE “Outside ambient air temperature exceeded the maximum analytical value for operability for Unit 1 D1 and D2 Diesel Generators at 1349 CDT. The calculated limiting outside air temperature needed for equipment in the D1 and D2 rooms to meet their temperature limits is 100.5?F. Outside ambient temperature exceeded this limiting value and both Unit 1 safeguards diesel generators were declared inoperable at 1349 CDT on 6/7/2011. If outside ambient air temperature is above the maximum analytical value, components within the D1 and D2 diesel rooms may not be able to perform their required functions thus preventing them from fulfilling their safety function needed to mitigate the consequences of an accident (10 CFR 50.72 (b)(3)(v)(D)). “Unit 1 is currently in Mode 3, Hot Standby. Ambient outside air temperatures are at or near peak values for the day and expected to decrease approximately 1 to 2 degrees per hour which will restore ambient conditions to less than the maximum analytical value. “The NRC Resident Inspector has been notified.” The outside air temperature has peaked at 101.4?F which is unusually high for this location and is expected to drop below the 100.5?F limit shortly. The licensee does not anticipate that this condition will be repeated again any time soon

I have two major concerns here. The first one is that the temperature that the backup cooling fails at  is only 100 degrees F.  Hardly outside the realm of possibilities.

My  second concern is the corrective action taken: none. At least none listed here. Instead we have the licensee of the plant  posing as an expert meterologist, giving us this opinion that they do “not anticipate that this condition will be repeated again any time soon.”

“Hey,  wake up, it’s the weather for heaven’s sake!

(photo courtesy of Minnesota dept of Commerce)


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  1. #1 by lightenup on June 11, 2011 - 7:59 pm

    This article is not intended to slight those professionals and nuclear workers whose focused dedication to safety keep the number of these nuclear events much lower than they could be. Indeed, I salute them. It is intended to highlight my opinion that the very tiny window of operating safety for nuclear power use is no longer big enough to continue using it, and that we as citizens of planet earth must make better choices.

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