‘Significant Performance Issues’ at NE Nuke

Friday, February 24, 2012 @ 05:02 PM gHale

There are “significant performance issues” at OPPD’s Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant, Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) officials said.

One of the most obvious obstacles that faced the Fort Calhoun Plant last year was flooding, but the plant was already shut down for refueling at the time. Flooding was one issue, but there were more, officials said.

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Although no water ever penetrated the crucial buildings housing the nuclear reactors, it did take over the campus. OPPD is still working to make sure the receding water left no other damage.

However, in the early days of the flooding, there was a fire in a breaker room. It brought the NRC in for an inspection and they discovered many performance issues, dating back long before the fire or the flood. In fact, inspectors say if Fort Calhoun hadn’t already been offline, they would have shut it down based on what they found.

The NRC won’t go into detail about they found found.

“We’re clearly not satisfied with our performance,” said OPPD President, Gary Gates to the Commission. He went before the five-member commission to answer questions in Washington D.C.

“I think the number of events and the significance of the events that we’ve seen at Fort Calhoun station indicate that there are significant performance issues that need to be addressed by the licensee,” said Elmo Collins, of the NRC.

One of the commissioners said it appears there is a problem with “safety culture” within OPPD. “One would think that’s the hardest to fix, and really the hardest to assess as you look long term,” said Commissioner William Magwood.

Gates said the district’s performance going downhill was so slow and subtle, it’s hard to pin-point what happened. “They have operated at a high level of performance, we lost our edge.”

The regional public affairs spokesman for the NRC says OPPD is still evaluating the breadth of the performance problems, and could be subject to more oversight from the NRC. He also says Fort Calhoun will not be able to restart until that’s complete, and at this time, there’s no time table for when that will happen.

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