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Thursday, June 23, 2011

NRC officials monitoring rising Missouri River flood waters at Fort Calhoun and Cooper, Nebraska, nuclear plants

Officials Monitoring Rising Floodwaters At Nebraska Nuclear Plants

Missouri River floodwaters are less than three feet from reaching the site of a nuclear power plant in Nebraska, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Some of the grounds at another plant, which has been shut down since April, are already under water, the NRC stated.

The Cooper Nuclear Station, which is currently operating at full power and the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant are under an "unusual event declaration" by the NRC.

"We are closely following events at both plants," NRC Region 4 Administrator Elmo Collins said, in a prepared statement on Wednesday. "Both plants have activated their flood response plans and taken appropriate steps to protect vital structures, systems and components from rising floodwaters and maintain their plants in a safe condition."

Heavy rainfall in Montana and North Dakota, combined with melting snow from the Rocky Mountains, have sent the Missouri surging downstream. The 6 to 12 inches of rainfall in the upper Missouri basin in the past few weeks is nearly a normal year's worth, and runoff from the mountain snowpack is 140% of normal, according to weather forecasters.

Earlier this week, the swollen river washed over and punched through levees in northwestern Missouri, spurring authorities to urge about 250 nearby residents to leave their homes.

Cooper, according to the statement, "sits two and a half feet above current river levels."

Nebraska utility officials have erected barriers to protect buildings at the plant from flooding and have installed a berm around the facility's electrical switchyard. The Cooper plant is located about 80 miles south of Omaha.

"The licensee does not expect floodwaters to impact vital plant equipment," the NRC stated.

However, CNN affiliate KETV reported Wednesday that, as a precautionary move, the facility is keeping dozens of staff members onsite around the clock. The station reported that about 60 people are sleeping on cots at the plant and that the staffers are being rotated out every two days.

The NRC has sent more inspectors to Fort Calhoun where many areas of the plant are under two feet of water, according to the statement. Plant operators there have also erected berms around buildings and the electrical switchyard, as well as a concrete barrier around transformers.

Fort Calhoun is located about 19 miles north of Omaha.

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