OPPD’s Fort Calhoun laying groundwork for restart

The Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) is expected to make a presentation to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Oct. 30 about progress being made toward eventual restart of the nuclear station since a summer 2011 flood along the Missouri River.

When contacted Oct. 17, an OPPD spokesperson declined to place a timeline on when OPPD expects to be able to restart the nuclear plant. “We will restart the plant when we are certain it is safe to do so, the checklist is completed, and NRC has agreed,” the representative said.

The flooding occurred a few months after OPPD had taken the 480-MW nuclear plant offline for a regularly-scheduled refueling outage.

Earlier this year OPPD recently retained Exelon (NYSE: EXC), the nation’s largest nuclear operators, to help run the plant.

The Fort Calhoun station in Nebraska was subjected to flood waters for several months. The utility did testing and analysis to evaluate impact on the water on structural integrity of the plant, according to OPPD slides from a Sept. 11 public presentation.

Results showed that the maintenance shop column had settled due to soil wetting. There was also some turbine building drain pipe degradation. Final engineering is in progress for piping repairs. Some pavement on site has also been repaired.

A corrective action program is in place. Fort Calhoun staff identified that 614 containment penetration feed-throughs contain Teflon materials that could degrade under certain accident conditions, OPPD said in the presentation.

PPD board takes nuclear actions

At its Oct. 11 meeting, the OPPD Board of Directors approved using any insurance recovery from its Nuclear Electric Insurance Limited (NEIL) policy relating to the Fort Calhoun Station outage to adjust the Fuel and Purchased Power Adjustment (FPPA) formula rate. The proceeds would be used to reduce future rates paid by customers for the FPPA

In other action, the board authorized management to take the necessary actions to repair the piping system underneath the station’s turbine building. The weakened drain pipe was not a result of flooding last year but was discovered during post-flood inspections.

Broken, cracked and loose joints have resulted in groundwater leaking below the concrete slab of the turbine building basement, creating negatively affected soil. Stopping expansion of the affected soil is a flood-recovery commitment to the NRC and is necessary prior to restart of the station.

A month earlier, the OPPD board decided to amortize $143m of outage-related costs over 10 years.

All OPPD Board members are elected by district customers and recent news coverage in Nebraska indicates the prolonged outage has become an issue in a couple of board races.

In late 2003 NRC issued the Fort Calhoun plant a 20-year license extension, which would allow the plant to run until August 2033.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.