Fort Calhoun – Still Shut Down – Since April, 2011

by L J Furman, MBA on March 16, 2013

in Fort Calhoun, Nuclear Energy, Systems Thinking

Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant, within the Missouri

Ft. Calhoun Nuclear Station, within the Missouri

The Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant, (OPPD / NRC) 19 Miles from Omaha, Nebraska, was shut-down for refueling in April, 2011. Flooded by the Missouri River in June, 2011, the plant remains shut-down. It Will Be Two Years – 2 YEARS – In April!

The Omaha Public Power District, OPPD has raised rates 6.9% to finance a $143 million repair bill. This does not include the costs to the OPPD to purchase electricity that the plant would provide – which is 25% of the power that the OPPD needs on a daily basis.. This also does not include costs to replace teflon coated wiring – which disintegrates on exposure to high levels of radiation – and costs to repair some of the plant’s support structures.  This also probably does not include the costs to the district for Excelon to run the plant for the next 20 years, reported on Jan. 28, 2013, by Kevin Cole, of, the Omaha World-Herald, (here),

“For the first year of management work, OPPD will pay Exelon between $20 million and $26.5 million.”

In a telephone interview with me, in August, 2011, David Lochbaum, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, UCS, estimated the total cost of maintaining the plant and purchasing replacement electricity to be $1.0 million per day – roughly $600 million, to date.

By asking Exelon to run the plant, it looks like the OPPD has decided to keep the plant running. Similarly, by requiring the OPPD to do what needs to be done to bring the plant back up, it seems like the NRC has decided that this 50 year old and severely constrained nuclear power plant is worth bringing back on line. Who is asking whether or not this is a good idea?  It seems to me that OPPD would be better off asking Warren Buffett, Omaha based head of Berkshire Hathaway how to manage their assets than asking Exelon to spend whatever it takes to “Bring this bad boy back on-line.”

The Omaha Journal Star reported in August, 2012, “Bad math at Fort Calhoun plant prompts questions“,

“If Fort Calhoun were being run by a business, it would have been shut down a year ago,” said Arnie Gundersen, a former licensed reactor operator who works with Fairewinds Energy Education, a nonprofit that studies energy issues. …

Utility officials said part of why they believe it’s worth repairing Fort Calhoun is that the cost of nuclear fuel is stable in comparison to coal and natural gas and that it produces no greenhouse gases.

“It’s a reliable source of electricity that’s carbon-free. That becomes more valuable going forward,” OPPD spokesman Jeff Hanson said.

This assertion, that nuclear power produces no greenhouse gases is based on a look at a single aspect of a very complex system. It is, when the entire system is considered, demonstrably false. Please see my post, “Nuclear Power Not ‘Carbon Free’ Energy“. The Journal Star’s  article continues,

But it will be difficult to convince some that Fort Calhoun is safe and a good investment.

The Sierra Club of Iowa has asked the commission to revoke Fort Calhoun’s operating license because of its history of safety violations. Mike Ryan, with the environmental group Clean Nebraska, said he would rather see the nuclear plant closed.

“The attitude of the NRC is always making sure it’s safe before restart. What if you can’t make it safe?” he said.

The US NRC’s information page notes that the station’s operating license, issued in 1973, was renewed in 2003 for another 30 years. While set to expire in 2033,after 70 years of operation, the plant seems to have died a natural death after “only” 48 years.


Location: Ft. Calhoun, NE (19 miles N of Omaha, NE) in Region IV
Operator: Omaha Public Power District
Operating License: Issued – 08/09/1973
Renewed License: Issued – 11/04/2003
License Expires: 08/09/2033
Docket Number: 05000285

Reactor Type: Pressurized Water Reactor
Licensed MWt: 1,500
Reactor Vendor/Type: Combustion Engineering
Containment Type: Dry, Ambient Pressure

An analyst with Popular Logistics, Lawrence J. Furman holds a Bachelor’s in Biology, an MBA in “Managing for Sustainability” from Marlboro College, experience with information technology. He can be reached at ‘L Furman 97” @ G Mail.

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