Omaha Public Power District’s (OPPD) Fort Calhoun nuclear power station has been shut down for ten months and following a February 22, 2012 Commission briefing by NRC staff and company officials, there is no restart date even on the horizon. The NRC is holding back its permission to restart the reactor pending a widening review of the plant’s post-flood condition and company’s managerial failures to maintain an adequate safety culture. The atomic power plant site was submerged for three months following the Missouri River overflowing its banks in 2011. During that time, Ft. Calhoun also experienced a significant electrical fire on the nuclear island and the collapse of a large rubber berm that brought the floodwaters lapping against the walls of the reactor building.
Even though the flood emergency at the reactor ended on August 29, 2011, the company still faces rising uncertainty and myriads of questions on the structural integrity of reactor complex foundations as a result of soil compaction and subsidence. Miles of inaccessible buried safety-related electrical cables were never qualified to be wet let alone submerged for 90 days. Fort Calhoun is OPPD only nuke and as a result, the public utility has brought in Chicago-based nuclear giant Exelon as a consultant and perhaps more still behind the scenes. Fort Calhoun’s costly outage is another demonstration that nuclear power is not as reliable a source of base load power as its proponents like to argue.