Fort Calhoun restarts after extended outage

19 December 2013

Power generation at the single-unit Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant in Nebraska has resumed after the US regulator gave permission for its restart. The plant had been offline for almost three years for operating and safety system upgrades.

Fort Calhoun at night 460 (OPPD)
Fort Calhoun (Image: OPPD)

Fort Calhoun - a 478 MWe pressurized water reactor - was shut down in April 2011 for a scheduled refuelling outage, but this was extended after flooding of the Missouri River. A flood warning was declared at the plant in June, which remained in place for 84 days.

Plant owner Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) took numerous actions during the flooding to protect the plant, including the installation of berms and temporary AquaDams around main plant buildings. As the waters receded, work began to assess and correct the flood's impact on plant operations, with OPPD submitting its recovery plan to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in August 2011. OPPD said that the unit would remain offline until all issues had been addressed and the NRC and OPPD agreed it was safe to restart the plant.

Numerous upgrades have been made to Fort Calhoun's operating and safety systems, as well as major changes to the plant's equipment, processes and procedures. These upgrades will provide the plant with better protection against flooding and from debris blown by tornadoes and other high winds. They also give the plant stronger steam and high pressure lines and enhanced barriers to radiation within the plant.

The NRC has now confirmed that OPPD has met all the actions it had committed to prior to restarting the plant. The NRC's regional administrator Marc Dapas told OPPD, "The NRC has concluded that the plant, people and processes are ready to support the safe restart of the Fort Calhoun station." The commission gave the company permission on 17 December to resume operation of the plant. OPPD immediately began the process of restarting the unit and it was recorded at 1% power this morning.

OPPD president and CEO Gary Gates: "The last several years have been challenging for OPPD and our customers as we worked to bring the plant back online." However, he added, "We now have a power plant with significant major upgrades to numerous vital systems. This sets us up well to run through the term of our operating licence."

In August 2012, OPPD signed an operating services agreement with Exelon Generation - operator of the USA's largest commercial nuclear power plant fleet - to take over the day-to-day operations management of the Fort Calhoun plant. Exelon Nuclear Partners, a division of Exelon Generation, has been assisting in the recovery of the plant since the beginning of 2012. OPPD has remained the plant's owner and licensed operator, and the plant has been staffed by a team of OPPD and Exelon employees.

Fort Calhoun began commercial operation in September 1973. The plant's operating licence was renewed for a further 20 years, until August 2033, by the NRC in November 2003.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News