Missouri Meltdown Monitor (Update 16: July 9th)

As a result of one of the wettest winters in over 100 years flooding on the Missouri River is threatening two nuclear reactors located in Nebraska. The US Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) has estimated that the nuclear facilities could be under up to ten feet of water and stay that way into August during their controlled release of flood waters.

The two commercial nuclear power plants currently in serious danger from flooding are located near Omaha Nebraska.  The 800 MegaWatt Fort Calhoun station north of Omaha has garnered the majority of the coverage so far.  That station was closed in April for refueling and maintenance.   However, the 500 MegaWatt Cooper Nuclear Station which is currently operating could eventually be worse due to the danger of levees that protect the unit from waters going several feet higher.  The worst case scenario would be a loss of offsite power to keep the nuclear fuel properly cooled.

Since early June the Omaha Public Power District(OPPD) has had to deal with a number of flood related events at Ft Calhoun (see sidebar for list). The latest was the collapse of the 8 foot high plastic berm protecting the facility on On June 26th.  The first emergency came on 6-6 when a pump for the spent fuel pond was briefly knocked out.  Concern over the precarious state of affairs clearly shifted when the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) arrived Sunday the 26th to investigate the safety status of the two reactors.  On the 27th, the National Weather Service upgraded its flood warning at Fort Calhoun from moderate to Major.

Due to the extreme winter including major rains in May the Corp of Engineers announced that it would release 150,000 cubic feet of water per second at Gavins Point Dam at Yankton SD, but was forced to increase that to 160,000 feet by June 24th.  This would increase flooding by up to a half a foot. ACE also acknowledged that this level would continue into August. This is five times more water than the Corp has ever released before, and the rainy season has not ended yet (see below for June rain amounts).   Besides the tornado season is still in full swing as one powerful tornado and 23 others ripped through central Nebraska according to kolotv.com on 6-20.  Concerns also continue to mount around more water coming into the Missouri from tributaries below Gavins Point.

[youtube CktqD7-NzN4 Gavins Point Dam Releases]

At least one large levee north of the Cooper facility has been breached on June 23rd forcing evacuations.  This has resulted in water levels dropping nearly a foot at Cooper.  Its not confirmed yet, but one source said that in past flooding ACE blew up levees to protect the nuclear facilities.  They did just this during flooding earlier this year. The question whether even more levees not to mention dams can withstand the coming weeks of flooding? The FAA has restricted any air travel over the endangered facilities, very likely at the request of the OPPD and NPPD after a local station went ahead and showed flooding at Fort Calhoun after being requested not to do so.

Gavins Point Dam

The danger exists where even greater levels of water could increase the flood levels well beyond the capacity of the levees and sandbagging operations that have been put in place, resulting in an American Fukushima styled nuclear disaster from flooding. There is growing anger at ACE for waiting so long before starting its controlled flooding.  Some say that this was because the Ohio Flooding took precedent, but ACE claims that it was due to the heavy May rains as the cause.

 

Background

Blair Flooding

The Missouri River is the longest river in North America at 2,300 miles and and has hundreds of tributaries feeding it.  It is also a tributary of the Mississippi River, making the entire system the fourth largest in the world.  The river has a large floodplain (the full size of the river in the distant past) that averages between 10-20 miles across, with the river being about a mile wide prior to damming.  From hard lessons, there was little human development on the flood plain until the coming of the big dams.  An example of the power of the Missouri River came in 1964 when a newly completed bridge over the Missouri at Sioux City Iowa was destroyed during that year’s flooding.

The US Army Corps of Engineers completed a series of large 6 dams on the Missouri River by the mid 1960′s, the last of the six being located near Yankton SD called Gavins Point Dam. With the dams in place, everybody went back to putting farms, including two nuclear power plants on the flood plain.

Corps of Engineers Flooding Map

The Corps of Engineers released a set of projected flood maps for the area from Yankton SD throughout Nebraska showing what they think will happen in terms of controlled flood levels in the region.  Based on these maps, both of Nebraska’s nuclear facilities are in severe danger.  The Fort Calhoun unit located 19 miles north of Omaha Nebraska is projected to be under water from 4 to over 10 feet of water (see map below). Note that in May of this year, the NRC hit Ft. Calhoun for poor flood control problems from flooding that took place last year.  According to David Lochbaum from the Union of Concerned Scientists, the NRC yellow tagged Ft. Calhoun’s owners last year over concerns that the facility couldn’t withstand the kind of flooding we are seeing this year. The NRC ordered that additional precautions be taken. The facility is a 500 MegaWatt Combustion Engineering PWR reactor that is currently shut down.

 

Cooper Nuclear Station

The other reactor the Cooper nuclear station is located 70 miles south of Omaha and is an 830 MWe General Electric BWR reactor and is currently at full operation.  this is a slightly newer General Electric design than the reactors that recently melted down at Fukushima in Japan. It is predicted to be under water from 4-8 feet. Behind the reactor and to the Northwest are located levees that are meant to keep at least reduce flooding by 2 feet.

Beyond Nuclear has petitioned the NRC to close all General Electric Mark 1 Reactors in the U.S. due safety concerns. Nebraska’s Cooper Nuclear Station and Fukushima are of the same design.

The Cooper Nuclear Station which is operated by the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) declared an Unusual Event on Sunday June 19th as flooding has reached beyond 42.5 feet, setting off emergency flood planning at the facility. The river rose nearly 4 feet since Friday the 17th reaching 44.6 feet and all time record, and flows increased nearly 50,000 Cubic Feet Per Second.  The US ACE upgraded flood level from moderate to major.

The St. Louis Beacon did a piece showing that the current flooding is also endangering an old nuclear waste dump along the Missouri near St. Louis called West Lake landfill.  The article also does an excellent job of pointing out the fact that inappropriate development has played a major role in the growing number impacts from flooding.

Fort Calhoun Flooding

Cooper Nuclear Station Flooding

Cooper Nuclear Station

Projected Flood Map: Cooper Station

Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station

Projected Flood Map: Fort Calhoun


Flood Stage Map for Cooper Nuclear Station

Cooper Nuclear Station Flood levels

Flood Stage Map for Fort Calhoun

Fort Calhoun Flood Levels

Nebraska Nuclear Alert News

 

Tuesday June 28th, 2011

Monday June 27th, 2011

[youtube N8JqACkhKM4 Fort Calhoun Flooding ]

Sunday June 26th, 2011

Friday June 24th, 2011

Thursday June 23rd, 2011

[youtube 5NidxieeUl4 We Almost Lost Nebraska]

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

[youtube eGga2sRF9qg Missouri Flooding & Fort Calhoun]

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

[youtube mSvvmrB7qEg WBAI: Arnie Gunderson Interview]

Monday, June 13, 2011

NRCNRC Cites Cooper Nuclear Station for Inspection Finding of Low to Moderate Safety Significance (pdf-)
Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Monday, June 06, 2011


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Missouri Meltdown Monitor (Update 16: July 9th) — 2 Comments

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