June 24, 2011 / 10:59 PM / 9 years ago

Nuclear agency head to visit flooded Nebraska reactors

FORT CALHOUN, Neb (Reuters) - The chair of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission will arrive in Nebraska Sunday to monitor preparations against Missouri River flooding at two Nebraska nuclear power plants, officials said Friday.

An aerial view of flood waters surrounding the Cooper Nuclear Power Plant near Brownville, Nebraska June 24, 2011. The Missouri River, swollen by heavy rains and melting snow, has been flooding areas from Montana through Missouri. REUTERS/Lane Hickenbottom

NRC Chair Gregory Jaczko will visit the Cooper Nuclear Station south of Omaha Sunday and the Fort Calhoun plant north of Omaha Monday, said agency spokesman Victor Dricks.

During both visits, Jaczko will also be talking with NRC resident inspectors— the agency staff who work on-site every day — and plant officials, Dricks said.

Flood water up to 2-feet deep is standing on the site of the 478-megawatt Fort Calhoun plant, operated by the Omaha Public Power District, the NRC said Wednesday.

The utility has erected a water-filled berm around vital areas of the plant — which shut in early April to refuel — to protect the containment building and auxiliary buildings from up to six feet of water.

Heavy rains and snow melt have flooded the Missouri River valley, threatening towns from Montana to Missouri.

An NRC inspection at Fort Calhoun two years ago indicated deficiencies in the flood preparation area, which have now been remedied, the agency said.

The rising river is not expected to reach vital equipment at the 800-megawatt Cooper plant, located near Brownville, Nebraska and operated by the Nebraska Public Power District, the NRC said. Cooper is running at full power.

During the Fort Calhoun stop, the chairman will meet first with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials, then take a helicopter tour along the Missouri River to provide an overview of the flooding and measures being taken. Following the plant visit he will meet with executives of the utility.

“Both plants remain under the ‘unusual event’ declarations, the lowest of four levels of emergency notification,” Dricks said. “We are maintaining close communications with the National Weather Service and the Army Corps of Engineers.”

Fort Calhoun will stay shut down until the water recedes, Dricks said..

Additional reporting by Naveen Arul in Bangalore and Eileen O'Grady in Houston; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune

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