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Study of Nebraska nuclear flood risks narrowed

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 16, 2014 at 4:26 pm •  Published: June 16, 2014

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Regulators have told the utilities that own Nebraska's two nuclear power plants not to worry about some unlikely scenarios under which upstream dams might fail, even though regulator had ordered the utilities to study the flood risks facing the plants.

The Omaha and Nebraska Public Power Districts are re-examining flood threats at their nuclear plants that sit on the Missouri River as part of an industrywide review of unlikely safety threats after the 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in Japan.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission told the utilities this month that they didn't need to consider two of the five dam failure scenarios experts developed.

NRC officials didn't immediately respond Monday to questions about the decision.

Officials have been concerned about the potential for flooding at the two nuclear power plants since the historic flooding along the Missouri River in 2011.

OPPD's Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant sits on the banks of the river about 20 miles north of Omaha, and was surrounded by water during the flooding three years ago.

NPPD's Cooper nuclear station sits on the river's banks near Brownville, in southeast Nebraska. It was also threatened by the 2011 flood, but the plant sits on more elevated land and is roughly 100 miles downstream from Fort Calhoun, so the water was less of a threat.

In addition, an internal NRC report that was made public in 2012 estimated that the failure of an upriver dam could cause flooding that is 46 feet higher than Fort Calhoun is prepared to handle in a worst-case scenario.

Adding to the concerns about Fort Calhoun is the fact that regulators forced the plant to remain offline from April 2011 until last December while they addressed several regulatory violations and made sure the flood damage was repaired. OPPD had to deal with a small electrical fire in June 2011, address structural concerns and retrain workers to respond aggressively to safety concerns.

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