Electrical Fire Knocks Out Spent Fuel Cooling Pool at Nebraska Nuclear Plant

Update concerning current “Notification of Unusual Event” for a separate Nebraska nuclear power plant on the bottom of this post (in italics), and a featured reader comment.

Well, it doesn’t seem to be turning into the crisis that we have at the Fukushima reactors in Japan right now, but this is concerning.

Truthout reported the following this week:

A fire in an electrical switch room on Tuesday briefly knocked out cooling for a pool holding spent nuclear fuel at the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant outside Omaha, Neb., plant officials said….

As ProPublica reported earlier, fire safety is a continuing concern at the country’s 104 commercial reactors, as is the volume of spent fuel piling up at plants….

Officials at Fort Calhoun said the situation at their plant came nowhere near to Fukushima’s. They said it would have taken 88 hours for the heat produced by the fuel to boil away the cooling water.

Workers restored cooling in about 90 minutes, and plant officials said the temperature in the pool only increased by two degrees.

The fire, reported at 9:30 a.m., led to the loss of electrical power for the system that circulates cooling water through the spent fuel pool, according to a report from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A chemical fire suppression system discharged, and the plant’s fire brigade cleared smoke from the room and reported that the fire was out at 10:20 a.m., the NRC said.

Well, good that it wasn’t worse than it was, but goes to show that things aren’t exactly as safe as should be in the U.S. when it comes to nuclear power plants and spent fuel pools either.

Coincidentally, back at the end of March, there were warnings about the safety level of this particular nuclear power plant.

“Fort Calhoun’s nuclear power plant is one of three reactors across the country that federal regulators said they are most concerned about,” KETV 7 in Omaha reported.

“Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials said Fort Calhoun’s reactor is operating safely, but it’s still on the shortlist because they want to make sure it’s prepared to handle major emergencies, like flooding.”

The regulator’s only real interest seemed to be preparing the plant for flooding.

“We’re not worried about it on a daily basis, we think it’s very safe,” local resident Sue Harsin ironically (in retrospect) said at the time.

Update (June 19), from NCNewsPress:

Cooper Nuclear Station, an electric power plant in southeast Nebraska, declared a “Notification of Unusual Event” this morning at 4:02 a. m. The declaration was anticipated throughout Saturday by the power plant’s operators, who closely tracked the river’s steady increase in elevation due to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ releases from dams upstream.

The notification was made as part of safety and emergency preparedness plan the station follows when flooding conditions are in effect. The plan’s procedures dictate when the Missouri River’s water level reaches 42.5 feet, or greater than 899 feet above sea level, a notification of unusual event is declared.

Here’s a featured reader comment from morning of June 20:

There is radiation in the water there now. Cooper wasn’t shut down as flood waters rise (at least 5′ more w/no more rain is coming from snow melt and past spring rains, thunderstorms, hail, tornadoes are yet to arrive for days, and weeks ahead. This is our Fukushima. Watch it unfold.

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  2. Canadian Nuclear Plant Leaks Radioactive Water Into Lake Ontario

Photo via Marylise Doctrinal


18 thoughts on “Electrical Fire Knocks Out Spent Fuel Cooling Pool at Nebraska Nuclear Plant”

  1. Clueless article. Why not add the extra 5 feet of water to the current level and tell us whether it exceeds 42.5 then tell us exactly what this means.

    Seems the author does not know?

    What is the purpose of the article then?

    1. Ed_B: you are referencing an after-the-fact additional comment by a reader. i added it for more general context and perspective. it was not even a part of or the focus of the original article, or even the article after the first update….

      if you want to figure this out because it is important to you, feel free to do so and feel free to drop the info in here.

  2. Study natural history and learn that nuclear power is a natural process. Search “Gabon reactors” for insight. Appreciate, too, that coal plants emit so much radioactive material that, had that material been used to fuel a reactor, the reactor would have produced more energy than was created by burning the coal. See article at http://www.ornl.gov/info/ornlreview/rev26-34/text/colmain.html There are more important things to worry about than nuclear power plants.

  3. I am a Nebraskan, and it should be noted that the Ft. Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant and the Cooper Nuclear Station mentioned in the article update are two completely different nuclear facilities in different areas of the state. Both are along the Missouri river.


    Had it hit directly it could have collapsed the power grid serving 130 million people in this country.

    See http://www.aesopinstitute.org for an overview of what this means for nuclear plants.

    They could spew radioactivity into local communities.

    This threat can prove worse than a terror attack.

    Perhaps the problems in Nebraska will help wake up the nation to unsuspected nuclear hazards.

  5. There is radiation in the water there now. Cooper wasn’t shut down as flood waters rise (at least 5′ more w/no more rain is coming from snow melt and past spring rains, thunderstorms, hail, tornadoes are yet to arrive for days, and weeks ahead. This is our Fukushima. Watch it unfold. Meanwhile, 48% spike in infant deaths directly related to Fukushima. Where? Pennsylvania! 37% spike in the Pacific northwest!, but who is paying attention? Take sodium alginate in the minimum—esp kids and pregnant women. Tell your doctor and take them NOW.

  6. Nuclear energy and weapons are obsolete. If this doesn’t prove it, a total disaster will and it looks like Nebraska could be the sacrifice as well as all water bodies attached to the Missouri River.

    The responsibility of inventors who create beyond their power to control, becomes apparent in these disasters. Japan is now blaming the US strong arming them into American designed reactors which are faulty. Now Obama’s administration has cut the SAFETY BUDGET for Los Alamos’s new PIT PRODUCTION facility that is BUILT on a faultline. I heard also that Obama is selling old site facilities at Los Alamos to unsuspecting Native American groups and dusting their hands of the cleanup. This is a total disgrace and stupidity by all involved. Our fate is very near and the collateral damage of GREED and short-sightedness will be extensive.

  7. Shut them down. Arrest any officials or employees who knowingly put civilian lives at risk.

    Fund real safe and clean energy generation, and nothing else.

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