Problems continue to plague the flooded Ft. Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant. The NRC Reports listed below make it difficult to decipher the full range of events that have happened. Here are at least some of the facts.
First, a worker, moving sand, brushed the "AquaDam", rupturing it. This rubber bladder was about 2000 feet long and to quote the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) Spokesman Jeff Hanson, " It was nice to have. It was a new, first line of defense against the river."
The collapse of the AquaDam allowed water to rise more than two feet around the plant, according to Hanson. In turn, this caused a flooding problem with transformers bringing in outside power needed to keep the reactor and spent fuel pond pumps working. The plant was forced to disconnect from the "grid" and go to diesel backup power. According to Hanson,
the utility was forced to disconnect from the grid because the river water leaked through a cement barrier installed to protect the plant's main transformer. Hanson stated: " It did not work; it did not keep the water out ."
On Monday, Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko and a contingent including U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry toured the Ft. Calhoun plant. Representative Fortenberry stated: " It's pretty jarring to see a boat tied up to a nuclear power plant ." Boats are being used to ferry in people and supplies. OPPD has ordered six additional boats.
Now, the first line of defense against the rising Missouri River is an earthen berm, i.e, a levee. Levees are built to withstand a few days of flood, not the estimated three to five months of flooding now occurring. The US Army Corps of Engineers has been releasing record amounts of water from upstream dams and have repeatedly stated these releases will be required at least through the month of August. Levees have been failing almost daily, due to becoming completely saturated with water. In other words, the levees are turning into mud. The National Guard and private citizens are patrolling levees around the clock, checking for problems.
Epply Airport, the commercial airport serving Omaha, sits right next to the Missouri River. It is protected by a levee. They are having major problems with "sand boils". A sand boil is caused by the immense pressure of many feet of water on the other side of the levee and the "protected areas" begin to sprout geysers of water. When a sand boil occurs, workers dump enormous amounts of gravel, etc. on top of the boil as weight to counteract the pressure from below. The airport has already spent over $2 million for flood control and pumps and expects to spend upwards of $15 million. They are drilling 70 feet deep wells all around the periphery of the airport to relieve pressure and pump water back over the levee and into the Missouri River. I mention this because it has a direct relationship to the possible problems yet to come at Ft. Calhoun. Epply Airfield is 17.35 miles southeast (148 degrees) from Ft. Calhoun.
A second NRC "Event" was logged as a result of approximately 100 gallons of petroleum being released into the river after the AquaDam protective barrier was breached and many fuel containers were washed out to the river. The fuel/oil containers were staged around the facility to supply fuel for pumps which remove water within the flood containment barriers.
We all hope for the best possible outcome, but more and more this flooding at Ft. Calhoun has the horrible makings of a nuclear disaster.
The daily NRC " Current Event Notification Reports" (Public Documents) can be viewed at: click here
Event Number: 46988
Facility: FORT CALHOUN
Region: 4 State: NE
Unit:  [ ] [ ]
RX Type: (1) CE
NRC Notified By: AMY BURKHART
HQ OPS Officer: HOWIE CROUCH
Notification Date: 06/26/2011
Notification Time: 07:58 [ET]
Event Date: 06/26/2011
Event Time: [CDT]
Last Update Date: 06/26/2011
Emergency Class: NON EMERGENCY
10 CFR Section:
50.72(b)(3)(iv)(A) - VALID SPECIF SYS ACTUATION