A water-filled berm protecting the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant in Nebraska from the flooded Missouri River collapsed late last night, removing one barrier between the river and the plant while officials maintain that other barriers, including stacks of sand bags, remain effective.
The 2,000′-long, 8′-high berm, also called an “aqua dam,” was apparently punctured and deflated by a piece of machinery that brushed against it. Its collapse reportedly allowed water to surround the “auxiliary and containment buildings,” the Associated Press reports.
The cooling of spent fuel rods was not affected by the bursting of the berm, though plant officials did briefly disconnect the plant from outside power and operate using on-site generators, fearing the approach of floodwaters to the switchyard, where outside power enters the plant complex.
The Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), which owns and operates the Fort Calhoun plant, said in a statement that the present situation is approximately what it would have been had the aqua dam not been added as an extra layer of protection.
The latest incident came on the eve of a visit today by Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) chairman Gregory Jaczko, who is scheduled to tour Fort Calhoun today.
Yesterday, Jaczko visited the other beleaguered Nebraska nuclear plant, Cooper Power Station, and announced that the plant was operating safely under NRC regulations.
The Cooper station is still in operation, while the Fort Calhoun plant has been in cold shutdown since April.
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