Flood Rumor Control
Following are responses to flood-related rumors that OPPD has heard about.
In a cable television news clip that is widely circulating on the Internet, a wide array of topics related to Fort Calhoun Station is discussed. We hope this background information may be helpful to put comments in context.
Rumor: A National Weather Service (NWS) river gauge malfunction is affecting safety at Fort Calhoun Station. Not true.
- First, Fort Calhoun Station has its own river gauge, and is not reliant on NWS gauges.
- Second, the use of any river gauge would be to determine when to shut down the plant. Fort Calhoun already was shut down for refueling.
Rumor: Tritium is leaking from Fort Calhoun Station.
- In 2007, OPPD notified the NRC that tritium and Cesium were found inside a building at Fort Calhoun Station, not in the ground water.
- During regularly scheduled testing since 2007, very low levels of tritium have been detected in water samples taken from the protected area immediately inside the plant. No tritium has been found in water samples taken from wells outside the protected area of the plant. The levels found inside the plant have been below reportable limits and testing will continue to monitor the situation.
- All measures have, and will continue to be taken to ensure the public is safe.
- More information on tritium can be found on this page of the Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.gov/rpdweb00/radionuclides/tritium.html
Rumor: Water in the spent fuel pool came close to boiling.
- The temperature of the water surrounding and above Fort Calhoun’s fuel and spent fuel is and has been around 80 degrees.
- Even when the spent fuel pool pumps were not circulating water for about an hour and a half, temperature only rose about two degrees.
Rumor: The White House has declared a media blackout on news about Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station
- Since May 24, OPPD spokespersons have been answering questions from news media representatives about the flooding impact on OPPD’s operations, including Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station.
- On June 17, OPPD President and CEO Gary Gates and OPPD Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer Dave Bannister held a news conference to discuss the situation at Fort Calhoun. The news conference was attended by local media, including three television stations, a radio station, the Associated Press and the local newspaper. All carried stories on the news conference, which addressed issues affecting the flood effects on the entire district, including Nebraska City Station and the transmission and distribution system.
- Most recently, stories on the situation have appeared in the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Times, local broadcast and numerous other outlets, traditional and alternative.
- In addition, OPPD has been and continues to post information about its flood-mitigation efforts on its website, oppd.com, and its blog site, http://oppdstorminfo.blogspot.com/ .
Rumor: Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station is at a Level 4 emergency or level 4 alert.
- The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission comments on rumors about Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station and the current flooding: NRC Public Blog
- This terminology is not accurate.
- Fort Calhoun Station (FCS) declared a Notification of Unusual Event (NOUE) on June 6.
- A NOUE is the least-serious of four emergency classifications established by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
- FCS declared a NOUE because the Missouri River was projected to reach 1,004 feet above mean sea level. (It reached that height on June 9.)
- The FCS plant’s reactor has been in cold shut down for a planned refueling outage since April 9. It will remain in that condition until the river recedes.
- The reactor and spent-fuel pool are in a normal, stable condition and are both protected; there has been no release of radioactivity and none is expected.
Rumor: A no-fly zone was set up around Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station because of a release of radiation, similar to what happened with the Fukushima reactors in Japan.
- There has been no release of radioactivity at Fort Calhoun Station due to the flooding and none is expected.
- The flight restrictions were set up by the FAA as a result of Missouri river flooding.
- OPPD’s extensive, preplanned actions to protect the FCS reactor and spent-fuel pool from the floodwaters have been effective.
- The reactor is housed in a watertight containment building, and is in a normal and safe “cold shutdown” condition, covered by more than 23 feet of purified reactor coolant water.
- In addition, OPPD has installed Aqua Dams® and other berms around such vital equipment and buildings at the FCS site.
Rumor: Because of a fire at Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station on June 7, the plant’s spent-fuel pool was in danger of boiling and releasing radioactivity.
- There was no such imminent danger with the Fort Calhoun Station spent-fuel pool.
- Due to a fire in an electrical switchgear room at FCS on the morning of June 7, the plant temporarily lost power to a pump that cools the spent-fuel pool.
- The fire-suppression system in that switchgear room operated as designed, extinguishing the fire quickly.
- FCS plant operators switched the spent-fuel pool cooling system to an installed backup pump about 90 minutes after the loss of power.
- During the interruption of cooling, temperature of the pool increased a few degrees, but the pool was never in danger of boiling.
- Due to this situation, FCS declared an Alert at about 9:40 a.m. on June 7.
- An alert is the second-least-serious of four emergency classifications established by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
- At about 1:15 p.m. on June 7, FCS operators declared they had taken all appropriate measures to safely return to the previously declared Notification of Unusual Event emergency classification. (See first item above.)
Rumor: OPPD will run out of coal if railroads cannot reach the plants.
- Currently, trains are arriving at both of OPPD’s coal-fired power plants. OPPD and a private contractor have raised the tracks at Nebraska City Station to allow coal to continue to be delivered to the plant.
- OPPD has several months' worth of coal already on plant sites.
Rumor: A red flag tied to an overhead power line means OPPD has – or is about to – de-energize that line and cut power to the area.
- An orange ball or red flag on an overhead line serves as a warning to alert aircraft and operators of heavy equipment of an energized line.
- A red flag on a power pole means power has been disconnected at that pole.