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» »Unlabelled » Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant Main Building Underwater, 10 Mile Mandatory Evacuation Area

The head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said a Nebraska nuclear power plant is safe from flood waters a day after a protective berm failed leaving key parts of the facility surrounded by overflow from the Missouri River. NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko visited the Fort Calhoun plant Monday, and a commission spokeswoman said he found the plant to be in safe condition. Federal officials will continue to oversee steps to control flood waters from the swollen Missouri and plan to conduct a follow-up inspection. "We do have robust systems in place to protect public health and safety," NRC spokeswoman Lara Uselding said. Mr. Jaczko's visit came 8 hours after a protective berm collapsed early Sunday, causing water to surround the containment buildings and key electrical equipment at the Fort Calhoun plant. Local officials in towns around the plant, which is 19 miles north of Omaha, weren't concerned about safety at the plant Monday, saying operators there had the situation under control. The plant is operated by the Omaha Public Power District. Rod Storm, the city administrator of Blair, said officials in the town of about 8,000 people near the plant are more worried about keeping the city's wastewater treatment facility running so it can pump about 10 million gallons of water a day to local industries. The facility sits on the bank of the Missouri River. "We've got a lot to worry about and the event at the nuclear facility is the least of our worries," Mr. Storm said.

These days we don't hear too much about the ailing nuclear reactors in Fukushima Japan, but make no mistake the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant remains very serious. Now the U.S. is dealing with it's own potentially serious nuclear situation in Nebraska. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said the breach in the 2,000-foot inflatable berm around the Fort Calhoun station occurred around 1:25 a.m. local time. More than 2 feet of water rushed in around containment buildings and electrical transformers at the 478-megawatt facility located 20 miles north of Omaha. Reactor shutdown cooling and spent-fuel pool cooling were unaffected, the NRC said. The plant, operated by the Omaha Public Power District, has been off line since April for refueling. Crews activated emergency diesel generators after the breach, but restored normal electrical power by Sunday afternoon, the NRC said. Buildings at the Fort Calhoun plant are watertight, the agency said. It noted that the cause of the berm breach is under investigation.

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