Workers at the Cooper Nuclear Station in Brownville, Nebraska made it to work just fine over the weekend. But they had to ride a helicopter to get to the plant.
Roads were cut off as the nearby Missouri River threatened to overtake the Brownville levee. By Monday morning, water levels were retreating, thanks in part to downstream levees that collapsed under the water pressure, allowing the water to flood low-lying plains, which took some of the pressure off of upstream levees.
As it happened, with the collapsing levees downstream, most of the flooding occurred in neighboring Iowa.The water came within a foot of overtopping the Brownville levee, which was loaded with sand bags for extra protection. Had it gone a half a foot higher at the levee, where the measurements are calculated differently from the plant, the plant would have closed as a precautionary measure.
As it was, the plant operated smoothly through the weekend, although on Friday, with Missouri River measured at 42.5 feet, the Nebraska Public Power District, which owns the plant, was forced to issue a public Notice of Unusual Event, which signified the plant was threatened.
Workers and supplies were flown in by helicopter, according to a Reuters report.
At the levee, the topping point is 43 feet. At the nearby plant, water levels are calculated by their position above sea level. Water surrounding the plant came to 899.75 feet above sea level. At 901.5 feet above sea level – 1.75 feet higher – the plant would have shut down as a precautionary measure.
“We are operating at full power and the water is receding ... and we expect the water level to continue dropping,” NPPD spokesman Mark Becker said, noting there was no danger to the plant employees or the public.
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