NRC Monitors Second Event at Neb. Nuclear Plant Following Fire, Disruption of Spent-Fuel Cooling

Already on guard from the rising waters of the adjacent Missouri River, the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant declared an alert Tuesday following an electrical fire that briefly disrupted spent-fuel cooling.

Fort Calhoun nuclear plant. Photo: NRCThe Nuclear Regulatory Commission reported that the plant, operated by the Omaha Public Power District, declared the alert about 10 minutes after a fire was detected in a switchgear room at 9:30 a.m. Automated fire suppression systems extinguished it within an hour, with the alert ending soon after.

During that time, though, pumps for the plant's spent-fuel cooling system stopped working. The Associated Press quoted plant and NRC officials as saying one pump was returned to service within one or two hours, and a second pump returned to service Wednesday. Backup safety systems were not needed, according to the NRC. And while spent fuel can heat the water surrounding it to dangerous temperatures over the course of several days, federal officials quoted by AP said temperatures in the tank did not exceed 83 degrees.

An alert is the second lowest NRC classification for an emergency at a nuclear plant. The lowest, an unusual event, had already been declared at Fort Calhoun on Monday following flooding along the Missouri river. The reactor has not been in operation since a refueling outage in April, and the NRC indicated limited flooding onsite has not damaged plant safety systems.

The power district operates a single, 500-megawatt Combustion Engineering pressurized water reactor at the plant near Omaha first licensed in 1973, according to the NRC.

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