Fort Calhoun NPP Set For Final Shut-Down

[UPDATED] Although licensed to operate through August 2033, the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant in Washington County, Nebraska, is scheduled for its final shut down Monday, the victim of economic headwinds and political nearsightedness.

Fort Calhoun NPPThe politics in question are simply state and federal government's willingness to ignore nuclear power's contribution to carbon emissions avoidance despite the national – and, indeed, global – ultimatum of lowering the carbon footprint in an era threatened by global warming. The economic realities are more complicated, but they have to do with slow or slack demand growth and the forfeiture of economies of scale, given the Fort Calhoun power plant is the smallest commercial nuclear plant in the country. It is a 478-MW pressurized water reactor that was first licensed in August 1973. That license was to expire 40 years later, but a 20-year extension was granted in November 2003, permitting the plant to run another 17 years, should the owners choose to do so.

But in June the owners, the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), choose, instead, to close the plant. It was set on its coast down path on Sept. 29 with the intention of halting the fission process by Monday, Oct. 24.

The reactor was listed at 100 percent power on Sept. 29 on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's website. On Sept. 30 it was listed at 99 percent power as the coast down began. On Monday, it was listed at 79 percent power, the last day it was scheduled to read above zero.

Officially, the plant's status as a decommissioning site will not begin until mid-November, according to GenerationHub. At that point, the number of operating nuclear power plants in the United States will drop back down to 99. The number reached 100 only briefly this time around, as it was bumped up to three digits when the Watts Bar Unit 2 entered commercial status last week.

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