Floodwaters Surge At Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant After Floodwall Fails

Tyler Durden's picture

We hadn't previously discussed the situation at the Fort Calhoun, Nebraska nuclear power plant, as there was still a possibility that it was containable, and the deterioration had been largely blown out of proportion. Alas now that the Missouri River flood waters have penetrated the last ditch water-filled wall, and have since surrounded the  containment buildings and other vital areas of a Nebraska nuclear plant, it may be time to get a little more concerned. As Reuters reports, "The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said the breach in the 2,000-foot (600 meters) inflatable berm around the Fort Calhoun station occurred around 1:25 a.m. local time. More than 2 feet (60 cm) of water rushed in around containment buildings and electrical transformers at the 478-megawatt facility located 20 miles (30 km) north of Omaha." Naturally, the severity of the situation is being downplayed by the NRC, very much the way Tepco and Japanese authorities pretended the Fukushima situation was under control, until it was uncovered that there had been plant meltdown within hours of the tsunami: "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." That's one version of the story. A far better one would be calling up the Octogenarian of Omaha and upon getting voicemail, inquiring in what part of the world he is currently residing until the Fort Calhoun situation is actually fixed. To everyone else, we would merely suggest they copycat Buffet, especially after seeing the picture of the plant below (taken June 16, which means the situation now is far worse), which makes the flooding at Fukushima look tame by comparison.

More from Reuters:

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.

NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko and other officials planned to visit the site on Monday.

Jaczko will also visit the Cooper Nuclear Station near Brownville, Nebraska, another facility that has been watched closely with Missouri River waters rising from heavy rains and snow melt.

And some more from the Omaha World Herald:

“We put up the aqua-berm as additional protection,” said OPPD spokesman Mike Jones. “(The plant) is in the same situation it would have been in if the berm had not been added. We're still within NRC regulations.”

According to the NRC, the berm was eight-feet tall and 16-feet wide at the base. It was designed to provide protection for the plant's "powerblock" for up to six feet of water. Crews will look at whether it can be patched, OPPD officials said.

On Sunday, floodwater surrounded the nuclear plant's main electrical transformers, and power was transferred to emergency diesel generators.

OPPD officials said the transfer was precautionary because of water leaking around the concrete berm surrounding the main transformers.

Efforts were underway to reconnect to offsite power once all safety checks have been completed.

The floodwaters also surrounded auxiliary and containment buildings, which are designed to handle water up to 1,014 feet above sea level. The Missouri River is at 1,006.3 feet and isn't expected to exceed 1008 feet.

Once again, the NRC is here to save the day:

The NRC says its inspectors were at the plant when the berm failed and have confirmed that the flooding has had no impact on the reactor shutdown cooling or the spent fuel pool cooling.

In a statement released Wednesday, the NRC said there is a separate, earthen berm to protect the electrical switchyard and a concrete barrier surrounding electrical transformers.

Last week, the NRC augmented its inspection staff at Fort Calhoun. In addition to the two resident inspectors, three more inspectors and a branch chief were added to provide around the clock coverage of plant activities.

Both Fort Calhoun and Cooper Nuclear Plant, in Brownville, Neb., remain under “unusual event” declarations, the lowest of four levels of emergency notification.

Naturally, by the time the "unusual event" declarations escalate, it just may be too late.

That said, we urge readers situated in the vicinity to carefully consider their relocation alternatives, and until there is further clarity on the NPP flood, to possibly shift to safer environs.

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Cathartes Aura's picture

the bible says a lot of things - but rest assured "they" are doing "god's work" - peddling furiously to make sure all those predictions happen right before your very eyes. . .

Herbert_guthrie's picture

Sure wish they would follow a more original script.
Perhaps one a bit more "upbeat"!

JW n FL's picture

I dont know about you.. but I LOVE a Happy! Ending!!

Cathartes Aura's picture

I nominate Terry Gilliam, or at least the Coen Bros. to direct. . .

some of us have moved into full on surreal, hehehh.

James's picture

And their's still 20 feet of snow at the begining of this river! (Montana mountains)

Lndmvr's picture

I'll be in Peru, NE Tuesday. So far about 100 miles of bridges out between Iowa and NE. Rulo, Brownsville, Nebraska City closed. Plattsmith and Bellvue still open but will just take a levee break. The real bitch is the 18 wheelers detouring on the 2 lane blactops, Theres gonna be lots of accidents.

Monedas's picture

One arm of the Gov goes around forcing farmers to respect puddles in their fields as wetland habitat ! Another arm of Gov pays people to rebuild over and over again in flood plains ! Let the Missouri and Mississippi run  wild and free ! People retreat to the high ground (Terre Haute) ! All farming and ranching in the flood plain can be done on a seasonal basis....but all farming infrastructure should be on high ground ? When the floods recede.....the farmers decend to plow and plant and harvest ! Property boundaries are GPS !                If not, the Mississippi will fill with sediment and require higher and higher levies to prevent natural meandering ! Monedas 2011 Comedy Hee Haw Flood Plain Cruise

Cathartes Aura's picture

did Monsanto give you permission to write about their world?

JW n FL's picture

this is new gmo.. monsanto approved! LULZ!!

chunga's picture

I had a couple of puddles on my 14 acre property that was declared to be a habitat for certain types of insects and weeds. My 2 BR house with a nice view was such a huge infringement on the environment I couldn't put up anything larger than a birdhouse. Buyer walked away because he couldn't put up a horse barn, or attach a garage, or anything else for that matter. Cost me a half million quatloos...

I'm not anti-bird or anti-bee, but geez...they didn't pitch in a dime to my 7k plus property tax bill.

Buck Johnson's picture

I know that picture is 10 days old, but do anybody see any emergency fuel generators in the pic.  I mean I don't see any generators on stilts or on a massive mound of dirt with cables leading to the reactor.  Usuall a diesel generator for a large facility would be in a shipping container like unit that is designed for power output.  I don't see anything like that which is up in the air.  And the funny thing is that they really never explained what the fire was about in one of the nuclear reactors during the flooding.  Also if the thing is designed and able to take a few feet of water, then why the emergency.  Because the old pics are OLD, the water is most likely at the top of the water bags and like anything water will eventually get through something.

mt paul's picture

might be time to helicopter

a few generators to the rooftop...

and get them wired in and ready to rock..

be prepared and all that stuff...


Monedas's picture

There is one Mother of all Correlations ! Bigger Government.....Bigger Mess ! Explain that away... if there is a Government Hole Licker in the house ! I'm tired of hearing about infra structure......we've got way too much ! Too many useless public libraries ! Too many paved farm roads ! Too many fire stations ! Too many schools ! Too many colleges ! Monedas 2011 I'm working on a 100 Yoke, giant pizza cutter Guillotine !

Bagbalm's picture

Perhaps this should have been a priority for the Army Engineers to keep safe with flood level controls.

Cathartes Aura's picture

Army Corps of Engineers?  those guys responsible for the levees around New Orleans?

cue: hysterical laughter

whoopsing's picture

This seem's like a kind of shovel ready project..oh wait,we already spent that money

f16hoser's picture

I'll bet NE Taxpayers paid Top Dollar for that Auqa-Berm!!!!!

indya's picture

Wonderful reporting ZH.You just liven things up :-)

Rusty Shorts's picture

Rumors floating around that George Soros is offering to buy up flooded farm land from the farmers...

JW n FL's picture




JW n FL's picture




JW n FL's picture

dont you have an aztlan after party to get ready for or something? i will take mine pacifico!

mt paul's picture

dropped a 3 ton " thing "

in your breeder reactor ...

absurd ...

you can't make this crap up...

TerraHertz's picture

Despite that I'd like to see all nuclear plants shut down, have to point out that video is a bit old, and the refueling thingy they dropped into the reactor chamber was successfully retrieved a couple of days ago.

So now we're back to a giant tank full of high pressure hot liquid sodium, surrounding a huge pile of massively radioactive and incredibly poisonous plutonium. With any luck there won't be another catastrophic sodium leak that catches fire and threatens to make the entire plant go boom, thus spreading tons of plutonium into the biosphere. Nothing to worry about.

VENOM650R's picture

Quantitative Levy QL. That's some funny shit. I'm ready for the long overdue BLOODY REVOLUTION in America. Let's dance NOW!!!

PLove's picture

Bang!  Bang! 

Glow little glow worm ...

Inibo E. Exibo's picture

This is bullish, right?

mt paul's picture

every body

out of the pool ..

williambanzai7's picture

I am not an engineer, but it looks like there is high ground right next to this thing and they cleverly avoided building there.

old naughty's picture


they are exactly according to plan.

btw, all professions are illusions. tptb calls ALL shots.

It took 66 years for P.Eng to realise they'd sold out in July 1945.

Let em push you around's picture



Funny, there has been an abrupt cessation of chemtrail in metro phoenix.

And don't say that it's because of the low humidity - when we recently went through a period of record low humidity for several days there were still plenty of chemmies.

Big mystery why there are so many fires lately in AZ? Not really.

tip e. canoe's picture

now that you bring it up, i've noticed a sudden absence of them on the east coast as well...hmmm....

Cathartes Aura's picture

Monday morning PNW, multiple parallel sky trailings, resulting in complete white out sky. . . again.

make of it what you will.

Let em push you around's picture

Excuse me if it's obvious, but what/where is PNW?  Still 0 chemmies Phx metro area.  Funny how the normal "contrails" took a holiday.  Debt ceiling anyone? Billions in missing Iraqi money funding?

bakken's picture

WOW.  So much humor. HAHAHAHAHA. 

There are actually over a million, mostly decent, people living very near that potential disaster.  They DID NOT request a nuclear reactor for power generation, the US Government promoted it.  People in Omaha DID NOT move to the area to be close to a nuclear reactor, the power company with the able assistance of our Federal government, built it there because the area needed power and a nuke was "supposed to be"  safe and clean.  Regardless of Libertarian Dogma, over 1 million people HAD NO DIRECT SAY IN THE BUILDING OF THIS NUCLEAR PLANT. How is this disaster THEIR FAULT?

I don't have choice smart ass answers to all the folks who think this is a humorous joke-fest and a comical  turn of events.  I moved from the Omaha area years ago, but I have to say I am surprised at the ill-will I see in these posts, particularly on this matter.  Maybe I shouldn't be suprised.  People living out here on the Plains just aren't hostile enough I suppose.  But.....well....I would just as soon NOT be like a lot of you people.

blunderdog's picture

Pretty much as soon as you see someone taking delight in potential horrors to be visited on others, you should recognize what you're dealing with and let it go.

Cathartes Aura's picture

what blunderdog said.

anonymous internet posting allows for all kinds of non-sense, acting out of bad behaviours - it's pretty prevalent "here" - but once you get out in the real world, it's not hard to find people banding together locally to assist others, as they are in the midwest even now.

Mitch Comestein's picture

two feet of water.  Holy shit.  The japanese plant had 30 feet of water moving fast.  (or was it higher).  I have to say this one is going to blow over.  When STANDING water can push through reinforced concrete, I will be worried.  Of course, my cousin and uncle work there. 

I can tell you second hand, they knew the waters were coming.  They had been working on it for weeks before the water hit the first sand bag.  Japan had no warning.

JOYFUL's picture

I can tell you second hand, they knew the waters were coming.  They had been working on it for weeks before the water hit the first sand bag.  Japan had no warning.

I'm sorry, it's not at all clear to me...are you making a case in support of their 'disaster preparedness' or against it?  We're talking about the same people right...the ones who just destroyed their own "aquaberg"!?

Byronio's picture

Talking heads at one of the big 3 said NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT everything is perfectly safe and in order.

That is when you have to start to worry.

A Meltdown might be the least "worst case" scenario, because if the reactors explode, there will be lethal clouds of highly radioactive gasses and dust that will kill or cause severe radiation poisoning. A meltdown will only ruin the reactor if the containment building holds, but if the reactor explodes and ruptures or destroys the containment building, it's a much more serious situation.

Fix It Again Timmy's picture

Relax, Brownie [flush with his success of dealing with Katrina] is in charge, and he will do another "heckva job"...

TerraHertz's picture

"Some sort of machinery came in contact with the berm, puncturing it and causing the berm to deflate, said Mike Jones, a spokesman for the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), which owns the Fort Calhoun plant."

Might not mean exactly what you'd first assume.

Looking at the unfortunately small picture with the story, it looks like the berm 'bows inwards' in at least two paces. One of them, looks like it's now up against a building.

That water-filled berm depends on the bag being high enough above the surrounding flood water, to press down firmly enough on the ground to prevent it slipping sideways. Seems to me once the floodwater comes to a foot or two of the top, there's not much difference anymore between the bag footprint weight, and water pressure intruding underneath it. So it would end up slipping before the floodwater overtopped it.

I think maybe the bag slipped, pushed up against something sharp on a building, pole or whatever, and ruptured. Game over, aquaberm.

But they can't say that, because it would make them all look incompetent for expecting the berm to hold for floodwaters right up to the top. So they blame Homer (implied.)

widget's picture

OK, so the regulatory organization that assumed that leakage of a containment vessels has a "zero probability" - are now telling us that this building is watertight? I guess we have nothing to be worried about. http://georgewashington2.blogspot.com/2011/05/three-nuclear-containment-...