Officials declare 'unusual event' at Nebraska nuclear plant as record floods ravage Midwest

Friday, June 10, 2011 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: nuclear power plant, Nebraska, health news

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(NaturalNews) Flood waters continue to rise in many areas of the US Midwest, which has prompted officials at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant near Omaha, Neb., to declare an unidentified "Notification of Unusual Event." According to reports, flood waters have already reached the plant, and the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) is allegedly working to remediate the unknown, low-level emergency.

CBS 3 News in Omaha reports that OPPD has issued a news release stating that a "notification of unusual event indicates events are in process or have occurred which indicate potential impact to the plant." The vague release goes on to claim that "no release of radioactive material" has occurred, or is expected to occur, because the plant has been in a safe shutdown mode for several months for refueling purposes.

However, the district has not provided any further details to the public about what exactly has occurred at the plant. Though its announcement is considered a "low-level emergency," officials at the plant have stated that it will remain in effect until it is known for sure that flood waters in the Missouri River remain below the 1,004-foot level. However, the US Army Corps of Engineers expects the river to reach, and possibly exceed, that level in the near future.

And just one day after the OPPD announcement, a fire alert was set off in the same plant when an electrical console apparently overheated and began to emit smoke. Forbes reports that the affected system is responsible for cooling spent nuclear fuel rods, and that it was offline for about an hour while emergency crews worked to fix it.

Officials are currently conducting an investigation into the cause of the overheating. If flood waters or some other event damage the system further and it goes offline again, cooling pools at the plant could run dry and cause a potential meltdown situation. The incident represents the first alert the Fort Calhoun plant has had since 1992.

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