Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant to Start Up in First Quarter

The Omaha Public Power District will delay restart of the 482-megawatt Fort Calhoun reactor in Nebraska until the first quarter after “discovering areas that need additional work,” said Jeff Hanson, a utility spokesman.

Omaha Public initially aimed to start the unit last September, then pushed the date back to December to improve backup diesel generator reliability and work on containment “internal structure issues,” according to a Sept. 13 presentation to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Crews will now focus on more containment maintenance, Hanson said.

Fort Calhoun, closed for repairs since Missouri River flooding extended a refueling shutdown last year, will be inspected by the commission before receiving approval to resume operation. Omaha Public Power officials are scheduled to meet with the commission later today to discuss repair plans.

“We’ve gotten the restart checklist and we’re looking to be able to heat up the plant in the first quarter of next year,” Hanson, who’s based in Omaha, said by phone today. “Our goal had been December if there weren’t additional areas that needed work. We have areas that need work around the containment.”

Work List

The utility received a confirmatory action letter Nov. 13 detailing maintenance that must be completed and reviewed at Fort Calhoun before startup. This includes improving flood barriers, emergency diesel generator systems and equipment designs such as the containment structure, the letter said.

Omaha Public Power in August hired Exelon Corp. to manage Fort Calhoun’s day-to-day operations, Hanson said. The plant, 19 miles (31 kilometers) north of Omaha, is one of three nuclear reactors idled for an extended period because of mechanical trouble.

“They’re working their way through a long list of issues before they can restart,” Victor Dricks, an NRC spokesman for the Western region, said by phone from Arlington, Texas. “There isn’t a plant with the same issues and they are unique.”

Duke Energy Corp.’s 838-megawatt Crystal River 3 in Florida was shut in October 2009 after a crack was found in the containment wall. The company hasn’t decided whether to repair the reactor and said it may defer a decision until mid-2013.

Edison International shuttered its two-unit San Onofre site in January after detecting unusual wear on tubes that carry radioactive water. The California units have a combined capacity of about 2,150 megawatts. The company has spent $96 million on inspection and repair, Hugh Wynne, a senior analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York, said in a Nov. 2 note to clients.

The NRC this week postponed a Nov. 16 meeting with Edison and did not provide a new date.

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