Could Nebraska flooding create a nuclear safety risk?

3:15 PM, Jun 23, 2011   |    comments
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Some of those rumors swirl around the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant a few miles upstream. Sharon's brother works there.

"They shuttle them in and out because they can't drive in anymore. but I never heard that anything was wrong up there," Sharon said.

But an Internet site claims there are serious problems, claiming flood waters are endangering the plant and a no-fly zone was installed to cover up a radiation leak. The plant's chief nuclear officer says none of that is true. 

"The plant is safe, will continue to be safe, and we will do the things necessary to keep it in a safe condition," Fort Calhoun's Chief Nuclear Officer Dave Bannister said.

Dave Bannister says hardened barriers and plates, sandbagging, and an aquadam are protecting the plant. Bannister says he instilled the no fly zone when he saw four low flying planes over the plant.

"I can ill afford at a time when I've got already a natural disaster going on to have an aircraft crash on site that could potentially affect one of my power sources," Bannister said.

A lack of on-site power was one problem confronting Japan's Fukushima plant that was damaged by a tsunami. OPPD president and CEO Gary Gates says lines powering the Fort Calhoun plant are secured. 

"That single piece of the Fukushima event losing power really is what made the event to the level it is today, so I can assure all of you Fukushima level will not occur at the Fort Calhoun station," OOPD President and CEO Gary Gates said.

The Perrigos believe that's true.

"When the place was constructed, it was made for a 500-year flood. What are they calling this one 100-year flood, so I guess we're safe by 400 years," Ray said.

Dave Bannister says for the plant to get to a disaster level, floodwater would have to rise three and a half feet above where it stands now. The layers of levees protecting the plant would have to be breached and damage to the reactor would have to occur. He says all of this is highly unlikely.

(Copyright © 2011 NBC Universal, All Rights Reserved)

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