From: Michael Avok, Reuters, FORT CALHOUN, Neb
Published June 28, 2011 05:39 AM

Regulator signs off on threatened nuclear plant

Two Nebraska nuclear power plants have planned properly to protect themselves from the swollen Missouri River and keep the public safe, the head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said on Monday.

Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko told reporters he had complete confidence in the efforts of the plants along the flooding Missouri River in Fort Calhoun north of Omaha and near Brownville in southeastern Nebraska.


"The water levels look to be at a place where the plants can deal with it," Jaczko said. "The risk is really very low that something could go wrong."

Jaczko toured the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant on Monday, a day after stopping at the Cooper Nuclear Station. Fort Calhoun has been shut down since April for maintenance and is expected to stay that way until floodwaters recede.

"What I saw is a plant that is dealing with a number of challenges," Jaczko said of Fort Calhoun. "Right now the plant is safe."

"They've been working for two years. It's good to see that they have made improvements," he said.

A massive melting snowpack and heavy rains have forced federal officials to release water at rates about double old records from six reservoirs on the upper Missouri River from Montana through South Dakota.

Very high water release rates are expected deep into August, threatening communities from Montana to St. Louis.

Jaczko said the situation along the Missouri River was nothing like the crisis at the nuclear plant in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami.

"We are not dealing here with any nuclear releases or any accident here," Jaczko said. "We have a very robust system to protect public safety."

Photo shows an aerial view of the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant in eastern Nebraska, surrounded by Missouri River flood waters June 24, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Lane Hickenbottom

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