The flooded Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station could resume operations within the next couple of months, according to plant officials who met Wednesday morning with federal regulators in Omaha.
David Bannister, chief nuclear officer, said he was confident the plant would be operating by the end of the year.
Fort Calhoun has sustained no major structural damage, he said. The systems currently keeping the plant in a safe shutdown mode are some of the same systems that would be in operation if the plant were generating electricity.
Bannister, his staff and the representatives of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission outlined broadly the steps that OPPD would have to take to get the plant back on line. Extensive inspection and testing of equipment will be necessary, as will continued monitoring once the plant fires back up.
The Missouri River level at the plant Wednesday was 1,005 feet 9 inches and must drop to 1,004 feet before plant personnel can begin fully assessing the damage. Bannister said he is hopeful the river will drop to that level by early September, based on conversations with the Army Corps of Engineers.
The corps has said that on Friday it will release its schedule for cutting back the amount of water being released from Gavins Point Dam. Six upstream reservoirs, including the lowermost Gavins Point, are holding back record amounts of runoff. Managed flooding has been occurring since June and is expected to continue at least through August.
Both OPPD and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Wednesday emphasized that safety will come first in the resumption of power production at the nuclear plant 20 miles north of Omaha.
"It's worth repeating OPPD's commitment to the health and safety of the public has been and remains the number one priority," Bannister said.
The nuclear reactor and spent fuel pool have remained "fully protected" throughout flooding at the plant, said Elmo Collins, regional administrator for the NRC.
Kriss Kennedy, director of the division of reactor projects, said OPPD will have to inspect, repair and test all equipment and systems, remove all flood-fighting barriers or integrate remaining ones into the site's plans, make sure that security at the site is functioning properly and be certain that all emergency response systems are working. The latter would include something as simple as making sure that warning sirens disconnected in flooded areas of Washington County are re-energized and working.
"There's a lot of work for both OPPD and the NRC," Kennedy said.