Federal regulators gave the flood-idled Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station the green light Friday to move forward with plans for returning to service.
The earliest the plant could be brought back online would be the end of the month, and that assumes everything goes according to plan, said David Bannister, vice president and chief nuclear officer at Omaha Public Power District, which owns the reactor.
Much of the work that lies ahead involves the investigation and testing of equipment.
"Our intention is that we will be able to restart in the coming months; however, we will not compromise on safety for the public or our workers," Bannister said. "That means we absolutely will not restart the plant until we can ensure that it is safe to do so."
The reactor, about 20 miles north of Omaha, has faced an unprecedented level and extent of flooding for a U.S. nuclear power plant.
Sandbags, a water-filled berm, other barriers and pumps have kept the plant mostly dry this summer. Bannister said no critical areas of the reactor building took on water.
The plant accounts for an average of about 25 percent of OPPD's total electricity produced.
On Friday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission sent OPPD a letter documenting the steps OPPD has agreed to take to bring the plant back online.
Among the goals detailed in the 130-page outline OPPD submitted: cleaning the plant, making sure all its emergency warning systems are working, and testing the electrical equipment and pumps.
Of concern is the difficulty of detecting flood-weakened equipment, which is why the plan emphasizes extensive testing.
The NRC will perform several comprehensive inspections to make certain OPPD has thoroughly evaluated its systems, Elmo Collins, regional administrator for the agency, said in his letter to OPPD.
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