Federal regulators say they are satisfied with a handful of items on their checklist for the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station — but a restart in the immediate future remained unlikely.
This week the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission released the findings of some of the 40 inspectors who have checked out the facility this year. The inspectors gave their OK to three of 18 categories of tasks that must be completed before Fort Calhoun can produce power for the first time since April 2011.
In addition, the NRC has signed off on three of 17 categories of tasks that can be finished after the plant goes back online.
The update is an indication of progress at the plant, which is located about 20 miles north of Omaha and operated by the Omaha Public Power District. But the number of remaining items — and the lengthy process required to check each of them off the list — means OPPD's hope of putting the plant back in action this summer is unlikely.
Jeff Hanson, an OPPD spokesman, said the news is a good sign of “steady progress.”
“We're getting close in all areas,” Hanson said.
But he added that OPPD has no current target date for restart. The utility has set — and passed — a number of projected restart dates.
That goes back to January 2012, when officials were planning for a summer 2012 restart. The district later announced that it had a goal of heating up the reactor on Dec. 1, 2012. The 2013 budget approved by the OPPD board included a February restart date. Then the goal was broadened to the first quarter of 2013, then pushed back to May, then early summer.
NRC spokeswoman Lara Uselding said her agency's position on Fort Calhoun's restart is the same as it has been for months.
“There is no timeline for restart,” she said.
Another inspection team is now on site at Fort Calhoun, determining whether additional categories can be closed out. Once that work is completed, the inspectors have 45 days to issue a report and hold public meetings.
The NRC and OPPD will offer updates at a public meeting set for Wednesday evening at the Ramada Plaza Hotel at 72nd Street and Grover Streets.
Though officials have warned that going without Fort Calhoun-produced power during another peak summer season could stress OPPD's budget, Hanson said there is no plan for another rate increase in 2013.
“We're within the budget we set out last October,” he said.