LINCOLN — The Nebraska Public Power District backed away Friday from a project to increase the energy output at Cooper Nuclear Station after cost estimates came in higher than expected.

Late last year, the NPPD board approved what’s known as a power uprate project, which would have increased the plant’s electrical output by 18 percent. The board’s approval was based on preliminary cost estimates ranging from $243 million to $249 million for the project.

A more detailed cost feasibility study came in at $409 million. The board voted at a meeting Friday in Columbus, Neb., to walk away from the project, following a recommendation from Pat Pope, NPPD’s president and CEO.

“I have significant concerns how that would impact our Nebraska customers,” Pope said in a news release. “NPPD most likely would not see sufficient returns to justify that expense.”

Uprating is a way to add power generation to an existing plant without having to go through the expense and controversy of building a new reactor. Since the 1970s, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved about 140 uprating projects.

The proposed project at Cooper would have added 146 megawatts of capacity to the 800 megawatt plant. It would have required systems and equipment upgrades, but not additional staff.

The Cooper plant near Brownville in southeast Nebraska employs 700 workers.

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