Fort Calhoun (copy)

In an aerial photo of the Fort Calhoun site from 2017, casks containing spent nuclear fuel can be seen in the foreground. 

The Omaha Public Power District deserves credit for accelerating the decommissioning of the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant. OPPD initially envisioned spreading out the decommissioning and its associated costs over 60 years. But now the utility has opted to speed up the process so the majority of the work is completed by 2025.

The cost through 2025 is a projected $621 million, with an additional $5 million to $6 million annually for security and maintenance. The plant currently employs about 270, down from 700 when the facility was operational.

Major trends in the energy sector have put the smallest, least-efficient nuclear plants, such as Fort Calhoun, at a major cost disadvantage. Power from fracking-enabled natural gas and increasingly efficient and often subsidized alternative energy are providing more cost-effective energy sources. In addition, OPPD since 2011 was racking up significant costs to protect Fort Calhoun from flooding and to make federally ordered repairs and safety improvements.

The OPPD plant, on 660 acres between Fort Calhoun and Blair, is one of 21 sites undergoing decommissioning in the U.S., The World-Herald’s Roseann Moring reports. OPPD staff members are coordinating with a consultant, EnergySolutions, to carry out the decommissioning. That’s a sensible approach that draws on each other’s expertise.

The Nevada site identified decades ago as a national nuclear storage site has never come into use, so utilities need to handle storage of spent nuclear fuel themselves. It’s vital that the security be at a high level, now and for years to come, given the harm that terrorists could cause if they managed to obtain such radioactive material.

Decommissioning the Fort Calhoun plant best serves ratepayers’ interests and illustrates the ongoing evolution in our country’s energy sector.

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