OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A fire that briefly knocked out the cooling system for used fuel at an idled Nebraska nuclear plant last June represented a serious safety threat, federal regulators said Monday.
The Fort Calhoun plant north of Omaha was shut down at the time of the fire, which started in an ill-fitting electrical breaker, and temperatures never exceeded safe levels, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said in a preliminary report obtained by The Associated Press before its official release. But the commission said the fire is considered a major concern because it could have happened any time and because workers didn't fully investigate an unusual smell in the area three days earlier that could have led them to discover the problem and prevent the fire.
A serious threat finding typically could mean additional oversight for a nuclear plant, but Fort Calhoun already is under the NRC's strictest oversight level because of a prolonged shutdown that began last spring and several other reported problems — including the failure of a key electrical part during a test and flood planning deficiencies, both found in 2010.
Fort Calhoun initially was shut down for refueling maintenance last spring, but major flooding along the Missouri River forced it to remain closed. The Omaha Public Power District is working to repair any flood damage and double-check all the plant's systems before restarting.
Utility spokesman Jeff Hanson said OPPD doesn't plan to contest the severity of the NRC's finding on the fire.
The fire started in an electrical breaker that had been replaced about 18 months earlier. NRC spokeswoman Lara Uselding said the new breaker had to be modified to fit the existing switches, and the breaker didn't line up properly. That allowed grease to accumulate on the components, which allowed enough heat to build up to start the fire.
During the fire, smoke and soot spread into Fort Calhoun's backup electrical system and knocked that out as well. Uselding said the utility is working to redesign the system to prevent a fire from being able to knock out both power systems again.
The NRC said in December that Omaha Public Power District officials also were too slow to notify state emergency response officials about the fire when it happened.
Hanson said the faulty breaker already has been replaced, and was successfully tested last week. He said the utility is making progress toward restarting Fort Calhoun, but won't rush the process.
"We're hoping for a spring restart," Hanson said.
The NRC will have to sign off on all repairs before any restart.
The utility submitted a detailed improvement plan to the NRC that regulators approved last fall. Utility officials have said they need to improve the way Fort Calhoun's staff identifies and fixes any concerns at the plant.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission: www.nrc.gov
OPPD Fort Calhoun news: http://www.oppd.com/Nuclear/22_007432
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control was busy Thursday afternoon responding to complaints of pets outside. Crews respond to every complaint in the hopes of preventing pets from freezing.
U.S. Census data shows that one Fort Wayne neighborhood is among the poorest in the state, and it the poverty rate has a direct correlation the rising crime statistics.
It was something that was never supposed to happen. A veteran who killed a woman in Indianapolis then took his own life was buried with full military honors. Since that day, the victim's family has been advocating against it.
The house fire affected traffic on U.S. 33 just north of Churubusco for over an hour. All lanes were back open less than two hours after the fire was called in.
Outshined by massive jackpots since Powerball doubled the cost of its tickets last year, Mega Millions enacted big changes to inflate its jackpots and lure customers who only play when the pots get huge — and the revamp appears to be working.
Police said speed appeared to be a factor in a crash that all the occupants of the car seriously injured.
Three intersections on the north side of the city will have new left-turn signals that with a flashing yellow arrow. The new signals will be activated in January.
A plan is in the works to move Cindy's Diner from its current location in downtown Fort Wayne to another location one block northwest from its current location. The iconic restaurant has been a fixture downtown since 1990.
Former Komets executive, owner, general manager and coach Ken Ullyot passed away Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, at the age of 92.
The organization claims such legislation would hamper the city's ability to grow economically and that Fort Wayne should be "competitive on a national level and be recognized as a community that thrives on diversity, innovation, and inclusion,”
A state commission seeking ways to improve the lives of Indiana's most vulnerable children is forming a task force to investigate whether there's a link between methamphetamine arrests and child welfare cases.
Scammers are claiming to be from a law enforcement agency and are threatening to arrest victims if they don't pay the fine for an alleged crime or debt.
The free course will go over the laws and regulations about squirrel hunting and will teach attendees how to field dress and prepare squirrels for the table.
The Allen County Sheriff's Department arrested two people for having and making meth on Monday and Wednesday.
People across Indiana are bundling up against colder temperatures than parts of the state saw in either of the past two winters.