Archive for June 27th, 2011


A while back we wrote about a uranium-mining ban that was about to expire in the area surrounding the famous U.S. landmark and one of the seven wonders of the natural world – the Grand Canyon.  Thanks to Arizona resident Suzanne Sparling who led the charge to extend it, collecting 50,000 public comments, last Monday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced his support for another 20-year ban on the dangerous practice.

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The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is monitoring events at the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant after a protective berm holding back floodwaters from the Missouri River collapsed early today.

The plant, located about 19 miles north of Omaha, Nebraska, is operated by Omaha Public Power District.  NRC has been monitoring this plant since  June 6th because of flooding along the river. 

The situation at this plant, in spite of the reassurances of the operators and the NRC, has been a bit nerve wracking following on the heels of the Japanese disaster, especially for those of us who see the NRC more as an industry cheerleader than a safety agency. 

On June 9th, a fire in an electrical switch room briefly knocked out cooling for a pool holding spent nuclear fuel, and just last October, the plant was cited because they failed to maintain procedures for combating a major flood, earning them a “yellow” safety violation.  Since that time, the plant has put measures in place, but there is still concern about how effective these measures will be in the face of this record breaking flood event, especially in  light of the most recent events.

Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant and the flood of 2011 photo by Lane Hickenbottom/Reuters

A 2,000 foot-long, 8-foot-tall by 16-foot-wide, water-filled temporary berm was put in place to provide supplemental flood protection to the plant, but it collapsed about 1:25 a.m. today allowing floodwaters to surround the auxiliary and containment buildings.  The operators and NRC are telling the public that the plant is protected by design to a floodwater level of 1014 mean sea level and that while the Missouri River is currently at 1006.3 feet, river levels are not expected to exceed 1008 feet. 

Worst-case scenario plans are also in place if floodwaters should reach 1,014 feet, breech the levee and prohibit further use of emergency generators. In that circumstance, plant officials plan to tap into power lines running above the facility and/or utilize secondary backup generators housed at 1,036 feet.

Before floodwaters could flow into the cooling pool the river would need to rise to an incredibly unprecedented 1,038.5 feet, which we assume would also knock out those secondary backup generators housed at 1,036 feet.  At that point, “what the Fukushima”, all bets are off.

Aquadam at Ft Calhoun (before failure) is 2000 ft long, 8 ft high and 16 ft wide.

The collapse of the berm also allowed floodwaters to surround the main electrical transformers, forcing the shutdown of electrical power. Operators transferred power from offsite sources routed through the main electrical transformers to the emergency diesel generators. Twelve hours later they were able to reconnect to offsite power.

Oh, and did we mention that there were tornados in the area over the weekend?  Just a little added excitement.

Media coverage should provide updates for this situation and we’ll blog more about it has we receive information.

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The Texas Progressive Alliance is ready to say “Sine Die” for the second time as it brings you this week’s roundup.

The Congressional map got its final legislative approval, and Off the Kuff analyzes the new districts.

This week WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on the (in)action at The Lege. Quorums were broken and tempers flared, This week’s Political wrap-up, GOP laziness was the theme.

Bay Area Houston thinks the Texas Tea Party is calling for an immigration raid on homebuilder Bob Perry for his roll in killing their sanctuary bill.

This week, McBlogger tells us exactly why a federal debt default isn’t a good thing.

Rick Perry’s ‘aids’ (sic) are preparing to respond to the ‘crusted-over rumors’ of the governor’s alleged homosexual liasons. Chief ‘aid’ (sic) Dave Carney emphasizes that Perry is the ‘most tested’ candidate on the Republican side. Seriously, that’s what Politico wrote. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has a screen shot.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme sees republican hate meets the greed of Rick Perry crony, Bob Perry. Greed wins.

Libby Shaw gives us the skinny: Rachel Maddow Debunks Rick Perry’s “Texas Miracle” Myth . Check it out at TexasKaos.

Public Citizen’s TexasVox shows us that while Houston implements water restrictions to deal with this global warming-enhanced drought, San Antonio is trying to do something about it by retiring their coal plant and making heavy investments in solar.

Neil at Texas Liberal compiled a Fourth of July reading list. As fun as it might be to blow off your fingers as you set off fireworks in violation of drought-mandated brushfire rules, it is even more fun to learn about your past. If you allow others to define your history—as, for example, we have allowed crazies to take over the symbolism of the Boston Tea Party—such folks will most likely use this power to also screw up your future.

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