Rumor check: Will flooding affect Callaway Nuclear Plant?

Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant surrounded by water from the flooded Missouri River / KETV

Rising flood waters along the Missouri River are pushing closer to two nuclear plants in Nebraska. So what if the river jumps its banks in Jefferson City? Would the Callaway Nuclear Plant be at risk?

To Scott Bond, the answer is simple| no.

Three-fourths of [the state of] Missouri would have to be under water for it to be affected, Bond told KRCG.

He works with Ameren Missouri as the Manager of Nuclear Development. Bond is based out of Callaway and spends most of his time at the nuclear plant.

Bond says the plant is in no danger of flooding.

The plant is designed for the worst-case flooding you could have in this area, he said. There TMs no credible flood from the Missouri River that could impact our plant.

The Callaway Nuclear plant near Fulton sits 335 feet above the Missouri River.

You would have to imagine the kind of flooding it would take to reach the plant, Bond observed.

If water was ever an issue, Bond says the plant is equipped with what he called submarine doors. They TMre water-tight doors. He also said other areas of the plant are water-proof where necessary.

While Bond says there TMs no risk from the river, officials at the plant keep an eye on the Missouri. Officials at the plant are briefed on river conditions every day.

Even though it TMs next to impossible for flood waters to reach the nuclear plant, the rising river could have an impact on its operations. The Callaway Nuclear Plant has an intake at the Missouri River that brings water to the plant. However, Bond says the plant does not rely solely on the river water.

The plant has its own water supply, a large pond.

While many mid-Missourians are worried about flooding affecting the plant, it could actually be a lack of water that leads to a problem.

According to the National Weather Service, if the Missouri River in Chamois goes below 5.8 feet the nuclear plant would have to shut off its intake from the river.

That TMs when plant officials would tap into the pond. Bond said it has enough water to keep the plant safely cooled down for 30 days. If that water runs out, there are back up plans like refilling the pond, using deep wells, or trucking in water.

That TMs part of the national requirements, Bond explained.

He also said the plant is prepared for anything, whether it TMs floods, tornadoes, or earthquakes.

We do train for these natural emergencies to ensure that we can properly respond, Bond said.

Floodwaters Threaten 2 Nebraska Nuclear Plants

Floodwaters from the Missouri River have surrounded one nuclear power plant and are creeping up on another in Nebraska.

However, the Omaha Public Power District is going to great lengths to show its Fort Calhoun plant remains safe. OPPD offered tours of the plant on Monday to the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, members of Congress, and the media to show off the measures they TMve taken to keep the plant dry inside.

They took OPPD up on the offer.

Cameras showed NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko walking through the plant.

"I am not going to predict what is going to happen with the water level," Jaczko said. "Our job is to make sure the licensee does their job to make sure the plant stays safe. Right now, it appears they are taking proactive steps to do that."

So far the river has covered the parking lot with 2 feet of water. Workers are using an elevated catwalk to get into the facility. An aerial look at the plant makes it look more like an island than a power plant facility.

Fort Calhoun has been shut down since April for refueling.

Cooper Nuclear Power Plant on the other hand is fully operational. It TMs still dry at this point, but if the Missouri River rises just another 3 feet, the NRC will have to shut the plant down.

Everything is possible, but right now that TMs not anticipated that we would see the water levels get that high, Zaczko said.

The Missouri River is not expected to crest near the Cooper plant for several days.

AP Investigation Finds Flaws in America's Nuclear Power Facilities, Procedures

While officials at the Nuclear Regulator Commission say plants are prepared, a yearlong investigation by the Associated Press says otherwise.

Citing the NRC TMs own data, the AP report suggests America TMs nuclear power facilities are out-dated and in some cases, a safety risk.

"At a time when the nuclear industry is under considerable public scrutiny, this kind of information really doesn't do anything to build public trust or confidence in the nuclear industry," James Acton said during an interview on CBS TM The Early Show. He TMs the senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The report claims 66 power plants have been relicensed to run 20 years beyond their original shelf life, often in rural areas that have quadrupled in population since 1980.

The Callaway Nuclear Plant has not applied for a license renewal. It expires in 2024. However, the AP report did find the population within 10 miles of the plant has grown by thousands since it opened in 1984.

Many of these plants are so close to large populations that in the event of an emergency a large-scale evacuation would be next to impossible to execute. One example of this is Indian Point, located just 36 miles from New York City.

The report also found an aging nuclear program and poor maintenance have lead to leaks of the radioactive chemical tritium in at least 75% of all U.S. nuclear facilities, including the one in Callaway County. According to the report, there was a tritium leak in 2006.

The chemical contaminated drinking water in Minnesota and Illinois.

I think it's cause for careful public scrutiny and clear transparent answers from the Nuclear industry, Acton said.