Fort Calhoun’s Levees Need to Be Upgraded

Officials hope temporary levee will save Iowa town

The Fort Calhoun nuclear power station in Fort Calhoun, Neb., currently shut down for refueling, is surrounded by flood waters from the Missouri River, Tuesday, June 14, 2011. On Tuesday, the releases at Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota hit the maximum planned amount of 150,000 cubic feet of water per second, which are expected to raise the Missouri River 5 to 7 feet above flood stage in most of Nebraska and Iowa.

The following excerpt is being reported by several sites concerning a finding by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the facility failed to maintain procedures against external flooding:

As a result of a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) inspection conducted from January 1 to June 21, 2010, the NRC determined that Fort Calhoun Station (FCS) did not have adequate procedures to protect the intake structure and auxiliary building against external flooding events. Specifically, contrary to Technical Specification 5.8.1.a, the station failed to maintain procedures for combating a significant flood as recommended by Regulatory Guide 1.33, Appendix A, section 6.w, “Acts of Nature.”

The idea of a makeshift levee surrounding a nuclear power plant that has been found to be out of compliance by the NRC for precautions concerning external flooding requirements is something straight out of a bad B movie plot. Although the government and media are not reporting on this situation, I can only hope that security against a terrorist attack on this levee have been implemented.

The news concerning the flooding of the Missouri River is not encouraging as Reuters is reporting:

Heavy winter snowmelt feeding the river’s headwaters in the Rocky Mountains and heavy spring rains have forced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to release water from six dams from Montana through South Dakota to relieve swollen reservoirs.

The Corps has planned to hold the top release rates until at least mid August, creating a long-term strain on newly constructed and existing levees that were built to varying strengths for more than 1,700 miles along the river basin.

The Corps reached its maximum planned release rate Tuesday at the Gavins Point Dam along the South Dakota-Nebraska border, leaving peak flows running freely to the confluence with the Mississippi River more than 800 miles downstream.

Several I-29 segments were closed due to flooding or threatened flooding, including 20 miles north from Council Bluffs, Iowa, and part in Northeast Missouri.

A second levee breach near Big Lake, Missouri, 45 miles south of Hamburg, flooded farmland and forced evacuations, but a secondary levee limited flooding, officials said.

Local officials reported multiple sand boils Tuesday on a third levee, in Mills County, Iowa, southeast of Omaha and across the river from Offutt Air Force Base. The levee protects a mainly agricultural area that has a handful of homes.

The Missouri River flooding has put tens of thousands of acres of cropland at risk from Montana to Iowa. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is scheduled to tour flooded areas in Iowa and Nebraska on Friday.

Heavy rains forced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to raise the top planned release rate from its Fort Peck Dam in Montana to 65,000 cubic feet per second, from 50,000. It has left intact plans for top release rates of 150,000 cubic feet per second from the other five dams.

The National Weather Service sees a threat for above normal precipitation for the upper Missouri basin, the northern plains area for up to the next two weeks.

Daily showers were forecast for the U.S. Midwest through the weekend, raising the risk of more farmland to flood along the Missouri River, Mike Palmerino, a forecaster with Telvent DTN weather service, said on Wednesday.

“It’s going to keep pressure on the Missouri River — the Missouri, mid-Mississippi, Illinois river basins are continuing to be affected by the heavy to moderate rainfall,” he said.

The Missouri River is expected to reach up to seven feet above flood stage at Sioux City, Omaha and Kansas City when the flows from the maximum release rates reach those areas.

David DeGerolamo

Related articles:

No Fly Zone Over Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant Due to “Hazards”

Sand Bags and Nuclear Power Plants Don’t Mix

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