Tag Archives: Missouri River flooding

Los Alamos & Fort Calhoun Update, July 5

Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory, new mexico

Las Conchas wildfire in New Mexico (NASA Earth Observatory)

Another NASA Earth Observatory image of the Las Conchas wildfire

The above two images show the Las Conchas wildfire on June 29. Active fire areas are outlined in red. The top image shows a natural color view of the fire. The lower image combines visible and infrared light to show the area burned throughout the week. In the infrared light, the smoke is a faint blue haze that allows a view of the ground below. The hot fire glows orange, and the newly burned land is dark red. [Source]

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Yesterday, I read that the Los Alamos Nuclear Lab will be reopened this Friday.

From the New Mexico Fire Information website, on the Las Conchas wildfire:

Current Situation

Total Personnel 2,196
Size 127,821 acres
Percent Contained 27%
Fuels Involved Mixed Conifer, Ponderosa Pine. Fuel moisture is extremely low.

Little change is expected in the weather from yesterday. Thunderstorms are possible with the chance of strong outflow winds. East and southeast winds will develop over the fire area today, pushing the fire generally to the northwest. Winds developing after 10 am will push the fire up slopes and drainages, especially in drainages with east/west orientation. We also expect another day of very active fire behavior where open lines exist on any western edges or fingers.

The fire above Los Alamos is active and visible. Containment lines are secure. There are many islands of unburned ground. In these areas, fire backs down slopes, and then makes visible short uphill runs. This pattern is likely to continue until the summer rains extinguish the fire. Meanwhile, with support of the Los Alamos Fire Department, the fire is being carefully monitored.

Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant, Nebraska

From the Omaha World-Herald, June 5, 2011:

Flooded land: About 170,000 acres of Nebraska land is inundated by Missouri and Platte Rivers floodwater, according to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. That’s the equivalent of more than 265 square miles.

Dam releases:

  • Fort Randall Dam in South Dakota is releasing water at a rate of about 155,000 cubic feet per second. Releases from the Dam will be reduced Thursday for Army Corps of Engineers officials to inspect repair work that had been done on the structure before the spring runoff season. Engineers want to see how the structure is performing.
  • A similar inspection was conducted last week at Big Bend Dam in South Dakota, upstream from Fort Randall.
  • Gavins Point Dam on SD-NE border — the lowest dam on the Missouri River, immediately downstream on the Nebraska border from Fort Randall — continues to perform well and no similar closure is expected. (Please note that this is completely contrary to the alarming, malicious, and totally unconfirmed rumor about plans to “blow up” Gavins Point Dam, on this blog, June 28, 2011. I’m glad I sat on the story and did not post it on FOTM.)

Meanwhile, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists chastises the media for their failure to investigate and report on the flooded Fort Calhoun and Cooper Nuclear Power Plants:

Failure of the fourth estate. Newspapers and websites all over the country have reported on the flooding and fire at Fort Calhoun, but most articles simply paraphrase and regurgitate information from the NRC and OPPD press releases, which aggregators and bloggers then, in turn, simply cut and paste. Even the Omaha World-Herald didn’t send local reporters to cover the story; instead, the newspaper published an article on the recent fire written by Associated Press reporters — based in Atlanta and Washington. Unsurprisingly, much of the information in recent press reports has lacked context….

Admittedly, it’s not easy finding information about Fort Calhoun, even if you’re a local reporter without a tight deadline. OPPD press releases and the company’s online newsroom do not provide details about the plant’s layout and components. Some of that information was available before 9/11 but was removed because of concerns about terrorism. In protecting ourselves from enemies, we have also hidden vital information from ourselves. So finding the relevant facts takes some digging and dialing, and most newsrooms today don’t have that kind of manpower. That’s especially true at newspapers scrambling to cover a multitude of flood impacts across the region.

A June 9 report delivered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), “Information Needs of Communities,” states that the number of full-time journalists at daily newspapers has fallen from a peak of about 56,900 in 1989 to 41,600 in 2010 — fewer than before Watergate.

~Eowyn

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Updates on Los Alamos & Fort Calhoun, June 30th

Los Alamos fire

Los Alamos Nuclear Lab

As of 12:40 p.m., June 28, 2011:

  • No wildfire currently on Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory (LANL) property.
  • A network of 7 high-volume air samplers along the southern, northern and eastern boundaries of Lab property indicate no radioactive materials from Lab operations or legacy waste in smoke from the Las Conchas fire.
  • Lab will remain closed through Friday, July 1, because of risks presented by the Las Conchas Fire and the mandatory evacuation of Los Alamos town site.
  • More alarming is that the Associated Press reports that LANL is storing “as many as 30,000 drums of plutonium-contaminated waste in fabric tents above ground.Peter Stockton, a senior investigator for the independent watchdog Project on Government Oversight (POGO) says: “They talked about getting it out of there, but they simply haven’t. They [should] store it at WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant) in southern New Mexico, an underground storage facility for low-level waste.  But again, now they claim these barrels can stand up to tests of fire.” (H/t Joseph)

Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant

  • Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station, 19 miles north of Omaha, has been taken offline because of the flooding. The river surrounds the plant to a depth of about two feet.
  • About 70 miles south of Omaha, Cooper Nuclear Station remains online. On Thursday, the river was about three feet below the level that would require the plant to shut down.
  • Today, the regional office of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that oversees Nebraska sent an official request to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, asking what would happen if a dam fails upstream of Fort Calhoun and Cooper nuclear power plants. Combined, the six U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dams on the flood-swollen Missouri River comprise one of the largest reservoir systems in the country. The dams are releasing historic amounts of water during what will be a summer of managed flooding in the Missouri River valley. John Bertino, head of dam safety for the Omaha district, said that although the dams have had some issues, it’s nothing that affects their integrity. “They’re performing really well,” Bertino said Thursday morning. “We don’t see any concerns.” Still, the corps is monitoring the dams 24/7, with both engineers and electronic surveillance.

Rumor: Nebraska’s nuclear power plants store spent fuel rods in open casks. If the Missouri River rises high enough, it will overflow them and carry contaminated water downstream.

Fact: The plants both use outdoor, above-ground entombment, also called dry cask storage, for its oldest fuel. The fuel is entombed in steel canisters that have been welded shut. These canisters are then placed inside concrete bunkers that rely on outside air flowing around the canisters to carry away residual heat. The bunker and canisters are built to withstand flooding. Elevated indoor pools are used for the most recently used fuel rods. At the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station, the river would have to rise another 32.18 feet to flow over the top of the pool deck. At the Brownville plant, the river would have to rise approximately 102 feet.

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Why Fort Calhoun & Los Alamos Should Frighten Us

If there’s one thing we should have learnt from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, it is that governments and nuclear plant owners don’t tell the truth lie.

In Japan’s case, the authorities waited until nearly 3 months after the post-quake tsunami damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, to finally tell the truth. Not one (as previously said), but all three of the plant’s damaged reactors had experienced a meltdown.

Here in the United States, we are being told by the authorities that, despite the flooding of the Missouri River and the raging Las Conchas wildfire, the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant in Nebraska and the Los Alamos Nuclear Lab in New Mexico are both okay. But we have good reasons to be concerned.

Let’s look at Los Alamos first.

The Las Conchas wildfire in the Santa Fe National Forest began last Sunday only THREE MILES from Los Alamos, where one of America’s two nuclear-weapons producing lab is located.

As of 10 a.m. today, only 3% of the wildfire has been contained, according to the New Mexico Fire Information website. We are assured that no wildfire has reached the Los Alamos Laboratory property, and that 7 high-volume air monitors placed along the lab’s boundaries all come in “clean.”

But physicist Michio Kaku tells ABC News why he’s concerned  about the fire at Los Alamos. That’s because around 20,000 to 30,000 barrels of plutonium contaminated waste (everything from gloves to fuel rods) is stored at the lab. Kaku explains: “Plutonium is one of the most toxic particles known to science. A particle you can’t even see lodged in your lungs could cause lung cancer. What we’re worried about is what happens when the fires go right into these buildings and perhaps pop open some of these 55-gallon drums.”

Although Los Alamos National Lab officials said dangerous materials in the lab are secure and do not pose a threat, Kaku warns that no one has ever fully tested the lab under real fire conditions. “What happens if the fire spreads to the very heart of the laboratory? At that point, we have to cross our fingers hoping that ‘secure sites’ remain secure.” [See the video of Kaku by clicking HERE]

On Monday, most of the 12,000 residents of the city of Los Alamos were evacuated. By this evening, June 29, 2011, the wildfire has grown to at least 61,000 acres and flames are 50 ft. from the nuclear lab. [Source]

Then there is the situation at Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant.

Dr. Tom Burnett writes for Rense.com, June 27, 2011:

The REASON there is a problem and why they aren’t telling the truth is because, while Fukishima is equivalent to about twenty Chernobyls, Ft. Calhoun is equivalent to about twenty Fukushimas. Not because it has a lot of reactors – or even a very big one. But because it is holding an immense amount of nuclear fuel in its cooling pool.

This isn’t some elevated bathtub like the cooling pools at Fukushima. Oh, no. This cooling pool is forty feet UNDER GROUND AND forty feet ABOVE GROUND. It’s EIGHTY FEET DEEP IN TOTAL. If they can’t cool it, the corn belt is in trouble.

I’m guessing that it’s the big rectangular building behind-left (actually touching) the round nuclear reactor containment building. Why do I think that? Because it has no windows or ventilation and it’s about the only building on-site large enough to hold the amount of spent nuclear fuel it has to hold – and, by the way, it was filled up to capacity in 2006 – which is why they had to start storing the excess spent fuel rods in those concrete dry casks outside of the pool.

The dry casks are visible near the top of the picture. They are grey concrete blocks set together on the large, grey square area. The casks have white doors facing a little to the left in the photo. The NRC says there is ‘no problem’ should the casks become partially submerged by Missouri flood waters. The back-up generators are probably flooded as well. They were ALSO what the [busted] rubber dam [or berm] was in place to protect. Even if they aren’t, there is water in the electrical system. That’s what the yellow cards from the NRC were about last year – and those cards were never signed off as safe.

There are at least six and probably dozens of NRC and government people there ‘closely monitoring’ the plant. All they can do is watch. The ’emergency’ plans were only thought up when the water started rising and were only implemented beginning on June 6. Before then, the plant owners were still pissing back and forth with the NRC that a flood that bad couldn’t happen.

And the brilliant rubber condom around the plant didn’t just burst by itself. The dumbasses were piddling around and managed to pop it themselves! So, when they tell me there is no danger at all, I know otherwise because the rubber dam was the last resort…and that ANY water higher than that is too much – and the water was clearly VERY high up on it when it burst. I’m thinking that if I call another disaster, and it happens, it will start getting dicey in about sixty-four hours. From now.

As if that isn’t bad enough, now we discover that a 10-mile evacuation around the Fort Calhoun plant has been ordered, but all references of the evacuation have been scrubbed from online news sites.

Alexander Higgins reports on June 28, 2011 that a video, saved by The Daily Paul, was originally aired on ABC8 (KLKN, Lincoln, Nebraska), which clearly states the nuclear power plant is under water and a 10-mile evacuation has been ordered around the plant [0:45 mark]. It is discussed in detail in the video why the evacuation has been issued.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=_zosA6pPH_E]

But a Google news search for “10 mile fort calhoun evacuation” shows no results about the evacuation, only articles talking about how hard it would be to evacuate a 10-mile radius around many of the US nuclear plants.

There also has been a Fort Calhoun evacuation map posted on the (NEMA) Nebraska Emergency Management Website. However, Google shows that it has been there since at least the 17th of June and that indicates officials saw this coming.

Fort Calhoun Station EPZ Evacuation Route Map

Radiological Emergency Preparedness | Ft. Calhoun Nuclear Power Station
Fort Calhoun Nuclear Evacuation Map

Salt TV reports that the water is now up to 2 feet high around the sides of the building, but the NRC says there is no danger — the same NRC that once said this:

Japan’s Nuclear Fallout Unlikely to Reach the U.S., NRC Official Says

The head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission expressed confidence on Monday that there’s little chance of radioactivity from Japan’s badly damaged nuclear power plants reaching the United States. [Source: The National Journal]

Alas, the Mainichi Daily News reports, June 23, 2011, that radioactive materials spewed out from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant reached North America soon after the meltdown and were carried all the way to Europe, according to a simulation by university researchers.

Oh, by the way, radiation has been detected in the urine of residents near the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

~Eowyn

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Berm Collapsed in Nebraska Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant

Photo credit: Larry Geiger

A berm is a level space, shelf, or raised barrier separating two areas. Since the Missouri River began flooding, contractors have been busy installing sandbags and earthen berms to protect the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant from flooding.

But KETV7 of Omaha, Nebraska, reports that a temporary berm designed to hold back floods at the nuclear power plant has collapsed. A piece of equipment punctured the aqua dam (or berm) at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday.

Water now surrounds two buildings at the plant, but federal officials and the Omaha Public Power District said there’s no danger although the head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been dispatched to inspect the plant.

ABC News reports, June 27, 2011, that the breach of the berm allowed Missouri River flood waters to reach containment buildings and transformers and forcing the shutdown of electrical power. Backup generators are cooling the nuclear material at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station. The plant has not operated since April, and officials say there is no danger to the public. Nevertheless, federal inspectors are on the scene.

Meanwhile, there was no protecting thousands of homes in Minot, N.D., where flooding of the Souris River hit its peak today, flooding more than 4,000 homes.

Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant

Wikipedia says that “According to officials, the Fort Calhoun plant was built to withstand a 500 year flooding event and though by June 14, 2011, much of the facility was surrounded by the swollen Missouri River, Omaha Public Power District officals were confident that enough redundancies were in place to ensure adequate safety. It was reported on June 17, 2011 that the plant was in “safe cold shutdown” mode and that four weeks worth of additional fuel had been brought in to power backup generators, should they be needed. The Army Corps of Engineers indicated that with average precipitation, the Missouri River would not go above 1,008 feet above sea level and OPPD officials stated that the current flood protection efforts would protect the plant to 1,010–1,012 feet above sea level. Officials indicated the spent fuel pool is at 1,038.5 feet above sea level. The Federal Aviation Administration has declared a “temporary flight restriction,” in a two nautical mile radius, centered on the Fort Calhoun nuclear facility. This restriction went into effect on June 6, 2011, at 4:31 PM, and remains in effect “until further notice.”

The Omaha World-Herald today reports: “Water now surrounds the auxiliary and containment buildings [of the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant], which are designed to handle flooding up to 1,014 feet above sea level. The river is at 1,006.3 feet and isn’t forecast to exceed 1,008 feet.

On Sunday the Missouri River was more than 3 feet below the level that would require Nebraska’s other nuclear power plant — Cooper Nuclear Station, near Brownville — to shut down. NPPD thinks it can continue operating the plant through the summer.

According to Wikipedia, in 2010, the population within 10 miles of Fort Calhoun was 20,639; the population within 50 miles was 953,410. The closest major city is Omaha, with a population of 408,958, whose center is 18 miles from the plant.

~Eowyn

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Second Nebraska Nuclear Plant Flooded

JournalStar.com reports, on June 21, 2011, that the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant in Nebraska is shut down “for scheduled refueling.”

Record levels for the Missouri River were set Tuesday at Plattsmouth and Nebraska City, surpassing levels set in 1993, the National Weather Service said.

Fort Calhoun’s owner and operator, Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), says the nuclear plant won’t be restarted until the flood waters go down.

But the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency was assured that the availability of electrical power will remain stable for Nebraskans despite rising floodwaters and despite the fact that floodwaters also are lapping at the Cooper Nuclear Power Plant near Brownville, but it continues to operate. Should Cooper be shut down because of increased flooding, the utilities say they can generate enough power with their coal-fired plants or import power from other states to provide the state with sufficient power.

There are now 92 Nebraska National Guard soldiers and airmen providing direct support in the flooding emergency.

Blogger Jenny Hayden writes that the OPPD reports there have been “no releases of radioactive material since flooding of the Missouri River began.”

OPPD has issued “Flood Rumor Control” talk points for its employees and the news media, which relegate most concerns to “precautions.” At the same time, however, a Thursday update includes this as a last line buried in the story:

“For health and safety reasons, all individuals are cautioned to avoid contact with any flood water.”

A home is surrounded by flood waters in Minot, ND, June 24, 2011 (Reuters/Allen Fredrickson)

Meanwhile, 669  miles north of Fort Calhoun, in North Dakota, the AP reports that the Souris River’s full weight hit Minot on Friday, June 24, 2011, swamping an estimated 2,500 homes as it soared nearly 4 feet in less than a day and overwhelmed the city’s levees.

City officials said they expected more than 4,000 homes to be flooded by day’s end. More than a quarter of the city’s 40,000 residents had evacuated earlier this week, packing any belongings they hoped to save into cars, trucks and trailers.

~Eowyn

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