Nuclear regulator visits second Nebraska plant on Missouri

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 27, 2011 4:43 PM
Nuclear regulator visits second Nebraska plant on Missouri

By Michael Avok

FORT CALHOUN, Neb (Reuters) - A two-day tour of two Nebraska nuclear power plants surrounded by a swollen Missouri River has generated a regional and national buzz, but relatively little concern from local residents.

In Fort Calhoun, Nebraska, five miles south of the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant, many people weren't even aware that Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko was checking on the plant's flood protections.

"I think there's something going on at the plant," said a woman working the counter at the local gas station, which also sells food. "All the sheriff's guys are up there. If you want to rob the bank, today would be the day."

Customers ate pizza and burritos and had coffee as a few cars came and went. After several weeks of preparation and flooding, the rising water seemed to be less shocking and more a fact of life for residents in the town with 850 people.

Law enforcement vehicles were posted at several spots on the highway leading to the Fort Calhoun nuclear facility on Monday. The plant was using diesel-powered generators to run facility functions. It was shut down for maintenance in April and is expected to stay that way until the floodwaters recede.

Jaczko's Sunday visit to the Cooper Nuclear Station, 70 miles south of Omaha, also was met by little fanfare from the 148 residents of Brownville, Nebraska.

The main blacktop road to Cooper is blocked by floodwater, but a gravel road to the plant is still open about five miles south of town.

Shawn Grooms, 39, was more worried about how the flooding would disrupt the gathering of edible mushrooms, a regional delicacy, along the river in the spring than about the plant.

"I always come out here along the river banks to hunt for mushrooms," he said Sunday from the middle of a bridge closed to traffic by flooding. "I doubt I can do that next spring."

Grooms was one of several dozen sightseers on the bridge that normally links Nebraska to Missouri at Brownville.

Harold Davis, owner of Brownville Mills boutique, was more concerned about road closings and a loss of business. Still, people in the four-block downtown were sprucing up for the Fourth of July.

"The flood is killing business for us," Davis said. "And it probably will for the next three or four months."

(Editing by David Bailey and Jerry Norton)