Last night, I saw a “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” segment of a chat show that focused on Nebraska’s Fort Calhoun station, which is sitting in an area now flooded by the swollen Missouri River. The speaker stressed that, despite the mutual presence of water around Fort Calhoun and Fukushima Daiichi, the two incidents are not similar, though he did call Fort Calhoun a Fukushima-like event in slow motion.
Is it? Let’s allow our old friends the Union of Concerned Scientists to take this one:
The Union of Concerned Scientists, one of the nuclear-power industry’s toughest critics, sprang into action when the Missouri River flood threatened the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant in Nebraska.
But after looking into the matter, the scientists group was reassured. Precautions had been taken to deal with the floodwaters, and federal inspectors had checked over the plant on Monday.
You may be sure that if there were the tiniest concern, UCS would be taking the most dire tone imaginable.
No nuclear plant is without risks [though, we should note, many fewer than other energy generators], and the flooding will complicate getting the Nebraska reactor back up and running. But “basically what we found was … good news,” said David Lochbaum, director of the nuclear safety project for the scientists group, which is based in Washington.
The NRC itself offers an interesting account of what Fort Calhoun is up to:
The plant has erected an Aquadam around the powerblock – vital areas including the containment and auxiliary buildings. The water-filled berm is eight feet tall and 16 feet wide at the base, and provides protection for up to six feet of water. The dam also protects several pieces of equipment that have been brought onsite, including an additional emergency diesel generator for supplying AC electrical power, water pumps, firefighting equipment and sandbagging supplies.
An earthern berm protects the electrical switchyard and a concrete barrier has been built around electrical transformers to protect them. Satellite phones have been distributed to key workers. Extra food and water has been stockpiled.
Because, as you might imagine, getting to and from the plant is more of a challenge. NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko visited earlier this week and said the flooding looked worse from aerial photos than from the ground, so maybe you really have to be there.
The NRC also has a post about some of the dumber rumors swirling around Fort Calhoun – you can read that part yourself, as we don’t want to promulgate them here – but trust me: dumb.
Yesterday, we noted French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s re-embrace of nuclear energy but didn’t mention the occasion for the comments. This story from Environmental Finance tells that part of the story and tries an interesting tack:
France will invest €1 billion ($1.4billion) in its nuclear power program, bucking the post-Fukushima trend away from nuclear energy.
The €1 billion will fund ‘fourth generation’ nuclear development and research into nuclear safety, the president said on Monday.
Interestingly, another country “bucking the trend,” as the story would have it, is Great Britain:
Meanwhile, last week, the UK government also maintained its commitment to nuclear, confirming a string of sites for possible new nuclear builds.
However, Ben Caldecott, head of European policy at asset manager and adviser Climate Change Capital in London, said the government has struck a fair balance between meeting energy demands and achieving emissions targets.
“I prefer renewable energy to nuclear power, but the fact of the matter is that if you didn’t replace any existing nuclear power stations, decarbonising the electricity sector would be that much harder. And that’s the challenge that Germany will be facing,” he told Environmental Finance.
Bucking the trend! Seems to me Germany and Switzerland are the countries bucking the trend.