Cooper Nuclear Station still operating, but preparing for shut-down as Missouri River hits record levels

Cooper Nuclear Station still operating, but preparing for shut-down as Missouri River hits record levels
Structures are surrounded by floodwaters along the Missouri River in Plattsmouth on Friday. BRENDAN SULLIVAN/THE WORLD-HERALD

Nebraska’s lone nuclear plant was preparing to shut down Friday in the face of record rises in the Missouri River. However, as of about 6 p.m., it was still operating, said Mark Becker, spokesman for the Nebraska Public Power District.

As of 5:15 p.m., the river had reached to within inches of the level, 45.5 feet, that requires a shutdown.

Personnel with the Nebraska Public Power District have been sandbagging the levee that protects the nuclear plant to give it extra height. They were also sandbagging the doorways of the plant and preparing watertight drop-down doors.

Becker said the facility sits 13 feet above natural grade and the nuclear reactor sits an additional 14 feet higher than that.

A levee on the opposite side of the Missouri River also sits lower than the one protecting the facility, so Becker is confident the plant’s reactor will not be damaged by floodwaters and the facility may not take on much if any water.

Becker said he doesn’t anticipate there will be any damage to the nuclear components of the facility if it does shut down.

The Nebraska Public Power District lost a small power plant on the Niobrara River because of flooding in north-central Nebraska.

Thursday morning, the hydroelectric plant at the Spencer Dam on the Niobrara River was lost when the dam broke and a large ice floe jammed a hole in the building.

Flooding this year is higher than occurred in the historic, summer-long flood of 2011.

During that 2011 flood, Cooper was able to continue functioning.

Cooper accounts for about 35 percent of NPPD’s power.

After the plant shuts down, NPPD will get power elsewhere through its own facilities or through a power-sharing network that it belongs to.

“That’s not going to be an issue,” he said. “We’re going to have enough electricity.”

The loss of the hydroelectric plant also will not be crippling for NPPD. It was built in the 1920s, and the utility already had plans to discontinue the use of its electricity, Becker said. NPPD had been planning to sell the plant and its water rights to a group of natural resources districts.