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Energy news from Omaha Public Power District


Defueling is over, but work continues at Fort Calhoun

December 5, 2016 | Jason Kuiper | decommissioning, Fort Calhoun Station
fort calhoun station ceases

The shutdown and defueling outage at OPPD’s Fort Calhoun Station (FCS) wrapped up last month with plant personnel exceeding all expectations.

Once the decision was made in June by OPPD’s Board of Directors to cease operations, a plan was put together to safely take the plant offline and prepare for its long-term future in SAFSTOR.


Under difficult circumstances and with an accelerated plan, plant crews performed all tasks without injury, contamination events, under radiation dose goal and ahead of schedule and under budget.

It all came down to planning, execution and focus, according to several FCS employees.

“The fact that we were able to plan and prepare for the power coast down and shutdown in only a few months, and execute it safely, was a huge deal for the station,” said John Musser, superintendent, Shift Operations. It was near the end of his work day, and Musser was looking at a report that summarized the defueling work. “Look at how we met our dose goal. Those are the kinds of things that get you in trouble if you can’t keep to the schedule and waste time. When the job takes longer because of poor preparation or you start having human performance events, the dosage numbers go up.

“These numbers tell me we were very well-prepared. We didn’t just execute well, we prepared well.”

Emotional time

Musser said a lot of people, himself included, had to deal with a lot of different emotions while doing the work. Musser sometimes found himself getting caught in the moment, when the plant tripped for the final time, or when the last fuel bundle was removed.

defueling“In the midst of all that has occurred in the last few months, our employees continued to keep that focus and commitment to safely shut down and defuel FCS,” he said. “Their families and the public can be very proud of the work they did.”

Musser credited the leadership of outage manager Craig Longua in keeping crews focused and motivated yet respecting the historic work.

Longua thanked workers from Nebraska City and North Omaha stations who traveled to work normally done by contractors. This allowed OPPD to save significantly by keeping nearly all of the work in-house.

“I’m very proud of how we did it, but sad that we had to do it,” Longua said. “Every day someone would come and make a comment like, ‘wow, this is the last time I’m lifting the reactor head,’ so we had to watch out for each other and sometimes say, ‘ok, he’s distracted, he’s having a rough time today, so how can we make his day a little better,’ or ‘let’s not put him in a bad situation.’”

Coming months

Officials said the work will shift from safely producing nuclear energy to demolition work and decommissioning of the plant.

“It is different,” said Tom Muff, superintendent of maintenance. “We are going to be doing some things we’ve never done before. We’ve never torn things apart. And while it’s different, we still need to focus on safety and working without human errors. People want to finish this the right way.”

Spent fuel remains in the fuel pool, and it must be protected, Muff said. And there is environmental safety to think about. For example, one of the first tasks done after defueling was draining nearly 10,000 gallons of lube oil from the turbine building. Personnel had to drain the oil safely and keep it out of the drain systems.

Another big task yet to come is removing asbestos on both the radioactive and non-radioactive sides of the plant.

A mixture of systems will remain, said Tim Uehling, site training manager. The groundwork for work in the coming months includes licensing submittals, engineering changes and work orders.

Among the work:

  • Normal surveillance, corrective and preventative maintenance work
  • Decommissioning project plans created by teams in “war rooms”
  • Disconnecting electric motors, draining systems and de-energizing unneeded systems and equipment
  • Security plan updates
  • Reduction of the electric footprint
  • Size hazard characterization
  • Procedure reviews and updates
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About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He is a former staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald, where he covered a wide range of topics but spent the majority of his career covering crime. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and has also appeared in several true crime documentary shows. In his free time he enjoys cooking, spending time with his wife and three children, and reading crime novels.

View all posts by Jason Kuiper >

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