Defueling is over, but work continues at Fort Calhoun

Posted on Categories Ft. Calhoun Station, UncategorizedTags , ,
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.

In the auxiliary building, Josh Wheeler, in the orange vest, signals to the crane operator to place the spent-fuel pool sluice gate into position.
In the auxiliary building, Josh Wheeler, in the orange vest, signals to the crane operator to place the spent-fuel pool sluice gate into position.

Under the most difficult of circumstances and with an accelerated plan, plant crews were able to:

  • Perform all tasks without any injuries or human performance errors
  • Perform tasks without any personnel contamination events
  • Perform all tasks under radiation dose goal
  • Perform all tasks ahead of schedule and under budget

It all came down to planning, execution and focus, according to several FCS officials who spoke shortly after the 133 fuel assemblies were safely removed from the reactor and placed in the spent-fuel pool.

“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 found himself getting caught in the moment at times, such as 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 Craig Longua, outage manager with keeping crews focused and motivated while also being respectful of the historic work being done at the plant.

Longua thanked the rest of OPPD for providing workers from Nebraska City and North Omaha stations to do work that would normally be done by contractors, a move that allowed OPPD to save significantly by keeping nearly all of the work in-house.

OPPD beefed up training and put a great deal of focus across FCS to work safely and not rush. Teamwork, Longua said, was as high as he’s ever seen it in his 20 years at the plant. Everyone was looking out for each other.

“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 that lays ahead at FCS, and there is plenty to be done, will shift from producing nuclear energy safely to demo 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.”

Muff said there is still spent fuel in the fuel pool that needs to be protected. And there is environmental safety to think about. For example, one of the first tasks to be done after defueling was to drain nearly 10,000 gallons of lube oil from the turbine building. The oil had to be drained safely and kept out of the drain systems.

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

Tim Uehling, site training manager, said there will be a mixture of systems still required and systems that will be abandoned. The groundwork for what crews will be doing in the coming month’s lies in the licensing submittals, engineering changes and work orders that will govern the work.

Among the work to be done:

  • Normal surveillance, corrective and preventative maintenance work
  • Decommissioning project plans that are being 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

Uehling said the work done in 2017 will mostly be on the non-radioactive systems to allow additional time for radioactive decay.

“Beyond 2017, our focus is on ensuring the plant is ready to either enter SAFSTOR or move into active deconstruction,” Uehling said. “All four pillars of safety – nuclear, radiological, industrial and environmental – need to be adhered to throughout decommissioning.”

Jason Kuiper

About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He formerly worked as a staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald.

2 thoughts on “Defueling is over, but work continues at Fort Calhoun”

  1. Great Job, FCS personnel! Proud of you and all the work you have done, and continue to do for OPPD and for our communities!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *