Nebraska Reactor Fort Calhoun Closes Permanently
25 October 2016
The 482 MW Fort Calhoun pressurized water reactor in Nebraska, was permanently shut down on 24 October 2016, due to poor economics. Located 19 miles north of Omaha, the reactor was operated by Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) through an agreement with Exelon Generation. The reactor began operation in 1973, and received a license extension in 2002 from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to operate until 2033. The OPPD informed the NRC on 25 August 2016 that the reactor was to be closed.
“The economic analysis clearly shows that continued operation of Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station is not financially sustainable,” Tim Burke OPPD President and Chief Executive told the board in June 2016. “While the recommendation to cease operations at Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station was a difficult one, it was a determination that had to be made in order to fulfill the district’s mission and our responsibility to our customer-owners.” Exelon took over the running of the plant in 2012 with a 20-year, US$400 million contract with OPPD. Generation costs and output at Fort Calhoun indicate a cost to OPPD of about US$71 per MWh, compared with a market price of US$20/MWh.
Fort Calhoun was closed for nearly three years after major flooding of the site in 2011. The NRC found that with once-in-500-year flooding the plant “would experience a loss of offsite power and loss of intake structure” and water pumps providing essential cooling water to the plant. In that case, “the plant would be incapable of reaching cold shutdown” with normal operations — a fundamental safety requirement imposed by the NRC. The flooding impact and counter measures cost OPPD hundreds of millions of dollars.