US nuclear plant avoids shutdown after Missouri River rises near facility

OMAHA, Neb. – The Missouri River rose to within 18 inches (50 centimetres) of forcing the shutdown of a nuclear power plant in Nebraska but stopped and ebbed slightly, a plant spokesman said Monday.

The river has to hit 902 feet (275 metres) above sea level at Brownville before officials will shut down the Cooper Nuclear Plant, which sits at 903 feet (275 metres).

Nebraska Public Power District spokesman Mark Becker said the river rose to 900.56 feet (274.49 metres) on Sunday, then dropped to 900.4 feet (274.44 metres) later in the day and remained at that level Monday morning.

The plant was operating at full capacity, Becker said.

The utility sent a “notification of unusual event” to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission when the river rose to 899 feet (274 metres) early Sunday morning. The declaration is the least serious of four emergency notifications established by the federal commission.

“We knew the river was going to rise for some time,” Becker said Sunday. “It was just a matter of when.”

The plant has been preparing for the flooding since May 30. More than 5,000 tons of sand has been brought in to construct barricades around it and access roads, according to NPPD.

A spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the NRC thinks OPPD managers have “done everything that they need to do to respond to the current conditions” at the nuclear plant.

Flooding remains a concern all along the river because of the massive amounts of water released by the Army Corps of Engineers. The river is expected to rise as much as 5 to 7 feet above flood stage in much of Nebraska and Iowa and as much as 10 feet (3 metres) over flood stage in parts of Missouri.

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Associated Press writer Nelson Lampe contributed to this report.

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