BLAIR, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska utility has decided to hire out-of-state experts to run the troubled nuclear power plant near Omaha.
Omaha Public Power District directors voted Thursday to contract with Exelon Generation LLC to run the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station, which has been under close scrutiny by regulators. Exelon Generation is owned by Chicago-based Exelon Corp., and operates 17 reactors at 10 nuclear power plants in Illinois, Pennsylvania and New Jersey
Fort Calhoun was initially shut down for routine refueling maintenance in April 2011, but flooding along the Missouri River and safety violations forced it to remain offline. The violations included a small electrical fire in June 2011, the failure of a key electrical part during a 2010 test and deficiencies in flood planning that were discovered a year before last summer's extensive floods.
State and federal officials have said Fort Calhoun's problems never represented a threat to public safety.
OPPD officials had hoped to restart the plant in September but said they would adjust the schedule as needed if any additional issues were found.
In a news release, OPPD President and CEO Gary Gates said: "While we have made significant progress in our recovery efforts, this operating agreement will help take Fort Calhoun Station to the next level."
An OPPD board member, John Green, told the Omaha World-Herald that he has thought the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was interested in seeing OPPD seek outside expertise.
"I've been convinced over the last few months ... that we weren't going to be able to open the plant without doing this," Green said.
NRC spokesman Victor Dricks said Friday that the NRC hasn't been pushing OPPD to contract an outside operational management company. He would not respond to Green's comment about whether the plant would have been allowed to restart without such an arrangement.
Exelon has been helping OPPD with its recovery since January. The new agreement will raise Exelon's involvement. OPPD still will own the plant, but Exelon will provide day-to-day management. The plant staff will include OPPD and Exelon employees.