Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant?

dry cask storage bunker - Fort Calhoun

The dry-storage bunker is half-submerged OUTSIDE the AquaDam condom. It's the smaller brown building adjacent to the white tank at the right of this picture. Click image to enlarge. OPDD Photo.

Earlier this month, workers at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant surrounded the reactor and other key parts of the facility with a massive water berm called an “AquaDam”.

Fort Calhoun had a foot-deep pool next to the reactor for spent fuel rods. The pool was so full in 2009 that they were sealing the fuel rods up in dry casks and sticking them in an on-site ‘mausoleum’.

This, of course, is why there is a no-fly zone around the plant — someone might realize that wherever the fuel casks and underground fuel pools are, they are NOT inside the condom.

Hat tip and a bow to Arthur Hu for finding the dry-storage bunker, half-submerged OUTSIDE the condom. It’s the smaller brown building adjacent to the white tank.

No one really knows what their condition is – or even if the spent fuel is still on-site. No one in the major media is asking the question, and the operators aren’t saying.

So who made the dry storage cask containers at Fort Calhoun?

Moving of storage is stressful. But that doesn’t mean choosing the right moving company has to be. You want moving services that will provide you with a comfortable, hassle-free experience.

That would be Transnuclear, Inc.

And who owns Transnuclear? Areva.

And what else is Aveva doing?

Selling water purification tanks and systems to TEPCO for Fukushima.

What else does Areva do? Anything it wants, since it’s a giant multinational behemoth.


UPDATE 6/26/11

Flood berm collapsed at Nebraska nuclear plant

Published 12:55 p.m., Sunday, June 26, 2011

FORT CALHOUN, Neb. (AP) — A berm holding back floodwater at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station has collapsed:


UPDATE 6/24/11

Lynda Waddington of The Iowa Independent has now confirmed that the dry storage casks WERE exposed to the flood, and outside the berm:

Note also the following article published today in the New York Times:

Last October, the NRC issued a notice of violation against the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant operator, Omaha Public Power District (OPPD). NRC inspectors said that facility “would experience a loss of offsite power and loss of intake structure” in the event flood waters reached 1008 feet above sea level.

OPPD challenged the NRC’s inspectors’ conclusions in a series of conferences before bowing to the commission staff’s demands and agreeing to install the additional defenses this year. The AquaDam water berm was installed beginning June 4.

According to the article, the Missouri River reached a high of 1007 feet yesterday.


UPDATE 6/23/11

This is us moving a 6 million dollar transformer. Scroll down for how good we done!

Rumor control stopped making much sense after June 17.  No more pictures and the only thing they say is the standard “Pay no attention to the water.  We’re perfectly safe.  We planned this all along.”   “Didn’t we, George?”  “Ah, ayup.”
Ft. Calhoun is Just above Omaha – which is about 5 ‘ above flood stage.  194,000cubic feet/sec of water is flowing by there right now.  It is the middle black triangle on the right.

Dr. Tom is a retired scientist who is now farming on the Big Island of Hawaii.

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  • thanks for the update, Tom. I concede that black “piping” around the dry cask storage site cannot be the aquadam water berm.

    And you cite media reports confirming it’s not protected. After studying the picture more, it looks like that piping is on top of the fence – whatever it is, it’s not the aquadam.

    Now what? Can the electric-diesel pumps keep working when submerged? Is that what the NRC is saying when it says the flooding has no impact on them?

    • Tom Burnett

      Aloha Rady,

      I’m pretty sure the NRC Commissioner isn’t going to visit Ft. Calhoun because someone would have a camera, so he’ll have to yap about how safe it is from a distance – before he heads for his important meeting in Europe.

      For all the nice talk, Ft. Calhoun has a problem. We’ll see how bad it is in about 48 hours.

  • Richard Wolfe

    Dear Tom Burnett,

    Here is a couple of links to the breaking story about the berm collapsing around the Calhoun nuclear power plant. This is one of the most important stories on the planet and there is a new blackout and disinformation campaign to cover it up!!!

    Someone need to tell us if the open air spent fuel rod pits are now underwater from the Missouri river and the contamination is now going downsteam.

    Richard Wolfe

    • Tom Burnett

      They won’t tell us – which actually tells us a lot. But my guess is that the open air casks aren’t bouncing down the bottom of the river yet. I don’t think there is enough water above the flood level to push them downstream – yet.

      But they aren’t bolted down. Did you read the story here first? Oh, yeah! The dominoes story. The Government is “watching closely” because that’s all they can do. The main power is off. Wait for the next domino.

  • Joseppi
  • Here’s a super large size (1.2 mb) of the image (Ft Calhoun)

    If you look at the high-res pic, it seems the dry cask storage is sitting on dry land

    • Tom Burnett

      Excellent observation. It IS on dry land because there is a huge berm built around it. But it’s not inside the rubber dam.

    • it also looks to me like the aquadam DOES surround the dry cask storage site

      • Tom Burnett

        I don’t use a drawing program (I better download one), but the aqua Dam does not protect the dry cask storage. It protects the spent fuel pool, though. Can you figure out where that is? 🙂

        • According to Pilot-Tribune,

          the 40-foot spent fuel pool is underground. I’ve studied that large pic but cannot discern where it is.

          I even scoured NRC and other sources to see if anyone would say where it is.

          the bloody NRC doesn’t mention anything about storage (that I could find anyway).

          • I mean — that pool is 40 feet DEEP

          • Tom Burnett

            Here’s what they let slip by accident. It’s forty feet underground. but it is ALSO 38 feet ABOVE ground. And it’s full.

        • btw, if you have Paint, you can make those cute red circles


          • Tom Burnett

            I don’t have Paint for Ubuntu Linix…I’ll find something.

      • but maybe that black tubing is something else

        • Tom Burnett

          That black tubing is the aqua dam. I’ll have to muddle through a drawing program unless someone wants help me.

          Volunteers? tc399 at xemaps dot com?

          • no, I mean the black tubing surrounding the dry cask storage site… you see it on 3 sides? but on the right side it’s looks different from what we see on the left and top.

            What I’m looking at may not be the aquadam, eh?

            Maybe Arnie Gundersen can clear all this up for us.

            I’m gonna try to reach him with that pic and these questions.


  • Canuck

    the position of the IAEA, set up through the UN in 1957 “to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy,” and its 1959 agreement with WHO. There is a “need to change,” it says, the IAEA-WHO pact. It has muzzled the WHO, providing for the “hiding” from the “public of any information “unwanted” by the nuclear industry.

  • Thomas

    Aerials of Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant Flooding – No-Fly Zone Enforced as of June 14, 2011

  • Searatin

    Yes, the containers for dry storage are really, really fragile. Here is a link to a video for the tests conducted on the eggshellesque containers:

    Also, besides having bomb-proof containers, the reactor and primary cooling system are in a negatively pressurized (vacuum) containment dome. If it holds a vacuum do you really think water is going to get in? Seriously people, go do some research so you don’t sound like a bunch of fossil fuel shills spouting ignorance and lies.

  • Tom-

    It doesn’t matter how well the plants are built. Any industry that *makes* poisons that will remain deadly for at least a hundred times longer than the recorded history of humanity, and does that in order to boil water for a few years, with no clue what to do with the resulting poisons, is stupid. Pure and simple stupid.

    Or pure and simple evil, your choice.

    • Tom Burnett

      Yeah. It’s hard to argue with that. I think we have pure and simple stupidly….or evilly… walked ourselves right into a rapid extinction event. I suppose I’d have to vote for evil – there can’t be that much stupidity.

      • Dr. L

        The current abuse of radioactive substances, and the mass manufacturing of worse elements like plutonium, to boil water is about the stupidest way to generate electricity from energy-emitting substances that anyone in the past two hundred years could conceive. Certain robber barons and monopolists like J.P.Morgan would have loved it though, being an ultimate product of their efforts to corrupt the physics of the then looming 20th Century for their fun and profit. What energy “powers” the changes we perceive as time, and how then in our unidirectional movement or existence do we have the supposed “symmetry”? Einstein’s work was a brilliant and elaborate workaround akin to Ptolemaic astronomy, but in neither system had central flaws been addressed.
        One wonders if the single dislike registered for your comment had anything to do with your remark that there can’t be that much stupidity. I’ve seen a lot of stupidity but for my own psychological defenses it is difficult to allow full realization of how much stupidity there can actually be in the world. There is also the Greek sense of “idiot” which includes the meaning “evil” for those who make the unethical or immoral choice to be stupid.
        Maybe it’s evil to be that stupid in a world where everyone bears a moral responsibility to learn, as well as humans having a natural pleasure in curiosity and learning that they evilly allow to be suppressed by a system of ignorance still called “education”, and further suppressed by the social suggestive norms which suppressive manipulation people dumbly (i.e. without speaking out) accept.
        If one is stupid in a world of information and knowledge, of learning accessible without the classroom controls and limits that benefit controlling interests, then one is evil. If one can access the internet, public or state university libraries or bookstores, converse with interesting, informative or intelligent people, frequent magazine or newspaper racks, or even only monitor television with its misnamed “news” (for which critical thinking is a necessity to sift out any knowledge), and especially if one can comment on websites, but one is still stupid, then such a one is also evil and immoral. Morality can be of individual benefit, tied by moorings to friends, family, society and so on. It is time we expect and demand the opposite of stupidity since it is much more immoral to be stupid in today’s world than it is to put shirtless pictures on your Twitter updates. Politicians should be forced out of office for the real immorality of stupidity, not the petty distractions of computer mediated partial nudity. If they’re applying good information, knowledge and wisdom to the public good they can run around on the beach in a banana leaf for all anybody should care, and broadcast all the pictures they want. So what do Hawaiian politicians know about the stupidity of “nuclear” (expensively boiled water) power?

        • Tom Burnett

          Aloha Dr. L.

          The politicians in Hawaii are exactly the same as politicians anywhere else. They are running from meeting to meeting trying to stay one step ahead of the Citizen’s Vigilance Committee members who follow them with a boiled hemp rope. How they stay ahead has always amazed me.

    • Joe

      Hmmm… Quick nuclear waste fact: 1000 tons of uranium and over 1000 tons of thorium in particulate form are dumped into the environment from fly ash every year by just a single coal plant. The US has over 600 coal plants. The half a dozen toxic heavy metals and the lead, mercury, and arsenic that coal also puts into the environment have NO half life. They are toxic forever. Fukushima wasn’t even as bad a week of normal operation for fossil fuels here in the US. Using Greenpeace’s own numbers, coal killed far more people in the US than Chernobyl did globally these past 25 years. If you want to talk about evil and stupid, maybe you should question why you give the worst offenders of nuclear waste and environmental poisons a free pass and look to nuclear that happens to be the most regulated and scrutinized industry in the world. Pure idiocy.

      • Tom Burnett

        Aloha Joe,

        That information is wrong. Not by much, maybe, but thorium is typically released at twice the rate of uranium – and scrubbers have been ‘supposed’ to mitigate that since the 70s. Have they? Not likely. Anyway, quote your sources, please, including the specific isotopes measured from at least three plants recently and I’ll give it a run.

    • Big Al

      What knocks my socks off is the siting. If you look at pix of the plant, within about a mile you see unflooded terrain that they could have built the plant on. And any idiot can take a look at terrain and see where the flood plain is — it doesn’t take a nuclear scientist to see that!

      • Tom Burnett

        Nuclear plants use two kinds of water – ultrapure, which stays in the reactor and cooling pools, and river or ocean water which is circulated through the heat exchanger, through the turbines, and back into the river. Like this:

        If they had put the reactor in a safe place, they would have had to spend huge amounts of money to get the river into the reactor and back out again. That’s why reactors are built at or below the water level – to facilitate the gravity-flow of water.

        • meatplow

          are all men from the future loud mouth braggards?

          • Tom Burnett

            Do you mean ‘braggarts’?

  • lili

    Cutting and pasting now onto other sites now…

  • Okie Doke
    • Tom Burnett

      No, he isn’t. He’s coming out to whisper sweet-nothings in everyone’s ear. No politician, or appointed flunky in the history of the world has ever given out anything but good news.

  • Sash

    The Truth? No ones answering questions. From what I can see it’s all about keeping this story buried and off the radar.

    Obviously denial is no defense and there is no safety in ignorance at this point.

  • spookie

    Classic tactics, sidetrack on the evil corps.
    Two points on the dry cask.

    Are they waterproof?
    What happens if they aren’t and unbuffered/high mineral content water is added.

    This is the concern.

    • Tom Burnett

      There are three different sources of nuclear fuel at Ft. Calhoun – and many other US reactors. The fuel in the reactor itself; the spent fuel in the cooling pools; and the older fuel which has been welded into dual-wall stainless steel cans and placed in above-ground bunkers (at Ft. Calhoun) but are simply sitting out on the ground at many other reactor sites. Here’s the way the dry cask storage works – or doesn’t.

      These ought to be pretty safe in the bunkers at Ft. Calhoun. We have pictures of the bunkers on the site – they are pretty hefty. But one of these casks bouncing along the bottom of the Missouri river, spilling out fuel pellets like a big steel rabbit would be a disaster on a national scale. That scenario is, thankfully, nearly impossible.

      However the fuel in the spent fuel pools is much more susceptible to a flood of water. Those pools are forty or so feet deep, outside the reactor containment and building and they are open at the top. They could get flooded quite easily if the rubber condom around them popped. They could no longer be cooled and they would represent an immense hazard – essentially forever, if the began melting down. The river could be poisoned for a generation or maybe a hundred generations.

      • Doug

        Don’t worry Tom this will be my last post in reply to any comment. The top of the spent fuel pool is at sea level elevation of 1038 feet, current water levels in relation to see level are 1006 feet 6 inches.

        • Tom Burnett

          Aloha Doug,

          According to OPPD, the water at Ft. Calhoun is at 1006 feet but at Cooper it’s at less than 900. Sure, Cooper is 70 miles downriver – but funny that the water gets to just exactly as far as it can go and stops.

          According to OPPD, Ft. Calhoun is protected by a rubber condom to 1014 feet…but the used fuel pool, which is underground (“for a reason – to keep it cool”) actually isn’t underground at all. The forty-foot deep ‘underground’ fuel pools are actually topped at 1038 feet ABOVE sea level – which means they are forty feet ABOVE ground. Here is the conundrum. If the pools are 40′ UNDERGROUND, which OPPD says they are, then the tops are at or near ground level which is about a thousand feet ASL. IF, HOWEVER, the tops of the cooling pools are at 1038 feet, which OPPD says they are, they are not underground.

          Which is it?

  • Ron

    OPPD (Omaha Public Power District) is a PUBLIC organization and is tasked with providing Electric Power for customers at rates that cover the cost of providing that power (not at rates that provide profits), hence their rates are among the lowest in the nation. They have an excellent service and safety record. But I was stunned to learn that a fire in some switching equipment forced them to cut power to the spent fuel cooling system, and as they reported to the NRC were 88.3 hours away from the cooling pools begining to boil. They also told the NRC they were not sure if the fire was caused by flooding. I have not seen/heard this reported in our local media…most likely because they don’t know about it.

    • Lorraine

      I live right in Omaha and the news channels are saying very little, if anything, about the situation at the Ft Calhoun nuclear plant. The only thing I have been able to find is that it is surrounded by water, there is a no fly zone and that there has not been any radiation leak.I had to hear about the possible radiation leak from a forum that is multinational. That is pretty pathetic that the rest of the world has more information than a person who lives about 12 miles from the power plant.

  • Dominique Guillet

    Tom, thank you

    A small precision regarding AREVA, which you may know of already. Indeed it is a multinational, but owned at more than 90 % by the French State.

  • Max

    Great post. Thank you for your continued coverage, analysis, and commentary. You’re exactly right.

  • Tom Burnett

    @Doug: Thanks for re-posting it. I’d say that using ‘ad hominem’ and ‘multinational’ in the same sentence – at least in the context you used – is inviting an oxymoron.

    Multinationals don’t have to be – and aren’t – good neighbors. I’ll give you another real-life example which I blogged about a couple of years ago* – an article from the May, 2011 Scientific American entitled ‘The growing menace from superweeds’.

    These are products which are supposed to be beneficial – but they are not well thought-out past the profit margin stage. And when they go bad, they go VERY bad VERY quickly.


  • Tom Burnett

    Hi Doug!

    I don’t know what happened to your post but I appreciate the comment. Here’s my opinion. Corporation ‘live’ to make profits at the expense of everything else – no exceptions – EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE are secondary to corporate profit.

    A couple months ago, before the spring rains, the NRC – which is effectively a marketing arm of the nuclear industry – yellow-carded Ft. Calhoun as one of the three most… ‘troubled’ nuclear plants in the country. Like in a soccer match. Here’s your card. Stop doing that or you’ll get another one. But at least they said something. If they had not, there is a 100% chance that plant would have melted down.

    Now here’s my perception and I’ll let you decide. Go here and look at the picture. This is one of the THREE most …(you use the adjective you like) plants in America. Tell me if you see something wrong with the picture. Anything? Is it just me?

    Here is the report.

    • Doug

      Good to hear that you weren’t the cause of my lost comment, I’ve been moderated a few times for being critical of articles.

      To me it appears that there are flooding concerns and that the NRC took Fort Calhoun to task for them. From the information I have the plant is in a cold shut down from it’s refueling earlier this year leaving it in a stable condition while the flooding occurs.

      My ad homenim reference was more dealing with the association of Areva not of OPPD. Oppd itself actually isn’t a corporation in the classical sense, it’s owned by the state of Nebraska hence Omaha “Public” Power District.

      • Tom Burnett

        The reactor, inside the containment, still two-thirds fueled, is stable so long at it is cooled. With pumps and electricity. The fuel pool, outside the containment, is stable so long as it is cooled with (pumps and electricity AND) ultrapure water. The second it gets a dose of the Missouri river, all bets are off.

        • Doug

          Let’s stick to one topic for discussion if we can, you were mentioning the dry spent fuel storage casks earlier but have now switched to the reactor and containment. These are two separate issues with different concerns for each.

          Dealing with the reactor and containment. These appear to be skirted by the “aqua damns” my understanding is that the the plant would be safe without these filled rubber tubes but the plant is adding another barrier of protection and trying to save as many of their assets as possible.

          Also, how do you propose that the Missouri river water would find its way in to the primary loop of the power plants circulating system, this loop is completed isolated inside of containment in nuclear plants with the only access to the other parts of the plant are with the steam generators two heat the secondary loop, the electrically producing loop.

          • Tom Burnett

            I don’t propose that. I propose that the Missouri river could find it’s way into the the cooling pool – you know – exactly what I said.

            However, now that you mention it, the Missouri river has found it’s way inside the rubber condom and is now about two feet deep under the containment.

            Don’t argue with me for the purpose of argument. I can get hundreds of people to do that and you are at the bottom of the list.

            Goodnight and good luck.

  • Sash

    Living downstream (137 miles) from both these reactors in KC I can assure you most of the population is still totally clueless anything unusual is going on. Sure the floods up north are in the news but thats about it. Theres no safety in ignorance though thats becoming obvious.

  • Tom Burnett

    I just got tagged for making an ad-hominem attack against a multinational corporation. I’m not sure why the comment didn’t show up, but I hope it does – because the author seems to have the same concept of huge, impersonal multinational corporations, which exist in spite of and to the detriment of individuals, at the Supreme court. That they should be treated as individuals. I think that’s nonsense.

    • Doug

      I do not think multinational corporations should be treated as individuals, far from it. Corporations never should come close to having the same rights as a person.

      I live near the plant, things are not nearly as dire as you seem to have been making them out.

      All I was doing was pointing out that the corporation was doing business in it’s chosen field, what makes that so evil?

      • Rick

        Corporations have as their primary goal profit. Doesn’t matter how…what when who where. profit. period.

        doing business and engaging in profits…can be evil. easily. especially since humanity is left
        out of the equation.

        and when corporations get big enough, the “owners” excercise their power by buying influence….

        look up Fascism. it is where this country is now.

        and if you believe their is benevolence in the corporations, and that their primary goal is to make it a better world…you are delusional. In the same light…the bankers and greedy merchants are using their powers for evil gain, at the expense of the many.

        mankind is on a path to self destruction….because the very core of the system is corrupt and evil. the media, corporations, and governments exist at the expense of the people…never for them. to believe otherwise is fantasy.

        once a human decides he “deserves” to lead another….it gets ugly….

        • Doug

          I do not think that corporations are doing anything other than trying to make money in almost all cases. This does lead to greed and hunting for power to become the most successful company around. Not denying that at all.

          Even with all of that I still don’t quite see the that this is the end of times. There are lots of good people who work for companies trying to make them better, lots of good people in government trying to keep them all playing by the rules. Things aren’t great now but it doesn’t mean that people can not have an effect on the soul less entity that is a corporation and bring at least a semblance of a conscience to it in some cases.

          • Tom Burnett

            Oh, good. A dreamer.

  • Doug

    So because a company that does work in the nuclear industry in one place it is evil for during it in several places, or merely existing? Multinational corporations are not the cuddliest things in the world, often they do bite but this seems to be merely an ad hominem attack rather than an analysis of the facts.

    • Ghana

      The facts are Doug that lies were told at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Fukutheworld, and most assured, Ft. Calhoun as well. With some investigating and elbow grease I bet I could prove you don’t live near the plant; you work for or on behalf of the plant.

      • Tom Burnett

        That shouldn’t disqualify him. I am routinely accused of being paid by the anti-nuke lobby and I am actually pro-nuke. If they would build them to a safety point and not a price point – and operate them as a national service and maintain them like we do with nuclear submarines. But that isn’t going to happen. Heck, I wish I were being paid by ANYONE! But I can’t even hustle a sponsor for my own website because I’m too controversial.

        “You can pay me to write – but not to lie.”

        And no one will.