Annual report shows Callaway Nuclear Power Plant operating safely

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 | 9:40 p.m. CDT; updated 12:19 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 27, 2011

FULTON — Few members of the public showed up at an open house in Fulton on Tuesday night to discuss the 2010 performance of the Callaway Nuclear Power Plant.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission representatives were on hand at the Burton Business Building at William Woods University to go over an assessment of the Ameren Missouri-operated plant's safety performance. After evaluating all of the plant's violations from the past year, the commission found that the plant was operating well.

"Ameren continues to operate Callaway in a safe manner," said Geoffrey Miller, chief of the commission's Reactors Project Branch B, which oversees inspections, assessments, follow-ups and enforcement at Callaway.

The commission places nuclear plants into five categories based on performance that dictate inspection schedules. Callaway has been placed in the first category, meaning no additional oversight is necessary at the plant.

"We will continue with the regimen of inspections for plants that are performing well," Miller said.

Callaway had required additional oversight for a portion of 2010, said David Dumbacher, the senior resident inspector at Callaway. Issues in March 2010 with an emergency diesel generator, combined with the same generator failing in 2008, led the commission to temporarily downgrade the plant's status and require additional inspections, according to an assessment follow-up letter from the commission to Ameren.

Ameren resolved the issue, and the plant's status was restored.

"They did what they are supposed to do," Dumbacher said.

To ensure safety at the plant, issues such as the failed generator run through a "corrective action program," and resident inspectors from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are on-site.

Dumbacher said as many as 15,000 issues varying in significance go through the plant's program. He and another inspector take a closer look at a sample of the issues to make sure Ameren is properly addressing problems.

"Our guys are looking for issues that could be an issue down the road," said Lara Uselding, public affairs officer for the commission's Region 4. "We are catching it before it becomes a problem."

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Robin Nuttall April 27, 2011 | 11:02 a.m.

Compared to other energy sources, nuclear energy is very safe. An average of 30 coal miners die each year, and there have been over 100,000 deaths in coal mining in the past century.

Coal mining is also very toxic to the environment. Growing up in Western Kentucky, seeing acid ponds, acres of dead trees and more acres of mutilated landscape due to strip mining was common. In the Appalachians, they are now removing entire mountains, polluting streams and drinking water.

Between 2002 and 2007 at least 598 people died on oil rigs (and that was before the Gulf oil spill) according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Oil has damaged our environment tremendously. And now there are commercials on TV touting the "new, safe, wonderful" practice of fracking to get to gas reserves. Fracking (according to Wikipedia source watch, "uses enormous amounts of drinkable water along with toxic chemicals and which also releases radioactive materials and other hazardous substances in shale deposits -- has raised significant environmental and health concerns." Documented drinking water issues have been recorded in Colorado, and now they want to take Fracking to Pennsylvania and New York.

Nuclear certainly has its problems, but when you look at other sources it is in many ways cleaner and far, far safer. It's good to know the Callaway plant is operating at a safe level.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 28, 2011 | 5:01 a.m.

Before shutting down any nuclear power plants we need to be certain we have enough power from other generation sources to make up for the power that would be lost; otherwise, the consequences to electric power users, industrial, commercial and residential, could be severe.

Knee-jerk reactions by sign-carrying protesters are no substitute for intelligent management of the electric power grid. The protesters want what they want, but they also want to enjoy their electricity.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking April 28, 2011 | 8:41 a.m.

Japan will have rolling blackouts and other conservation measures in place for years because of the loss of the Fukushima reactors. Even the loss of transmission lines can render a region deficient.

Our grid is reliable because there are good planners, engineers and operators that understand it and realize what needs to be done to match supply with demand. Most of the developing world deals with blackouts on a fairly regular basis, and choosing to ignore the recommendations of the people that make our grid work is asking for third-world style electrical service.


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