Channel 6 News has been digging deeper into the new developments at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant north of Omaha. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission isn't pulling any punches, saying there are significant problems.
OPPD President Gary Gates said Thursday in Omaha the utility wants to be open and honest with customers, so its action plan is posted on oppd.com with specifics about what's been done and what else still needs to be accomplished at Fort Calhoun.
On Wednesday, Gates sat before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington to answer questions about Fort Calhoun. Although the remarks weren't always positive, Gates feels the meeting went well. One commissioner brought up concerns about a "safety culture" problem at OPPD.
"We operate on an excellence philosophy so we have an excellence template for safety culture and that's the behavior and template we'll use to evaluate safety culture and if there are any improvements needed, use them, but it will be toward excellence."
There is no timeline for restart at Fort Calhoun, but Gates said it won’t remain off for years. However, April will mark one year since the plant has been offline. So what will that cost ratepayers? Right now, Gates says it’s not impacting rates.
"It has a potential for future impact. Obviously, if it went too long, obviously that's not our goal as well. In addition to that, the way we’re managing through this is through a lot of cost controls inside the company, eliminating what we need to eliminate. So from that respect, Fort Calhoun running would be a real positive."
When asked if the right people are still working on the issues, including the board and Gates himself, he replied yes.
"I have complete confidence. Obviously, the board has been very supportive through this whole effort, unanimously. I have confidence in the staff we have. Working forward, I have a lot of experience in the nuclear industry and bring that to the table, so I have confidence up and down the chain at OPPD."
Channel 6 News asked about where its energy is coming from during the Fort Calhoun shutdown, if the utility has to buy any power from other companies and what that's costing them. We were told OPPD does not have those numbers at this time. They will be made available in the next few weeks.
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