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Nuclear plant incidents in Japan may boost support for nuclear bill

Nuclear plant incidents in Japan may boost support for nuclear bill

March 15th, 2011 in News

The cascading troubles at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear complex in Japan were set in motion when last Friday's quake and tsunami knocked out power, crippling the cooling systems needed to keep nuclear fuel from going into full meltdown. The nuclear plants in Japan are located near the ocean and it was the huge tsunami wave of water from the ocean that caused most of the problems in Japan.

This threat does not face the Callaway Nuclear Power Plant located near Reform.

"Our plant meets all federal requirements for our license to operate a nuclear plant. It was built to meet worst case accident scenarios regarding seismic activity or tornadoes," Rick Eastman, supervisor of business operations at the Callaway Nuclear Power Plant, said Monday.

"That's why we have the three to four feet thick metal and concrete walls and the thick steel plate liners protecting the reactor vessel. The fuel building where the used fuel is stored are very hardened facilities."

Eastman said that the nuclear plant problems in Japan may bolster support for legislation in Missouri allowing utilities to recover costs for a nuclear site permit.

Eastman said "Senate Bill 321 sponsored by Sen. Mike Kehoe of Jefferson City is supported by every utility in the state of Missouri. All three investor owned utilities, all of the rural electric cooperatives, as well as municipal utilities, including the city of Fulton, support the bill."

"Our belief today is this bill is exactly what we need to make sure the plant is safe. The incident in Japan reinforces the need for a site permit. The permit includes an extensive study of the land around the plant to prove today that the site is suitable for building a nuclear plant. That's why a site permit is required to make sure the location for the nuclear plant is suitable and safe," Eastman said.

The site permit studies the seismology, geology, and hydrology of the area to make sure it fits the safety needs of a nuclear plant, Eastman said.

"I think support of a site permit for this nuclear plant will be bolstered even more because of the importance of doing that kind of environmental study," Eastman said.

"Employees who work at the Callaway Nuclear Power Plant are proud to be working there. We know it provides safe, affordable, and clean energy. We would like to see that plant stay in operation for many years to come. We are trained to respond to any emergency," Eastman said.

The Callaway Nuclear Power Plant began producing electricity in 1982. "It was designed to all of the stringent safety standards that are required for this part of the country relating to soil and anticipated seismic activity. It was designed to withstand large earthquakes, straight-line winds, tornadoes and other natural disasters," Eastman said.

Callaway plant operators, he said, are also highly trained to respond to any type of a problem that could occur. An elaborate emergency plan is in place and exercises are held regularly in four counties surrounding the plant to deal with any type of emergency.

"This is what makes our plant strong, safe and secure. We are also prepared in the event of an emergency of some type, such as a major earthquake," Eastman said.

The Callaway Nuclear Plant, he said, is designed to withstand an extremely large earthquake from the New Madrid fault up to 9.0 in the Richter Scale.

If an earthquake of this size or larger should occur, Eastman said operators are trained to shut the plant down by inserting rods containing a neutron absorbing material into the fuel bundles and the nuclear reactor stops. Operators then would shut the plant down to make sure it is safe to operate.

"From there we have all of the automatic backup safety systems. We have cooling waters on site, we have three diesel generators on site. We also have steam generators. We can divert steam generated to operate pumps that would send cooling water to reactors. If the building were damaged by an earthquake, we would shut the plant down immediately and keep it off-line until we were sure everything is safe to operate as determined by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission," Eastman said.