OPPD will “absorb as many as possible” if Fort Calhoun Station closes


May 16th, 2016

OPPD's nuclear power station at Fort Calhoun costs $250 million/year to operate. (Photo courtesy of OPPD)

OPPD’s nuclear power station at Fort Calhoun costs $250 million/year to operate. (Photo courtesy of OPPD)

Omaha Public Power District said its Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant is too expensive to operate. Last week, OPPD’s president said shutting the plant down is the most cost effective solution. KVNO’s Ryan Robertson spoke with OPPD about the nearly 700 employees working at Fort Calhoun.

Omaha Public Power District’s Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant first started generating power 43 years ago. Located less than 20 miles from the center of Omaha, when the plant is fully operational, it accounts for a quarter of OPPD’s power producing pool. But keeping the plant operational is expensive.

“I know with the flooding, that’s an area a lot of people are wondering about. OPPD invested approximately $195 million to recover operations at Fort Calhoun Station after the flood. A significant investment obviously,” Jodi Baker,  a media specialist with OPPD, said in reference to the Missouri River flood event of 2011. That same year, the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster in Japan happened.

Baker said when take the cost of re-commissioning the plant is added to the cost of implementing new regulations after Fukushima, keeping Fort Calhoun online isn’t what’s best for the public power company’s customer owners.

 “I can tell you that the district spends about $250 million annually to operate and maintain Fort Calhoun Station. So this recommendation is the result of a thorough analysis of market conditions, economies of scale, and the proposed clean power plan, all of which really indicate it’s just not economically feasible to continue to operate Fort Calhoun Station,” Baker said.

694 people work at the station. OPPD’s Board of Directors is scheduled to vote on whether to shut the plant down on June 16th.  If they approve the shutdown, those 694 workers will need to find a new job. Baker said OPPD plans to help with that.

“We would be looking to absorb as many employees as possible,” Baker said, “back into other areas of the company. Retraining where it makes sense and where we would have good opportunities for success. But it’s really hard to say at this point just how many losses we would be looking at.”

 Baker said if the plant is shut down, it needs to be done in stages, which could take years and still requires people working at the plant. So, any job losses because of the plant’s shutdown would also be spread out over the next few years.

“We’ve been working with chambers of commerce, Nebraska Department of Labor and others to try and find opportunities for those who may be possibly displaced throughout this process, and we’ll see what happens. We’ll see what the Board decides, that’s really the first step. From there, we can start looking at plans.”

Baker said to offset the loss Fort Calhoun’s power generating capabilities, OPPD may look to buying power on the open market, but only if necessary. Due to modern efficiencies, Baker said OPPD’s customer owners are using less power anyway.

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