Omaha Power Company Charges $5000 To Answer Question

The Omaha Public Power District is demanding $5000 to answer a question from their customers. OPPD owns and runs the Ft. Calhoun nuclear plant made famous after it sat surrounded by flood waters in the spring of 2011.

The plant is still out of operation as a mountain of failures found by the NRC are being worked through. OPPD claims they can repair all of the problem including a structural failure found inside the reactor containment structure. OPPD recently requested a rate increase from consumers to pay for a $143 million dollar contract with Exelon to help them try to fix the plant. A slew of new problems have been found since the last OPPD request for more money including the containment failure.

These new costs caused some concerned consumers to ask if the money to cover these new and expensive repairs are over and above the most recent rate increase. OPPD’s response was to refuse to answer these questions at the most recent public meeting and then to request $5000 for their “costs” to reply to the same questions when submitted in writing.

OPPD is not a private company, they are a publicly utility and have an obligation under their public ownership to be responsive to those who “own” the company. The circling the wagons by those running the company has raised some major suspicions about what is going on at OPPD and to what extent Ft. Calhoun is becoming a massive money pit leaving consumers holding the bill.

Below is Clean Nebraska’s press release on the issue.

——————————–

April 11, 2013

 

OPPD Charges Ratepayers $2,500-$5,000 for Information

About Troubled Fort Calhoun Station Costs

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

(Omaha, Nebraska) – Despite promises of transparency, Omaha Public Power District recently told ratepayers that it will cost $2,500 to $5,000 for information about how much the utility is spending on its attempt to repair and obtain permission from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to restart the troubled Fort Calhoun Station.

 

“This looks and smells like a cover-up,” said Clean Nebraska spokesman Mike Ryan.  “Charging ratepayers $2,500 or more for public information effectively hides it from us.” 

 

Ryan noted that OPPD President and CEO Gary Gates has repeatedly promised transparency regarding Fort Calhoun as the nuclear plant struggles to gain permission to restart after being shut down more than two years. “Despite its public promises of transparency, OPPD appears to be stonewalling ratepayers who ask searching questions about where our money is being spent,” Ryan said.

 

After a representative for the ratepayers was told at the March 21st OPPD board meeting that questions about Fort Calhoun costs could not be posed during the meeting, a written request for information was submitted to OPPD on March 25th.  Among several things, the following information was requested:

            ▪  The total cost for all expenses related to Fort Calhoun Station since it was shut down two years ago.

            ▪  Whether OPPD’s projected total of $143 million for recovery costs at FCS includes correction of all of the more recently acknowledged problems, such as nonconforming containment internal structures, Teflon containment penetration seals, substandard design-basis documentation, and inadequate anchor embedments.

            ▪  Factoring in all FCS costs, how much electricity generated from FCS would cost per kilowatt-hour if it were running today.

 

OPPD’s April 4th response demanded confirmation that the ratepayers would pay a cost of $2,500 to $5,000 before the utility would “proceed to complete the necessary work” on answers to their questions.

 

“We are asking for information that belongs to the public,” Ryan said.  “We are not asking for copies of public records.”  He explained that most of the questions seek explanations and answers about spending on FortCalhoun that copies of public records would not provide.  “Yet OPPD is improperly attempting to use state public records statutes to try to justify hitting us with a huge charge.  This amounts to hiding it from ratepayers with low and moderate incomes.”

 

“It certainly seems that OPPD is very uncomfortable with having its spending on Fort Calhoun tracked by the public,” Ryan commented.  “We are now concerned that OPPD may be using creative accounting to hide from ratepayers many of the costs of running, and now trying to fix, Fort Calhoun.”

 

 

 

 

Ryan said OPPD’s handling of this information request indicates that OPPD’s costs related to Fort Calhoun must be investigated by the public and, possibly, by the state Auditor of Public Accounts Mike Foley.  “Charging us a ridiculous and discriminatory fee for information about costs tells us something may be very rotten at Fort Calhoun Station,” said Ryan.

 

 

Background Information

 

▪  Shut down since April 9, 2011, the nuclear plant was surrounded by unprecedented flood waters from theMissouri River for three months in 2011. 

 

▪  During the 2011 flooding, a catastrophic fire occurred in electrical switchgear at Fort Calhoun which led to loss of power and cooling for nuclear fuels rods for two and one-half hours.  The NRC gave the fire and the events that led to it a red safety significance determination finding, the most serious on the agency’s scale.

 

▪  Since shutdown, the NRC has cited OPPD for numerous problems at Fort Calhoun including:

▫  Inadequate flooding protection,

▫  Failure to maintain and update design documents,

▫  Use of Teflon seals susceptible to degradation on containment structure penetrations,

▫  Replacement of electrical switchgear using a faulty design scheme, and

▫  Improper analysis on structures in the containment building that fail to conform with Fort Calhoun’s operating license.

 

▪  OPPD imposed a 6.9 percent increase in electric rates in January largely to finance its efforts to repair more than 450 problems at Fort Calhoun.  In March, the NRC expanded the list of items that OPPD must fix.

 

▪  Clean Nebraska is an environmental citizen organization based in Omaha.

 

-30-

 

Mike Ryan

Spokesman

Clean Nebraska

402-334-7245

mryan1@cox.net

 

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