The troubled Fort Calhoun's nuclear power plant is being heated up to test its pressurized steam pipes for leaks after an outage that dates to April 2011.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokeswoman Lara Uselding told The Associated Press the utility began heating up the water in the Fort Calhoun plant's power-generating system to 515 degrees Tuesday. The plant about 20 miles north of Omaha will remain heated for the next several days, so regulators and the utility can test systems that are used only when the plant is running.
The step is an important milestone in the Omaha Public Power District's efforts to resume generating power at the plant. Fort Calhoun initially shut down for maintenance, but significant flooding, a small fire and a series of safety violations kept it closed.
"The whole purpose of this is to check for leaks and see how the system will perform," Uselding said.
The process of heating up a nuclear plant to test its pipes is accomplished without nuclear power and is routinely done before nuclear plants restart after refueling outages.
In the case of Fort Calhoun, the heat-up process could reveal new issues that would have to be addressed before the plant could be allowed to restart.
Utility spokesman Jeff Hanson said he would have to check how long it will take for OPPD to learn the results of the heat-up tests.
The utility that owns Fort Calhoun and the Exelon Corp. employees hired to run the plant have already been working to address a list of hundreds of items regulators say must be addressed.
Nearly three-quarters of the items on that restart checklist have been addressed, but regulators are still reviewing many others.
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