Published Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 3:20 pm
World-Herald editorial: Moving forward smartly and safely

The ratepayer-owners of Omaha’s public utility received a hard-earned reward this week from federal nuclear regulators.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission green- lighted the process of restarting the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station. The plant, located about 20 miles north of downtown Omaha, had been mothballed since before the 2011 Missouri River floods.

Regulators had dinged OPPD management and employees for a multitude of safety-related shortcomings, requiring nearly $180 million in upgrades, training, work and outside help.

The closure eliminated roughly a quarter of the power OPPD produced. Replacing that power and the costly fixes spurred sharp increases in electricity rates. All felt the pain.

Movement toward the reboot required 8 million OPPD worker hours and 23,000 hours from federal regulators to clear a 450-item checklist, as The World-Herald’s Cody Winchester reported.

So it is only right and natural to salute the work of public servants to get us to this point. And to remind OPPD management and experienced outside consultant Exelon Corp. that the public this time expects them to get this right. No excuses.

Many industry observers wondered whether the feds would ever allow the plant back online, particularly following the spike in international concerns about the safety of nuclear power after the problems at Japan’s Fukushima plant.

The climb was made harder by OPPD’s rank as one of the smallest national utilities to run a nuclear plant on its own. That’s why OPPD turned to outside help and why the utility shouldn’t be too proud to retain that help for as long as safety demands it, along with the informed consent of federal regulators and OPPD management.

Safety is serious business, and it should be the utility’s top priority.

It is good news for ratepayers to get back Fort Calhoun’s power generation capacity and the potential to export more power for sale. That helps keep regional electricity rates lower than the national average despite recent events. (The average OPPD household bill is up just $20 since 2003.)

But it is too soon to celebrate a battle won.

What’s important now, particularly as national questions arise about the future of older coal plants under federal Environmental Protection Agency regulation, is that OPPD retain as many options as possible for safe, clean power generation for the Omaha area’s future needs.

That cannot be cost-effectively accomplished without a high-functioning Fort Calhoun Station.

So let’s welcome the return of an old friend north of Omaha, one that has safely generated power for years. And let’s ensure, with the help of OPPD management, the OPPD board and Exelon’s international expertise, that it keeps safely producing power long into the future.

Lori Jenkins, charged as accessory in 4 murders, waives speedy trial
Iowa State servers hacked, nearly 30,000 SSNs at risk
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
2nd District House race: After 8 terms, Lee Terry knows how D.C. works — and doesn't
Bellevue man is killed at Minnesota dance hall after South Sudanese basketball tourney
Spring corn planting still sputters in Nebraska, Iowa, other key states
Nebraska banking and finance director to retire
19-year-old killed in one-vehicle crash at 72nd & Shirley
Gov. Heineman vetoes bill to ease restrictions on nurse practitioners
U.S. Senate race: State Auditor Mike Foley defends Shane Osborn against ad campaign
Public defender to represent Nikko Jenkins in sentencing
Mid-America Center on track for lower operating loss
Bluffs City Council approves dozens of new numbered street lights
National Law Enforcement Memorial Week set for May
Ted Cruz backs Pete Ricketts' campaign for governor
Omahan charged with 5th-offense DUI after street race causes rollover
2 blocks of Grover Street closed
Safety board report blames pilot error in 2013 crash that killed UNO student, passenger
Omaha man accused in shooting ordered held on $75,000 bail
2 men charged with conspiracy to distribute meth held on $1 million bail each
Waitress who served alcohol to teen before fatal crash gets jail time, probation
La Vista plans meeting on sales tax proposal, 84th Street redevelopment
6-mile stretch of Highway 75 is the road not taken
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Millard school board bans e-cigarettes from all district properties, events
< >
Breaking Brad: Into the claw machine! Florida kid follows Lincoln kid's lead
In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a child climbed inside a claw machine. Hey, Florida kid: Nobody likes a copycat.
Breaking Brad: Even Chuck Hassebrook's throwing mud!
The Nebraska campaigns have turned so ugly, Democrat Chuck Hassebrook lobbed unfounded accusations at an imaginary opponent.
Breaking Brad: Kraft wiener recall is business opportunity for TD Ameritrade Park
Instead of returning the wieners, TD Ameritrade Park is calling them "cheese dogs" and charging double.
Breaking Brad: Photos with the Easter Bunny are so 2010
In a sign of the times, most kids ran out of patience waiting for a photo with the Easter Bunny at the mall, just snapped a selfie and went home.
Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
A World War II veteran from Omaha will return this week to Europe to commemorate a tragedy in the run-up to D-Day.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Steam-A-Way Carpet Cleaning
$50 for 3 rooms and a Hallway up to 600 square feet
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »