Utility regulators get an update on nuclear plant safety standards

Two utility officials spent more than 30 minutes Wednesday detailing the safety and backup systems in place at the Callaway County nuclear plant and a nuclear plant in Kansas that serves western Missouri customers.

The officials described for the Public Service Commission the backup and redundant systems designed to protect against a radiation accident.

After the presentation, however, Ameren Missouri’s vice president, Adam Heflin, acknowledged in an interview that there are no absolutely guarantees that an incident similar to that in Japan could not happen with the Missouri plant.

“I can’t assure that the unforeseen won’t happen at Callaway,” Heflin said. “What I can say and what folks can take some comfort in is that we’re always questioning and we’re always looking for ways we can be safer and more ready in case something unforeseen does happen.”

The PSC chairman, Kevin Gunn, stressed that what caused the failures at the Japanese plants was not the earthquake, but the subsequent tsunami that cannot happen in land-locked Missouri.

“We obviously don’t have tsunami issues here,” Gunn said. “We may have seismic activities, but I’m confident that these plants have been designed to take that seismic activity into account.”

Heflin said nuclear power remains the best future option for power generation. However, legislation to allow Ameren to charge utility customers for the costs of pursuing a federal permit to build a new plant remains stalled in the state legislature.

– Missouri Digital News