Nebraska's Nuclear Peril Beneath the Wave

Winter lobs one final bowling balll at the Midwest. As the yellow rays and warm currents of spring begin their encroachment on the Earth this month, lifting the air with heat here in southern Arizona and painting the east coast with rain, the Midwest is sliding beneath the wave. A lethal combination of blizzard vestiges and rapidly warming temperatures was catapulted into disaster by a period of intense rainfall these last two weeks, which loosened the soil, sent the snow running downhill, and unleashed the Missouri River. It’s the river which is the serpent beneath all of this—it’s turgid waters swelling beyond the brim of muddy banks and crawling across already saturated soil where it gains the momentum of an escaped lunatic and goes dashing through the countryside—the carcasses of young livestock washing up under the mangled iron of fence posts, whole farms eradicated of the future in waves, the wind actually licking sinister white tops as the water rolls across helpless peoples’ livelihood, one farmer lamenting “This is it for us…”, highways and airport runaways drowning beneath brown water and alienating towns like Fremont, Ogallala, Elkhorn, Gretna, York, and Brownsville to the cold denunciation of access only by air or boat, four-way intersections of small towns and those red brick cobbled avenues of the Old Market in Omaha overrun with the gurgling flow of water carrying all matter of debris, the sick underbelly of society dredged up and floating by, trash walking on water, four dead and countless realities submerged—but it’s in Brownsville where the most diabolical threat looms quietly, waiting for the moment when the water will exact its most striking terror.

The Cooper Nuclear Station in Nemaha County near Brownsville, reported to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Friday evening, an ominous three words: Unusual Event Emergency. Inside that simple phrase was the very real danger that the facility would soon be besieged by water levels that could shut down the reactor and breach containment walls. Beyond the loss of half the state’s electricity during its most critical natural disaster in decades, the inherent hysteria of a nuclear meltdown began running red through all that dirty water swirling from the Missouri. At a quarter past five Friday night, the plant manager notified the NRC that the water had come within inches of the 45.5 feet threshold level that would initiate a reactor shutdown. Soldiers from the National Guard desperately heaved sandbags around the facility and readied the use of drop-down “blast doors” to prevent Mother Nature from turning the miracle of atom-splitting into humanity’s latest calamity. At 6pm the water moved right up to the line and evacuation orders were prepared, the NRC was notified of an impending shutdown—and there the water remained. For the next three days the Brownsville community and anyone with access to a television or radio in Nebraska rocked on the balls of their feet as the water held its line—on Tuesday morning the flooding finally broke, the water began to recede, life came out to recuperate itself. Their land was broken and their roads smashed, but in the state where highways stretch on forever into the mauve tapestry of sunsets reclining into an enflamed horizon, the people and their power plant held the line.

Yet in those harrowing hours when the plant was preparing to shut down its reactor, when water level indicators blinked out orange warnings and screeched the Armageddon bells, and the frantic voices of operators went bouncing off the imperiled walls, when the world was ending for everyone in a small corner—Otek instrumentation would have been perfectly at home dutifully going down with the ship. Intelligent measurement and control right up to the final bell. Our New Technology Series of models are designed to hold their accurate, reliable, and efficient readings right down to the mad scramble of sweat pouring down foreheads at that 6pm deadline to call off the shutdown—every drop of water funneled into the reactor to keep it cool would have passed the ever watchful eye of our metering technology.

   Our NTM-M, -N, and -3 models are especially popular in nuclear I & C rooms, namely for their unique ability to easily replace, wire by wire, the numerous DB40 analog meters that dominate the industry, in particular the Cooper plant in Brownsville. The “ease” comes from the NTM series’ streamlined form, fit, and function design which makes use of existing analog wiring and signals, so that our NTM’s can slide into place of the old analog meter on an individual basis as the analogs fail, or in an overarching sweep during a single planned outage, all using the same operators and without shutting the plant down for lengthy installations. Obviously, there’s also the financial angle—replacing analogs in an I & C room with NTM meters is substantially lighter on your bank account than refitting the entire operation with sleek, new, but wildly cost-prohibitive flat-screen technology.

All three models, the –M, -N, and the -3, are cyber security compliant and approved for Class 1E safety-related and nuclear qualified applications, as well as maintaining the ability to meet Military-Specs -461, 167-1, 810F, 901C, and IEEE-344 respectively. Highlight features of all three models include: automatic tricolor bar graph with intensity control, self diagnostics, isolated serial I/O, math functions, USB or RS485, a configurable bar direction, and over thirty isolate input signals.

So as we sip our morning coffee at the office or slide into the dim grooves of a bar for that happy-hour relaxing elixir, let us not forget that disaster is matter of inches—and no one is better at measurement than Otek. Don’t drown in possibilities—hold the line with intelligent instrumentation.

For more information on the NTM series, or our latest development the Solid State Analog Meter (SSAM) please call our office at 520-748-7900 or email our sales department directly at sales@otekcorp.com.