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New transmission line approved by NPPD Board

August 21, 2014

Between Broken Bow and Ord

Columbus, Neb. – Citing a need to reduce voltage and loading issues on Nebraska Public Power District’s transmission system in central Nebraska, NPPD’s Board of Directors recently approved a resolution authorizing initial planning and engineering work for the public involvement process for a new, 115-kilovolt transmission line.

The new line will enhance the reliability of the transmission network between a new substation, to be called Muddy Creek, located between Broken Bow and the existing wind farm northeast of the community, to an upgraded substation near Ord. The line is estimated to be 42 miles in length.

“This new line will play a vital role in enhancing the reliability of the transmission system, particularly in central Nebraska where we had voltage and loading issues in 2012,” explained NPPD Chief Operating Officer Tom Kent. “A prolonged period of high temperatures in July 2012 combined with drought-like conditions, resulted in NPPD setting a record for peak electrical load needed by customers of 3,030 megawatts. NPPD’s transmission system in the central part of the state was stretched to the limit during the record load period.”

Over the past two years, NPPD has located additional mobile generators in the central part of the state during the summer months in order to help maintain reliability of the transmission system.

The need for the line was identified through the Southwest Power Pool’s transmission planning process, which is performed annually to assess system upgrades. The approximately $34 million transmission project also includes upgrades to existing substations and is expected to be in service in June of 2018.

NPPD will begin its public involvement process for the Muddy Creek to Ord transmission project later this year. This process, which utilizes a series of open houses, provides an opportunity for landowners to learn more about the project and for NPPD to gather details about their property in order to determine the best route available with least impact to landowners. The open houses provide information to the public about the need and benefit for the project, structure types, right-of-way acquisition, and routing criteria.

NPPD warns customers about phone scams, gives tips for what to do and what to ask

August 15, 2014

Columbus, Neb. – There have been an increased number of phone scam incidents reported this week to the Nebraska Public Power District by NPPD customers. Incidents in Kearney and O’Neill have prompted NPPD to advise all customers, statewide, to be wary of suspicious calls.

Customers have reported receiving scam calls from individuals stating that they are with ‘the electric utility’ and they are collecting for a past due amount on an electric bill. They state the bill must be paid immediately or the power will be shut off. Sometimes the scammer’s caller-identification is falsified so it appears to originate from the utility company, a practice known as ‘spoofing’.

In the case of a Kearney customer, the caller advised to go to a local store, purchase a “green dot” or pre-paid card, then contact the caller with the card information.

In O’Neill, NPPD customers have been told there would be a ‘meter upgrade’ or a power outage, situations that sound like utility business, but when questions are asked, the caller hangs up or puts the customer on hold.

To help customers be wary of such scams, NPPD offers the following tips and suggestions:

  • NPPD, as a business practice, does not call to ask customers for a credit card number.
  • NPPD does not demand payment with a pre-paid card.
  • Any customer receiving such a call should not attempt to make payment over the phone.
  • Write down the call back number or consider asking where the caller is located.
  • Contact law enforcement.
  • Let NPPD’s Centralized Customer Care Center at 1-877-ASK-NPPD (877-275-6773) know about the call.
  • If served electrically by a rural public power district or municipality, customers should contact that organization before providing any type of payment.

“Unfortunately, these scams take place every year throughout the country,” said Vice President of Customer Services Ken Curry. “Anyone who receives such a call should not let their guard down. Instead, know that NPPD offers a variety of payment plans to help customers who may have challenges paying their bills, and inform local law enforcement of the incident.”

Open house set for Stegall-Scottsbluff transmission line

August 11, 2014

Scottsbluff, Neb. – With a focus on preferred and alternative routes for its Stegall to Scottsbluff transmission line project, Nebraska Public Power District will hold an open house on Wednesday, Aug. 20 at the Gering Civic Center, 1050 M Street in Gering, from 2 to 8 p.m.

This will be the third open house on the project by NPPD since January 2014. Since then the project team has been reviewing public comments and meeting with various agencies while working to narrow the initial study area down to corridors, and now to preferred and alternative routes. Project Manager Jedd Fischer noted, “Although we have preferred and alternative routes for this project, no final route has been determined. We will continue to gather additional comments from landowners and various agencies before making a final determination.”

The Stegall to Scottsbluff project consists of routing and siting a new 115,000-volt electric transmission line from NPPD’s existing Scottsbluff substation, to a new substation to be built approximately five miles south of Stegall, near an existing substation operated by Basin Electric Power Cooperative. The line length is estimated to be 23 miles and expected to be in service by mid-2017.

Attendees should allow 30-60 minutes to walk through the displays and interact with NPPD representatives.

The open houses are held to allow landowners the opportunity to learn more about the project, including the need and benefit for the project, structure types, right-of-way acquisition, and routing criteria, as well as provide NPPD staff with information about each landowner’s property.

“The Stegall to Scottsbluff transmission line will strengthen electric reliability in the Panhandle region of Nebraska and we encourage landowners who have been identified to attend and provide us with comments on the preferred and alternative routes,” NPPD Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Tom Kent explained.

“We have had good turnouts at our first two open houses,” Fischer added. “We do encourage all landowners along the routes to attend and make comments related to their specific property. Even if a landowner has been to a previous open house, new, more detailed information is available regarding the project.”

Fischer also noted that there has been a misconception that NPPD plans to use lattice-style, steel towers as the structures to support the line. “NPPD plans to use a combination of single pole and H-frame structures made of steel. There are no plans to use the large lattice-style, steel structures,” he explained.

The Stegall to Scottsbluff transmission line project was identified by the Southwest Power Pool (of which NPPD is a member) as a line that will enhance transmission system reliability in the western Nebraska Panhandle region, and meet the North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s Reliability Standards.

For those who are unable to attend the open house in person, an online open house meeting will be available at www.nppd.com/stegall-scottsbluff, beginning Aug. 20. Abbreviated information, maps and drawings from the open house will be available, and landowners will have the opportunity to provide comments. Landowners can also share their feedback by e-mailing powerline@nppd.com or by calling the project hotline at 1-888-677-3412.

SingleCircuit Steel H-Frame

Editor’s Note: Attached are photos of the types of structures that NPPD has planned for the Stegall to Scottsbluff line.
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NPPD responds to questions over NWS messages

August 4, 2014

Computer systems accentuate importance of emergency system operation

Brownville—Owning a nuclear power plant involves safely maintaining and operating an industrial facility for the purpose of generating electricity. But it also means protecting the public by preparing for emergencies that could, but are unlikely to, happen at the plant.

To do that, personnel from the Nebraska Public Power District and its nuclear power plant, Cooper Nuclear Station, works with a multitude of agencies – from Atchison County in Missouri and Nemaha County in Nebraska, to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and State of Missouri Emergency Management Agency, to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission – all in an effort to provide a collective and unified response of information.

Mid-afternoon on Sunday, Aug.3, the public’s preparedness was tested by a message inadvertently issued by the National Weather Service (NWS). NWS issued the false message at 3:48 p.m., then sent a correction at 4:01 p.m. and placed a message explaining the error on its website. The counties of Atchison and Nemaha also issued corrective communications to the public via Facebook and a press release.

As part of its emergency response efforts between NPPD, the counties and the states, NWS will broadcast alert messages to the media, various agencies and the public. In Sunday’s instance, NWS personnel were updating the wording programmed in the computer system, and the message was mistakenly issued.

Unfortunately, it was the second inadvertent message about emergencies for Cooper sent out in two weeks. On July 24, NPPD personnel were troubleshooting the computer system associated with a siren in Nemaha County when a false alarm was broadcast. 

“Computer systems are supposed to make us more efficient, accurate, and proactive in protecting the public. Unfortunately, they recently have caused confusion,” said NPPD President and CEO Pat Pope. “NPPD asks the public around the plant for its patience and understanding. Work on these computer systems is being done to help – not hinder -  our emergency planning and response activities.” 

NPPD practices its emergency response efforts by conducting drills or exercises at each of its generation facilities, including Cooper. The drills and exercises conducted at Cooper are more extensive, involve multi-state, county and local agencies and also involve practice on disseminating public information.

False alarm sounded in Nemaha

July 24, 2014

Brownville, Neb.- A false message regarding a hazardous material spill was briefly disseminated via a Nemaha County emergency siren in the village of Nemaha earlier today.

The erroneous vocal broadcast sounded during troubleshooting and testing of the emergency siren used to notify the public of an emergency. Cooper officials noted there was no hazardous material released, and no evacuation of the area was necessary.

In the unlikely event of an emergency at Cooper Nuclear Station, tonal sirens would sound for three minutes. Vocal messages broadcast via the sirens are not, nor will they ever be, associated with any event at the plant.

“Protecting the health and safety of the public is – and always will be – the utmost priority for the Cooper staff,” said Meshelle Ferguson, Cooper’s emergency preparedness manager. “It’s something we take very seriously. Personnel are investigating the cause of the broadcast and will take steps to ensure any such messages are not broadcast in the future.”

NPPD celebrates 40 years of safe operation at Cooper Nuclear Station

July 9, 2014

Brownville, Neb. –  Forty years ago, as Nebraskans speculated on the second football season under head coach Tom Osborne and the nation was watching the Watergate scandal unfold, the Nebraska Public Power District officially entered the nuclear age. Cooper Nuclear Station (CNS), three miles outside of Brownville, quietly began commercial operation on July 1, 1974.

CNS employees and their families recognized the anniversary on Wed., July 9, with a safety fair focused on 40 years of safe, reliable operation for Nebraska. Employees manned booths with safety-oriented activities for attendees, and guest speaker and Boys Town Football Coach Kevin Kush motivated the staff to continue its safety legacy.

“Cooper’s employees are always focused on generating the electricity Nebraskans use 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but our primary emphasis is on the safety of staff, communities neighboring the plant, and the environment,” explained CNS Chief Nuclear Officer Oscar Limpias.

Today, CNS has become one of the best performing boiling water nuclear power plants in the country. “The effort put forth by the employees to reach excellence each and every day has contributed to the continuing improvement and success of the facility,” Limpias added.

Over the past 15 years, NPPD has invested more than $500 million in upgrades to the station’s operations and safety systems. By comparison, the original construction cost of CNS was $313 million.

In addition to investments in physical equipment, there have been investments in the employees who work at Cooper.

Training, for example, has transitioned from lectures, blackboards, and textbooks used by the first class of operators to tools such as a control room simulator, a flow-loop simulator, containment structure mock-ups, and hands-on training. Reactor operators are licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and must undergo rigorous testing to keep their licenses up to date. The Institute of Nuclear Power Operation’s National Academy for Nuclear Training evaluates Cooper training programs every four years to ensure they meet the high standards set by the nuclear industry.

The station’s fire brigade conducts special training for other firefighters in the area, and Cooper employs both a security force and an Emergency Response Organization to assist the plant in preparing for and performing exercises that address various emergency situations. Station personnel work with emergency management organizations from Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, and Kansas to ensure NPPD lives up to its responsibilities as a nuclear power plant owner and operator to protect the health and safety of the public, the plant, and its employees.

The NRC and other federal agencies regulate and test Cooper’s emergency plan, as well as the plant’s security systems. The high training standards, well-qualified staff, and rigorous regulatory oversight are all part of a nuclear safety culture that is unequaled in any other industry or organization and ensure the health and safety of Nebraska and the surrounding states.

Nuclear energy is also America’s largest source of carbon-free electricity, producing no greenhouse gases or air pollutants.

“Forty years ago, our predecessors had the foresight to add a revolutionary generating technology to our portfolio – nuclear,” said NPPD CEO and President Pat Pope. “Cooper is one reason NPPD’s generation portfolio is more than 40 percent carbon free. Our customers continue to benefit from our commitment to meet the electrical needs of our customers, now and in the future, with diverse, low-cost and sustainable energy.”

Cooper Nuclear Station employs approximately 700 workers interwoven into the fabric of numerous communities around southeast Nebraska – Auburn, Nebraska City, Nemaha, Stella, Peru, and Falls City, on the Nebraska side, and Rock Port and Maryville in Missouri, among others. These employees are active in their local schools and civic organizations.

“NPPD is proud of Cooper Nuclear Station, its employees and its performance,” said Pope. “We expect to continue our commitment of providing safe, reliable and emission-free energy another 20 years.”

(Editor’s Note: Attached is a fact sheet containing milestones and numbers from Cooper Nuclear Station.)

Hershey Beach gets an all clear from NPPD, NDEQ

June 26, 2014

North Platte, Neb. – It’s all clear for visitors to use Hershey Beach at Sutherland Reservoir.

Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) was notified Thursday by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) that sampling results indicated blue-green algae found earlier this week was within the standards established by the agency and not a health concern for the public.

Monday, NPPD had requested NDEQ to take water samples and test what appeared to be blue-green algae in the water and along the shoreline of the beach.

As a precautionary step to protect the public, NPPD advised visitors to Hershey Beach not to swim or walk in the water until sampling results were returned. With NDEQ’s results, recreational activities at the reservoir can resume.

NDEQ conducts weekly or bi-weekly sampling for toxic blue-green algae and bacteria at a number of public recreational lakes across Nebraska from May through September, including Sutherland Reservoir and Lake Maloney that are owned and operated by NPPD. Samples are typically collected on Monday and posted on the web site on Thursday or Friday. Results are updated weekly on the web site at www.deq.state.ne.us.

NPPD asks beach users to refrain from using Hershey Beach waters at Sutherland Reservoir

June 24, 2014

North Platte, Neb. – Visitors to the Hershey Beach area at Sutherland Reservoir near Sutherland, Neb., are asked to refrain from entering the water until further notice as a precaution.

Nebraska Public Power District, which owns the lake, found what appears to be blue-green algae along the shoreline at Hershey Beach. Monday, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality took samples and will be conducting an analysis to determine exactly what the material is.

Results are expected back later this week and, as a precaution, NPPD is asking the members of the public and their pets to refrain from swimming or walking in the water until those results are in. Once the analysis is completed, NPPD will be working with both the DEQ and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to determine the next step of action, if necessary.

Blue-green algae, which can be toxic, exists naturally in marine waters, rivers, lakes, and ponds, but it can be harmful to humans and animals in high enough quantities.

NPPD keeping watchful eye on Missouri River

June 20, 2014

Brownville — Nebraska Public Power District employees at Cooper Nuclear Station are monitoring Missouri River water levels which have risen due to recent heavy rains and higher than average snow melt in upper reaches of the river basin. As of Friday afternoon, the river’s elevation was around 35.1 feet or 891.6 feet above sea level at the station. The plant is at full power and continues to operate safely.

The plant is elevated 13 feet above the natural grade to an elevation of 903 feet mean sea level as part of its design against flooding from the Missouri River. In addition, plant operators continuously monitor the increasing levels and water flows. For plant operation and public safety, NPPD takes the following proactive measures:  

  • When levels reach >895’ – or are expected to be > 902′ within 36 hours – Cooper follows a special procedure specific to anticipated flooding conditions.
  • At 896’, the Brownville Road is generally impacted and may be closed. If so, plant workers detour through Nemaha, Neb.
  • If the river reaches 898’ Cooper begins following an additional procedure which involves installing primary flood barriers.
  • Should the river reach 899’ NPPD would determine whether to declare a Notification of Unusual Event, which is the lowest of four emergency classifications.  
  • At 900’, plant personnel would install secondary flood barriers.
  • If the river reached a level of 902’, Cooper would enter an ALERT emergency classification.

Current projection estimates are for the river to crest at 1 p.m. Sunday at 893.6 feet above sea level or 37.1 feet. To stay abreast of the river levels near Cooper, visit NPPD’s webpage at http://www.nppd.com/flooding/.

The National Weather Service hosts information on river levels and a conversion chart is available, should you want to compare sea level to feet.

For historical perspective, Cooper has safely operated during previous flooding events. In 1993 and 2011, river levels increased to 901’. In 2008, the river crested at 896’ and 899’ in 2010.

NPPD providing mutual aid to Stanton County and Northeast Nebraska public power districts

June 17, 2014

Columbus, Neb. – Nebraska Public Power District line technicians are providing mutual aid to hard hit areas of Stanton County and northeastern Nebraska following Monday’s devastating tornadoes. Crews are assisting with the restoration of sub-transmission and distribution lines with line crews from Stanton County Public Power District and Northeast Nebraska Public Power District

Line technicians from South Sioux City, O’Neill, and Ainsworth are assisting Stanton County and lineman from Norfolk, Tilden, Ainsworth, Ogallala, and McCook are assisting Northeast Nebraska as part of the restoration.

“Always there when you need us is NPPD’s motto. And our linemen are stepping in to give whatever assistance we can to our fellow public power districts,” said Transmission and Distribution Manager John Humphrey. NPPD transmission line crews are also in the midst of making repairs to three damaged lines of their own.

One steel lattice tower on the Hoskins substation to the Raun substation 345-kV transmission line was destroyed by the tornado. NPPD plans to have a temporary structure in place so that the line can be reenergized. Damage was also reported on the Twin Church substation (west of Dakota City) to Hoskins substation 230-kV line where eight wooden structures were damaged. NPPD estimates return to service to this line late Sunday. The Stanton North substation to Stanton substation 115-kV line has two miles of wire on the ground. The estimated return to service for this line is the end of June.

A helicopter is being utilized by NPPD for overall damage assessment.

NPPD’s retail customers, approximately 1,350, were also impacted by the storms with outages in Wakefield and Norfolk. Power to both communities has been restored.