BURLINGTON, Kansas, 28 August 2012 (AP) – Drought conditions are draining a reservoir used to cool the Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Plant, but officials of the eastern Kansas plant say there are no worries about safety or the ability to provide electricity to customers.
Hot, dry conditions across the state have lowered water levels at lakes and streams, including at the John Redmond Reservoir, which reports show would fall to 5 percent of its normal capacity if current drought conditions persist.
Coffey County Lake, which directly cools the power plant, is kept full in part by water from the reservoir and the Neosho River. The lake levels have been down, but the power plant has been able to replenish the lake at its normal rate.
The main concern is that if the power plant outside Burlington had to be shut down for any extended period, the three utility companies that own it would have to buy power elsewhere to compensate, The Lawrence Journal-World reported. Wolf Creek supplies electricity to large parts of eastern Kansas and western Missouri, producing enough electricity to power about 800,000 homes.
The Kansas Water Office said the John Redmond Reservoir was at about 75 percent of its normal capacity as of Aug. 1 but would drop to only 5 percent of its capacity by Nov. 1 if the dry pattern holds, said Earl Lewis, assistant director of the water office.
"These (water level) projections really don't project any rainfall," Lewis said. "Unfortunately, the long-term weather forecast also is not projecting much rainfall through the fall."
The Water Office report projects water levels for 17 reservoirs in eastern Kansas. It forecasts that the Cheney Reservoir, which supplies water for Wichita, will drop to about 60 percent of normal capacity by Nov. 1, and Tuttle Creek outside of Manhattan will be just below 50 percent by Nov. 1.
Lewis said John Redmond was causing the most concern for the Kansas Water Authority, the state board that oversees a variety of water issues.
Wolf Creek spokeswoman Jenny Hageman said Coffey County Lake is only 2 feet below its normal levels and still has enough water to maintain normal operations at the nuclear plant for the foreseeable future.
Hageman said Coffey County Lake would have to drop an additional 11 feet before the water levels were too low for the plant to operate. Even in that scenario, the plant would have enough water to keep the nuclear reactor cooled in a shutdown mode because it was built in a part of the lake designed to hold water during severe drought or emergencies, she said.