Work to get Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station up and running will push the Omaha Public Power District $134 million over budget this year — a cost the district plans to spread out over the next decade.
Officials plan to make up about $24 million of that difference by delaying projects and leaving vacant positions open. Under a plan approved Thursday by OPPD's board, the rest of the money will be paid off over a 10-year period. The district will do the same with an additional $30 million it expects to spend on recovery efforts at the plant in 2013.
The funding gap is the result of delays in getting the troubled plant back online.
When it put together its 2012 budget, the district had hoped its Fort Calhoun plant, located about 20 miles north of Omaha, would be ready to return to service this year. The facility's reactor was shut down in April 2011, after a handful of safety violations and fears over Missouri River flooding.
The plant is being overseen by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which must give its OK before the reactor is started.
Edward Easterlin, OPPD vice president and chief financial officer, said it's too soon to say if the district will need to raise rates to help pay for Fort Calhoun. He said the plan approved by the board will help make the impact less severe.
“From a rate-making, budgetary standpoint, it makes it easier to accommodate without having a rate increase,” he said.
Meanwhile, the district has released some details of its contracts with Exelon Corp., the company it has hired to manage Fort Calhoun for at least the next 20 years.
OPPD denied The World-Herald's public records request for copies of the Exelon contracts, citing a state law allowing it to withhold documents that could give away trade secrets or “proprietary or commercial information” of competitive businesses.
The district did provide some information about the deal. In 2013, the first full year of the contract, the district will pay Exelon somewhere between $20 million and $26.5 million. Part of those costs are a management fee — Exelon has brought in 10 employees in management positions — while the rest will be divided into “reimbursable costs” and an “incentive fee.”
It also released redacted copies of invoices from payments made to Exelon in 2012, which show about $10.1 million in payments between February 21 and July 26.
Exelon has been providing consulting work at Fort Calhoun since February.
Easterlin said OPPD expects the deal will save money in the long run, though it's difficult to put a number on the savings.
The main benefit, he said, is that OPPD can share some costs with Exelon's 17 other nuclear facilities, rather than bearing them alone as a small plant.
“Being a single unit, we don't have as much negotiating leverage as other companies that might have 17 units,” he said.
OPPD has set Dec. 1 as a target date for “heat up” of the reactor, but NRC officials have cautioned that a significant amount of work needs to be done at the plant before it signs off on startup of the reactor.
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