What Just Happened at Nebraska's Cooper Nuclear Station?

Something not good has gone down at Cooper Nuclear Station, an electrical power plant near the Missouri River in southeast Nebraska. The region has been flooding steadily for weeks, and with river levels rising, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released water from two dams on Saturday in anticipation of more heavy rains this week.

The official line from Cooper was a "Notification of Unusual Event," declared at 4:02 a.m. this morning. This kind of announcement is part of official procedure whenever flooding conditions are in effect, defined as whenever the river level rises above 42.5 feet, or 899 feet above sea level.

The scant news reports on the Notification of Unusual Event ("the lowest and least serious of four emergency classifications established by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for nuclear power plants") play things down as just being routine nuclear protocol.

In a story headlined, "Cooper Nuclear Station On Lowest Warning Level," the local NBC affiliate's website reports:

If the river's level increases to 900 feet above sea level, plant personnel will barricade internal doorways as another layer of protection for facility equipment. At 902 feet, the plant would be taken offline as a protective safety measure.

For a more hysterical take on the announcement, you can find any number of online reports claiming everything from the plant already being "partially submerged" by flood waters to "radiation detection" to a "'total and complete' news blackout" ordered by President Obama. [Nebraska City News, image via AP]