May 13, 2019
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Columbia Generating Station begins 24th refueling



The Columbia Generating Station disconnected from the Northwest power grid on Saturday to begin its 24th refueling. Columbia, which is owned and operated by Energy Northwest, is scheduled to be offline for no more than 40 days. Refueling is an opportunity to add fresh nuclear fuel to Columbia’s reactor core, as well as perform maintenance projects that can best be accomplished only when the reactor is offline.

“During our refueling, we’ll complete work activities to help ensure Columbia continues to operate reliably, 24/7, producing carbon-free power for the region,” said Grover Hettel, Energy Northwest chief nuclear officer.

Energy Northwest and the Bonneville Power Administration time the plant’s biennial refueling to coincide with spring snow melt and runoff that maximizes power output from the region’s hydroelectric dams and minimizes the impact of taking the nuclear station offline. Nuclear and hydro are the region’s only fulltime clean energy resources.

During refueling work, crews will replace 260 of the 764 nuclear fuel assemblies in Columbia’s reactor core. Every two years, fuel that has been in the reactor core for six years, approximately a third of the assemblies, is removed and placed in a used fuel pool for dry-cask storage at a later date.

During the refueling, workers will install a 34-foot, 133-ton refurbished low-pressure turbine rotor as part of Columbia’s life-cycle plan to satisfy the plant’s license extension to 2043.

In addition, workers will use robotics to perform a generator inspection, and upgrade the plant fire detection system. In all, regular and temporary employees will complete 1,300 work orders involving more than 7,500 tasks. The total budget for refueling, maintenance and capital investment work is approximately $127 million.

Concerted, rigorous planning efforts begin two years prior to the start of each refueling, and long-lead planning begins many years in advance.

“Our Energy Northwest team put forth a tremendous amount of effort to plan, set goals and prepare for a successful refueling” Hettel said. “We came out of our recent refuelings producing more megawatts, more reliably, and at a lower cost. I anticipate that trend will continue.”

More than 1,200 temporary workers were hired locally and from across the country to support maintenance projects at Columbia. The added workers join EN’s normal work force of about 1,000 employees and bring substantial economic value to the region. According to a study by the Nuclear Energy Institute, Columbia’s operation contributes approximately $690 million annually to the regional economy and will contribute $8.9 billion to the state economy between 2018 and 2043.

Columbia, located 10 miles north of Richland, will restart and reconnect to the Northwest power grid in mid-June.

Energy Northwest was AWB's first-ever Employer of the Year in 2016.



« Back to Main
100% Clean Energy Bill


Washington state's new carbon-free law sounds dandy. Making it work will be daunting

By Bill Virgin

SB 5116 is a dog's breakfast of a bill, an unappetizing hash of the latest political realities, enviro fads and opportunities to award favored groups. If, for example, you're in the business of writing or interpreting rules and regs generated by 5116, or consulting on how to comply with or take advantage of said verbiage, Christmas came early for you and will keep coming from now to 2030 and to 2045.

The laborious, painstaking and often frustrating work of building, testing and refining the technologies that will make the glories of a carbon-free grid possible (never mind whether that prospect is desirable) won't be cheap, either. But without it, the next-generation electric grid doesn't happen.

People won't be happy when they learn, in 2030 or 2045, they've shelled out a lot of money to wind up with a developing nation's power grid. We're accustomed to having electricity available when and where we want it; it's what makes our comfortable lives possible. And it's something we know how to build and run. If we need more power, we can build a big central generating station, powered by cheap and plentiful natural gas, plug it into the grid and be done with it.

What we don't have, and what we'll need places like Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland to build, is a grid smart, fast and resilient enough to handle tens of thousands of generating stations (as small as a residential solar panel and battery array or as big as wind-turbine farm) adding to and dropping off the system at a moment's notice, all the while fending off the cybervandals and cybersaboteurs, who will have tens of thousands of additional points of entry to exploit. We're not there yet...

Read the full column in The News Tribune
Midnight Spending


In Our View: State budget process in need of transparency

By The Columbian Editorial Board

Keeping up with the Legislature can be daunting for citizens interested in performing their civic duty by paying attention to the goings on in Olympia. That is particularly true when it comes to the budget, which typically is kept under wraps until the final days of the session.

That brings up the crux of this editorial: Legislative leaders should adjust how they do business, providing more transparency and more debate and more public engagement. Passing spending bills in the dark of night during the final days of the session is no way to run state government.

Yet that is what happened this year. In the end, lawmakers passed a dizzying array of tax increases in putting together the largest budget in state history. Despite a surge in state revenue created by a strong economy, the Legislature was unable to live within its means. The two-year budget, which goes into effect later this year, represents an 18 percent increase in spending over the current biennium.

Much of that increase goes to increases in salaries and benefits for public employees, whose contracts are negotiated between unions and the governor's office before being sent to the Legislature for either an up-or-down vote. As The Columbian has argued editorially in the past, the public should be kept abreast of offers and counteroffers during negotiations with the unions. After all, it is our money that is on the table...

Read the full editorial in The Columbian
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