Click here to read “Nuclear Energy in the Northwest: Today and Tomorrow”
The Columbia Generating Station nuclear facility is the third largest electricity generator in Washington, behind Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams. Its 1,190 gross megawatts can power the city of Seattle, and is equivalent to about 10 percent of the electricity generated in Washington and 4 percent of all electricity used in the Pacific Northwest.
Columbia is the only commercial nuclear energy facility in the region. All of its output is provided to the Bonneville Power Administration at the cost of production under a formal net billing agreement in which BPA pays the costs of maintaining and operating the facility.
Columbia began delivering power to the region in 1984. Since then it has provided billions of dollars worth of electricity while emitting virtually no greenhouse gases or carbon emissions commonly associated with natural gas, coal and other fossil fuel powered plants.
Benefits to the Region
Nuclear power is a reliable energy producer. Columbia is not dependent on weather conditions as are hydro, wind and solar generation facilities. Nuclear plants produce electricity 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
Refueling and maintenance outages occur every other year and are scheduled when springtime water conditions in the Columbia River Basin are typically high, allowing the federal hydropower dams to produce ample supplies of power.
Status of U.S. Nuclear Power
Nearly 20 percent of our nation’s electricity comes from 99 currently operating nuclear facilities throughout the United States.
Four U.S. nuclear facilities have closed during the past three years, and two more are slated to close within the next four years. Two of those closed, representing a total capacity of 3,114 megawatts, were in response to return-to-service technical issues associated with plant-unique maintenance and repair challenges. The remaining four closures, representing a total 2,699 megawatts, result from unfavorable economics affecting relatively low-capacity (556 to 838 megawatts), for-profit facilities challenged by a deregulated market.
U.S. nuclear energy generation should remain approximately steady, however, with the completion of five reactors that are scheduled to bring 5,618 megawatts of capacity to the grid during the next five years. (Another 67 new reactors are being built in 15 countries. Some of these countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, are building their first reactors. Others, such as China and India, already have made a significant commitment to nuclear energy.)
The nationwide push for carbon-free electricity and federal and private investment in the development of small modular reactors have resulted in further consideration of nuclear power as a generation resource. Small modular reactors are factory fabricated nuclear generators, built and installed according to standardized designs.
Read more about SMRs and the Carbon Free Power Project.
(Current as of November 2015)
Learn more about nuclear power
Low Cost of Clean Power
How Columbia Makes Electricity