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Columbia Generating Station Begins 24th Refueling


Mike Paoli, Public Affairs, 509-713-4950                                              
Kelly Rae, Public Affairs, 509-372-5376

RICHLAND, Wash. – After a historical year producing more carbon-free, nuclear energy than ever before, Columbia Generating Station disconnected from the Northwest power grid today 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.

Columbia Generation Station Net Generation (2012-2018)
Calendar Year
Net  Generation
Refueling Year Record
Refueling Year
Refueling Year


About Energy Northwest                                                                                                           

Energy Northwest owns and operates a diverse mix of 100 percent clean electricity generating resources: hydro, solar and wind projects, and the third-largest provider of electricity in Washington – the Columbia Generating Station nuclear power facility. These projects provide carbon-free electricity at the cost of generation – enough clean, cost-effective and reliable energy to power more than a million homes each year. As an independent joint action agency of Washington state, Energy Northwest comprises 27 public power member utilities from across the state serving more than 1.5 million customers. The agency continually explores new generation projects to meet its members’ needs.


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