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Columbia Generating Station Begins Biennial Refueling and Maintenance Outage


John Dobken, Public Affairs, 509-377-8369
Anna Markham, Public Affairs, 509-377-8162

RICHLAND, Wash. – Columbia Generating Station disconnected from the Northwest power grid today to begin its 23rd refueling and maintenance outage. Columbia is scheduled to be offline
40 days.

Energy Northwest and the Bonneville Power Administration time the biennial outage to coincide with spring time snow melt and runoff that maximizes power output from the region’s hydroelectric system and minimizes the impact of taking the nuclear station offline.

"During this outage, we’ll install upgrades and do overhauls and refurbishments that, taken together, will ensure continued reliability and efficiency from Columbia,” said Brad Sawatzke, Energy Northwest chief nuclear officer. “That translates into a decreasing cost of power for customers from a tremendous carbon-free resource.”

More than 1,350 skilled outage workers are hired locally and from across the country to support maintenance projects throughout the plant. The added workers join Columbia’s normal work force of about 1,100 employees and bring substantial economic value to the region.

Work crews will focus on replacing 272 of the 764 nuclear fuel assemblies in the reactor core during the outage. Outage work also includes about 1,450 work orders involving approximately 10,300 separate tasks. (See attached Outage Backgrounder for more details)

“The team has spent more than a year in planning and preparing work activities to make this a successful outage, which means a safe outage,” said Sawatzke.

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

Columbia’s electricity output has steadily increased during the past five years in part due to work performed during the plant’s refueling and maintenance outages, work that added roughly 50 megawatts to its capacity since 2011.

Columbia has an output of 1,190 megawatts (gross) while operating at a capacity factor above 93 percent since 2012. Energy Northwest expects to gain additional generation following this outage.

Columbia Generating Station is the third largest generator of electricity in Washington state. All of its electricity is sold at-cost to BPA. Columbia represents about 12 percent of BPA’s firm energy and 9.5 percent of Bonneville’s sustained peak capacity. Ninety-two Northwest utilities receive a percentage of its output.


Columbia Generation Station Net Generation (2012-2016)

Calendar Year
Net  Generation

About Energy Northwest
Energy Northwest develops, owns and operates a diverse mix of electricity generating resources, including hydro, solar and wind projects – and the Northwest’s only nuclear energy facility. These projects provide enough reliable, affordable and environmentally respon­sible energy to power more than a million homes each year, and that carbon-free electricity is provided at the cost of generation. As a Washington state, joint action agency, Energy Northwest comprises 27 public power member utilities from across the state serving more than 1.5 million ratepayers. The agency continually explores new generation projects to meet its members’ needs.
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