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Columbia Generating Station offline for planned turbine maintenance

News Release

RICHLAND, Wash. – Energy Northwest operators disconnected Columbia Generating Station from the northwest power grid early this morning for a planned maintenance outage. Workers will install balance weights on each end of a 34-foot, 133-ton low-pressure turbine. 

The turbine was replaced as part of Columbia’s life-cycle maintenance plan during the station’s spring refueling ​outage. Columbia operators and engineers have been monitoring the new turbine for increased vibrations, which are not uncommon when a turbine is replaced. 

“We’ve been closely monitoring our turbine’s performance and planned for an outage if it became necessary,” said Grover Hettel, Energy Northwest chief nuclear officer. “The vibrations reached a pre-determined engineering setpoint, so it’s important we take the plant offline to perform this maintenance for the equipment’s long-term use.” 

The 1.5 pound weights that will be installed on the turbine will help balance the vibrations and ensure the turbine’s reliability for continuous operation. Columbia has three, low-pressure turbines and one high-pressure turbine. The turbines turn the main generator and produce electricity.  

While the station is offline, workers will complete additional tasks to ensure Columbia continues to produce reliable, carbon-free power for the region.

The timing for the outage was planned in coordination with Bonneville Power Administration​.  

“Energy Northwest worked closely with Bonneville to identify a window where the impact of the outage would be minimized, and they gave us ample time to prepare to meet all of our load obligations,” said Suzanne Cooper, senior vice president of Power Services at BPA. “Ensuring the plant is in solid operational shape as we enter the winter months will help us keep the lights on and heaters running in the region through this colder period.” 

Columbia is the Northwest’s only nuclear power plant and has produced more than 8.2 million megawatt-hours of carbon-free electricity in 2021. The station recently surpassed 150 days online since its spring refueling.  

“Maintaining our equipment in good working order requires 24/7 teamwork, and I appreciate our team’s rigorous planning efforts so that we can get the work accomplished and return to producing the electricity we all rely on,” Hettel said. 

About Energy Northwest 

Energy Northwest develops, owns and operates a diverse mix of electricity generating resources, including hydro, solar, battery storage and wind projects – and the Northwest’s only 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 operating 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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