Columbia back on the grid in time for summer

Mike Paoli, Public Affairs, 509-713-4950                                              

Kelly Rae, Public Affairs, 509-372-5376     

                                      

RICHLAND, Wash. – Columbia Generating Station reconnected to the Northwest power grid today at 5:41 a.m. following its 24th nuclear refueling, and just in time to meet higher electricity demands as summer temperatures rise.

During the last several weeks, Energy Northwest employees, with support from more than 1,200 temporary workers, also completed thousands of individual maintenance improvements and upgrades to sustain the nuclear station’s generation efficiency and electricity output.

“The tremendous amount of planning and work that the team completed over the past several weeks will bring significant value to the region through Columbia’s reliable, carbon-free electricity generation,” said Grover Hettel, Energy Northwest chief nuclear officer.

Biennial refueling is necessary to add fresh nuclear fuel to Columbia’s reactor core, but also an opportunity to perform maintenance projects that can best be accomplished only when the reactor is offline. In addition to replacing 260 of the 764 nuclear fuel assemblies in Columbia’s reactor core, work crews installed a 34-foot, 133-ton refurbished low-pressure turbine rotor.

“The refueling and maintenance we do is fairly complex work that requires a highly-skilled team,” Hettel said. “It’s a rigorous, five-week, non-stop 24/7 operation. So I’m extremely proud of the team for working safely to meet our customer commitments. This type of work helps keep our electric bills the lowest in the nation.”

Equipment replacements, refurbishments and upgrades have increased Columbia’s gross generation capacity from 1,150 megawatts in 2010 to 1,207 megawatts beginning in 2017. During the last two years the station set nine monthly generation records, and five annual generation records during the last seven years. During 2018, the plant sent more than 9.7 million megawatt-hours of carbon-free electricity to the grid, a record for its 34-year operating history. Columbia continues to produce enough clean energy to power Seattle and part of its metro area. 

Energy Northwest and the Bonneville Power Administration time the biennial refueling 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. Together, nuclear and hydro provide the region’s only fulltime clean energy resources.

All of the electricity produced at Columbia Generating Station, located 10 miles north of Richland, is sold at-cost to BPA. Columbia’s refueling began on midnight, May 10, and reconnected to the grid June 21.

 


Columbia Generating Station during startup operations. The nuclear facility, located 10 miles north of Richland, is the third largest electricity producer in Washington.

 


Columbia purchases new fuel in long-term contracts, and holds enough fuel in its reactor to generate electricity for two years. As a result, nuclear is not susceptible to fuel supply breakdowns and associated spikes in power costs that can affect other power sources and their customers, especially during cold snaps and heat waves. 

 


During Columbia Generating Station’s 24th refueling, work crews installed a 34-foot, 133-ton refurbished low-pressure turbine rotor. Equipment replacements, refurbishments and upgrades have increased Columbia’s gross generation capacity from 1,150 megawatts in 2010 to 1,207 megawatts beginning in 2017. During 2018, the plant sent more than 9.7 million megawatt-hours of carbon-free electricity to the grid, a record for its 34-year operating history. Columbia continues to produce enough clean energy to power Seattle and part of its metro area. 

 

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.