Consecutive Records for Tri-Cities Nuclear Plant

Mike Paoli, Public Affairs, 509-713-4950  
Carla Martinez, Public Affairs, 509-372-5156 

RICHLAND, Wash. – The Columbia Generating Station nuclear power plant, near Richland, recently achieved its eighth monthly electricity generation record in only a year’s time. September was also the second consecutive month of record-setting generation for the clean-energy provider.

“Every record helps further de-carbonize our environment and keep our state electric bills the second-lowest in the nation,” said CEO Brad Sawatzke.

Columbia sent more than 829 million kilowatt-hours of electricity to the Northwest power grid in September, and nearly 850 million during August. The station produced enough zero-carbon energy to independently power Seattle and much of its metro area.

During the August heatwave the Bonneville Power Administration issued several “no-touch” requests for the nuclear plant, restricting maintenance activity that could alter or impact the plant’s output. As temperatures rose to triple digits, so did the price of energy from wholesale power markets. Throughout August Columbia’s cost of power remained steady at almost $30 per megawatt-hour. Market prices during the same period peaked at more than $200 per megawatt-hour.

“During these periods Bonneville needs every full-time megawatt they can get,” said Sawatzke. The four full-time sources of power in the Northwest are coal and natural gas, and carbon-free hydro and nuclear. The nuclear plant works in concert with the hydro system, reducing power during the spring to accommodate high river flows. 

“Nuclear gives us some flexibility,” said Sawatzke, “by having the capability to ramp down when there’s too much power on the grid. It then carries the load during the winter and summer when power is in limited supply.”

Columbia is the third-largest generator of electricity in Washington, behind the Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams. The youngest of the three facilities, Columbia achieved annual generation records in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016. The nation’s 98 nuclear plants provide nearly 60 percent of the nation’s carbon-free electricity.

Columbia’s electricity is sold at-cost to Bonneville and delivered throughout its eight-state service area.

About Energy Northwest
Energy Northwest owns and operates a diverse mix of electricity generating resources, including hydro, solar and wind, as well as 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. In 2016, the Association of Washington Business named Energy Northwest “Employer of the Year.”