NR 15-14 Backgrounder: Energy Northwest Refueling and Maintenance Outage 22

​​​John Dobken, Public Affairs, 509-377-8369
Anna Markham, Public Affairs, 509-377-8162
RICHLAND, Wash. – Today, Columbia Generating Station, owned and operated by Energy Northwest, begins its 22nd refueling and maintenance outage. Scheduled for 42 days, the outage is an opportunity to add fresh nuclear fuel to Columbia’s reactor core, as well as perform  the type of maintenance that can best be accomplished only when the reactor is shut down.
Columbia Generating Station is the Northwest’s only commercial nuclear energy facility, generating 1,170 megawatts of electricity, which is sold at-cost to the Bonneville Power Administration. Ninety-two Northwest utilities receive a percentage of its output. In December, Columbia marked 30 years of commercial operation.
Major Projects
• The Feedwater Flowmeter project will install more accurate ultrasonic instruments that will increase the accuracy of water flow measurement through the reactor core, allowing for increased feedwater flow and subsequent higher megawatt output. The project has the potential to increase Columbia’s output capacity by at least five megawatts (currently 1,170 MWe).
• A new Power Range Neutron Monitoring system will be installed, replacing analog circuit controls with more reliable and redundant digital circuit controls. Installation of the new PRNM hardware will also allow implementation of improvements in analytical methods for core operations known as ARTS/MELLLA. The benefits of this project to Columbia will be significant, allowing for a more efficient use of nuclear fuel, an increase in the overall efficiency of reactor operations, as well as increased equipment reliability. (Note: ARTS – Average power range monitors, Rod block monitors Technical Specifications; MELLLA – Maximum Extended Load Line Limit Analysis)
• Columbia will install three new 175-ton main power transformers during R-22. The current transformers are original plant equipment and approaching the end of their service life. The new transformers will increase overall plant reliability and serve Columbia through the end of its operating life, scheduled for the end of 2043.
In addition to these major projects, Columbia will replace 248 of 764 nuclear fuel assemblies. Every two years, approximately a third of Columbia’s fuel assemblies are removed from the core and placed in the used fuel pool after spending a total of six years in the reactor core. Energy Northwest is using a newer design in its fuel assemblies which will increase fuel efficiency, ultimately providing a cost-benefit during future refueling outages.
In all, more than 2,150 work orders involving more than 13,000 tasks will need to be completed during the 42 days of the outage. The total budget for the outage is approximately $106 million.
To accomplish that, 1,500 skilled outage workers were 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.
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 operating 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. Energy Northwest –