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Report identifies opportunities for improvement, but no systemic chilled work environment


​Mike Paoli, Public Affairs, 509-377-4164
Carla Martinez, Public Affairs, 509-372-5156


RICHLAND, Wash. – An investigation by a Washington, D.C., law firm hired by the Energy Northwest Executive Board concluded with issuance of a final report at a meeting of EN’s executive board. The investigation was spurred by anonymous letters to Energy Northwest board members and follows a previous report into specific allegations that was issued in June.

The Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman report concludes that Columbia employees routinely raise safety, quality and other concerns to ensure the plant is being operated safely. Several work groups, however, exhibit concerns that, if unaddressed, could result in a chilled work environment.

“Our employees are nearly unanimous in stating their willingness to raise concerns and in their positive assessments of the work environment,” said Sid Morrison, EN executive board chair. "Energy Northwest is committed to operating a safe and high performing nuclear site where the views and concerns of all of our Columbia team members are treated respectfully and seriously.”

“Our findings align with what we typically expect to see at other nuclear plants across the nation,” said Daryl Shapiro, partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. Pillsbury interviewed over 190 individuals from 10 work groups, including individual contributors, supervisors and managers.

During the interviews, Pillsbury identified examples of interpersonal conflicts between employees and managers, an inadequate initial response to an industrial safety concern, and areas for improvement in the employee concerns program and human resource processes that need to be addressed by Columbia senior leadership.

Altogether four letters were received and assigned to Pillsbury for investigation. A fifth letter was received by the board and was addressed separately by Columbia senior leadership.

In its first report, Pillsbury partially substantiated some of the allegations raised to the board. That report also included several recommendations. Additionally, Pillsbury’s previous report stated that it had found no nuclear safety concerns during its investigation.

The executive board is releasing this final report to the public, as well as the actions being undertaken by Columbia management to address the concerns that were identified in the investigation.

Morrison said he is confident that any concerns raised in future anonymous letters can be handled through processes provided by Energy Northwest or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“Pillsbury has identified ways in which our human resource practices can be improved, and we believe these changes will assist our team in its pursuit of excellent nuclear operations. Additionally, we hope the individuals who raised these concerns, whose anonymity was respected throughout the investigation, will become more comfortable with raising their concerns through our internal programs, such as the employee concerns program, the Ask Senior Management program, the corrective action program or directly to the NRC,” Morrison said.

“While we wish this investigation process could have been faster, the executive board was committed to fully identifying the issues that resulted in our receiving these letters,” Morrison said. “The executive board members will seriously review these findings and recommendations. The executive board plans to periodically review the actions taken by the senior leadership team to ensure that they are effective.”

Columbia Generating Station, a 1,190-megawatt boiling water reactor owned and operated by Energy Northwest, produces enough electricity to power a city the size of Seattle and is the third largest generator of electricity in Washington state.

All of Columbia’s electricity is sold at-cost to Bonneville Power Administration. The 92 utilities that receive a portion of Columbia’s output are located in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and California.

To access the recent report, click here.

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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