Energy Northwest suing company that made parts for condenser system

Annette Cary, Herald Staff WriterMarch 3, 2014 

Energy Northwest has sued the company that designed and manufactured parts for the new condenser system installed at the nuclear power plant near Richland in 2011.

Energy Northwest had planned for its longest outage at the Columbia Generating Station to be 80 days but problems with the condenser replacement caused it to drag out to 175 days.

Bonneville Power Administration estimated the net cost of the outage because of lost power production at about $60 million.

Energy Northwest has accused SPX Heat Transfer of providing condenser modules and components that did not fit together properly and did not meet performance standards. The company also failed to provide a reheat system, Energy Northwest said in a federal court document.

Energy Northwest is asking for an unspecified amount of total damages.

SPX did not respond to requests for an interview about the lawsuit.

Earlier, Energy Northwest was sued by Babcock & Wilcox Nuclear Energy, the company hired to remove the reactor's 26-year-old condenser and install SPX's new condenser modules.

The condenser turns steam generated by boiling water in the nuclear reactor back into water for re-use.

Energy Northwest settled with Babcock & Wilcox for slightly more than $18 million in 2012.

Originally, Energy Northwest signed a $34 million contract in 2009 with Yuba Heat Transfer, but SPX purchased some of Yuba's assets at the end of that year, including the Energy Northwest condenser contract, according to the lawsuit.

SPX, which has main offices in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania, is not authorized to practice engineering in Washington and its engineers assigned to the nuclear plant project also were not licensed in the state, according to the lawsuit.

The contractor promised to verify the required dimensions of the condenser parts during the 2009 refueling outage at the power plant, according to the lawsuit, and an SPX official assured Energy Northwest that the design it prepared would fit in the existing condenser shell.

However, the condenser modules and other pieces were not designed and manufactured to fit together properly and quickly and did not fit the existing conditions, Energy Northwest claims in court documents.

The contract also included performance and efficiency criteria for the condenser that Energy Northwest said it did not meet.

Energy Northwest claims it's entitled to an adjustment to SPX's pay of $1.95 million because of the alleged failure to meet the efficiency marks. The lawsuit also asks for $400,000 because the system did not meet other required standards.

And the lawsuit claims SPX failed to provide a condensate reheat system included in the price of the contract that would be worth at least $14.78 million in improved efficiency over the life of the condenser.

Energy Northwest also is alleging that Babcock and Wilcox discovered numerous errors and missing information in SPX's drawings.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @HanfordNews

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