Draft study finds nothing to stop Energy Northwest license renewal

A draft environmental study has found no show stoppers for the renewal of the license for Energy Northwest's nuclear power plant near Richland.

Energy Northwest has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend the Columbia Generating Station's current 40-year license for 20 more years, allowing it to operate through 2043.

The 1,150-megawatt plant supplies enough power for about 1 million homes when it is operating.

Meetings to gather comments on the draft report will be Sept. 27 in Richland.

It considered topics such as contamination at the site, potential effects on endangered species and whether archaeological sites would be disturbed.

The draft study did find elevated concentrations of tritium next to the Columbia Generating Station site but concluded the contamination was because of past weapons production on the Department of Energy's Hanford nuclear reservation. The nuclear power plant is on leased land at Hanford.

The draft study also found chloride and sulfate next to the Columbia site but said it had not affected ground water used for drinking water.

The study also looked at the potential effect on continued operations of the plant on bull trout, a species federally listed as threatened and that has been reported in the Hanford Reach near the nuclear plant. It concluded there would be no effect.

It also considered impacts on chinook salmon and steelhead and concluded the plant would not be likely to adversely affect them.

The NRC also notified tribes with ties to the area that the draft report's preliminary determination is that any effect would be small on historical and archaeological resources in the area. However, the draft report recommended that Energy Northwest staff be trained on cultural awareness so good decisions could be made before any activities that disturb the ground occur. In addition, lands not surveyed should be investigated by a qualified archaeologist before being disturbed.

A public meeting will be from 2 to 5 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Red Lion Hotel, Richland. It will be repeated from 7 to 10 p.m. An hour before each starts, NRC staff will be available to answer questions.

Public comment also may be sent until Nov. 16 to Cindy Bladey; Rules, Announcements and Directives Branch; office of Administration; Mail Stop: TWB-05-B01M, Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Washington, D.C., 20555-0001. Include "Docket ID NRC-2010-0029" in the subject line. Comments are posted online without redacting information, so don't include identifying or contact information you do not want disclosed.