Hanford

Tri-Cities’ nuclear plant exec headed to the Middle East to open 4 reactors

Water vapor billows from the Columbia Generating Station near Richland. It is the only nuclear power plant in the Northwest and provides enough power to serve a city the size of Seattle.
Water vapor billows from the Columbia Generating Station near Richland. It is the only nuclear power plant in the Northwest and provides enough power to serve a city the size of Seattle. Tri-City Herald

Energy Northwest will be losing its chief executive three months early.

Rather than waiting until the end of June to retire, as previously announced, Mark Reddemann now plans to step down March 30 from the publicly owned agency.

Energy Northwest, which has about 1,100 employees, operates the Columbia Generating Station north of Richland. It is the only nuclear power plant in the Northwest. The agency, based in Richland, also has wind, hydroelectric and solar projects.

Reddemann announced at the end of June 2017 that he planned to retire in a year. The early announcement was expected to allow time for a successor to be picked and for the new chief executive to possibly work for a time with Reddemann.

But an opportunity too good to pass up changed Reddemann’s plans to retire, said Energy Northwest spokesman Mike Paoli.

Reddemann has taken the position of chief executive of Nawah Energy Co., based in the United Arab Emirates, to lead work to bring four new nuclear energy reactors on line.

Reddemann Hi-Res
Mark Reddemann

The reactors at the Brakah Nuclear Energy Plant in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi will deliver a combined 5,600 megawatts to the region.

Reddemann’s work at the plant is expected to be short term, lasting a couple of years.

“I’m honored to accept this position,” Reddemann said in a statement Wednesday. “It’s certainly clear to me that this opportunity comes my way as a direct result of Columbia Generating Station’s performance and the industry reputation our team has established.”

Energy Northwest will be losing not only Reddemann, but one of its two top vice presidents in the coming months.

Brad Sawatzke, chief operating officer and chief nuclear officer, plans to retire in the fall. Reddemann took over leadership of Energy Northwest in 2010 and hired Sawatzke shortly after that.

When Reddemann announced his plan to retire from Energy Northwest last year, a search for his replacement was launched.

The Energy Northwest Executive Board has two meetings scheduled this month.

It meets in Seattle on Thursday with four hours scheduled behind closed doors, presumably to discuss Reddemann’s replacement.

It also has a meeting planned March 20-22 in the Tri-Cities.

Either an interim chief executive or a permanent chief executive is expected to be announced before the end of the month.

Reddemann was hired in 2010, just after the Columbia Generating Station had six scrams, or unplanned shutdowns, from August 2008 to November 2009. Under Reddemann’s leadership the plant did not have another scram until 2016.

However, the plant is currently under increased Nuclear Regulatory Commission oversight because of scrams in December 2016 and August 2017.

Reddemann has focused Energy Northwest on excellence in performance, according to the agency.

Columbia Generating Station set annual generation records in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016, while steadily decreasing its cost of power since 2010.

It is the third-largest electricity producer in Washington, behind the Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams, producing 1,190 megawatts, or enough electricity to power a city the size of Seattle.

Annette Cary: 509-582-1533, @HanfordNews

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