Hanford

Summer heatwave propels Richland nuclear plant into record books

Energy Northwest’s Columbia Generating Station north of Richland set monthly electricity generation records in August and September.
Energy Northwest’s Columbia Generating Station north of Richland set monthly electricity generation records in August and September. Tri-City Herald file

The nuclear power plant near Richland has set its eighth monthly electricity record this year, according to Energy Northwest.

The Columbia Generating Station, the Northwest’s only commercial nuclear power plant, most recently set a generation record for September.

“Every record helps further de-carbonize our environment and keep our state electric bills the second-lowest in the nation,” said Brad Sawatzke, chief executive of Energy Northwest, the agency that owns and operates the nuclear plant.

Columbia Generating Station sent more than 829 million killowatt-hours of electricity to the Northwest power grid in September. The month before it sent nearly 850 million killowatt-hours, a record for August.

It is enough electricity to power a city the size of Seattle and much of its metro area, according to Energy Northwest.

During the August heatwave the Bonneville Power Administration, which markets the electricity, issued several “no-touch” requests for the nuclear plant, restricting maintenance activities that could reduce electricity production while demand to run air conditioners was high.

As temperatures hit triple-digits, the price of energy from wholesale power markets peaked above $200 per megawatt-hour, according to Energy Northwest.

The cost of Energy Northwest’s nuclear power remained steady at about $30 per megawatt-hour.

Columbia’s power is sold at cost to BPA and delivered throughout eight states, including to utilities in the Tri-Cities area.

It set annual generation records in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016.

Energy Northwest attributes its record performance in the last year in part to operating efficiency gained during the May 2017 refueling and maintenance outage at the plant.

The plant’s operating capacity was upgraded by an additional 20 megawatts as a result of work done during the outage.

Day-to-day maintenance also has contributed to the reliable operation of the plant, said spokesman Mike Paoli.

Annette Cary; 509-582-1533
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