Energy Northwest Begins Planned
Richland Energy Northwest's Columbia Generating Station temporarily shut down today, starting a planned biennial refueling outage a few days early because of weather conditions.
Station operators started powering the reactor down Friday night following a request from the Bonneville Power Administration. BPA made the request to Energy Northwest on March 30 because weather conditions could produce high water flows through the federal hydroelectric dam system.
The station was scheduled to power down starting this Wednesday for its biennial refueling outage. The shutdown ended Columbia's longest continuous operation record at 505 days, besting the old record of 485 days set in 2006. The current run began on Nov. 13, 2009.
"Setting this record has not been without its challenges," said Mark Reddemann, Energy Northwest chief executive officer. "I congratulate our employees for their commitment to overcome those challenges and keep us producing clean, safe and cost-effective power for Northwest ratepayers."
During the outage,workers will add new nuclear fuel, conduct maintenance and replace the plant's main condenser - the largest scope project ever undertaken in the 26-year history of the plant, a news release said.
The condenser converts steam back to water for re-use in the reactor. Replacing it will cost $113 million and require 350 workers. The new condenser will provide up to an additional 12 megawatts of power generation, essentially paying for itself over time.
"This refueling outage will allow us to enhance our equipment reliability and gain efficiency going forward," said Brad Sawatzke, chief nuclear officer for Energy Northwest. "Our goal in this outage is to further strengthen our position as one of Washington state's primary sources of reliable, full-time electricity."
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