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We’ve had no near miss incidents at Columbia – in fact, we remain in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s least stringent oversight category because of our excellent safety performance. Most of the UCS report is inaccurate (as was virtually all information about Columbia in the Inlander’s Jan. 30 cover story – see the several detailed story comments). Mike Paoli, EN public information officer.
Interesting that you had an opportunity to source the document from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission released THIS WEEK regarding Columbia’s seismic safety, and you chose instead a newspaper article from last year.
The current NRC document speaks for itself: “Based on the information discussed above, the NRC staff concludes that there is no immediate (seismic) safety concern at CGS...”
For your background, from the NRC:
*Seismic designs at US nuclear power plants are developed in terms of seismic ground motion spectra, which are called the Safe Shutdown Earthquake ground motion response spectra (SSE).
*Each nuclear power plant is designed to a ground motion level that is appropriate for the geology and tectonics in the region surrounding the plant location.
*Currently operating nuclear power plants developed their SSEs based on a “deterministic” or “scenario earthquake” that accounts for the largest earthquake expected in the area around the plant.
*The SSE for operating nuclear power plants in the U.S. is based on that earthquake which produces the maximum vibratory ground motion for which key structures, systems, and components are designed to remain functional.
*Due to code requirements and design standards, nuclear power plants are designed and built to have seismic margins generally well beyond the SSE level.
As you know, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, one of the premiere research facilities in the country, is currently reevaluating the seismic data for the region around Columbia. Once that study is complete, Energy Northwest will implement recommendations made by the NRC, based on the data.
As to our nuclear fuel transaction referenced in the Newsweek "article," here are more facts:
The expected net present value of the transaction is estimated to be in excess of $115 million (assuming a conservative 12 percent discount rate) primarily as a result of reduced cost of fuel purchases for Columbia Generating Station. The transaction results in near-term decreases in EN/BPA costs of roughly $22 million per year from 2014 to 2017 with additional savings beyond, helping keep electricity rates lower than they otherwise would be. Future ratepayers will also benefit from access to low-cost fuel as well as long-term fuel cost certainty.
For more facts, visit ColumbiaValue.com
When editor Jacob Fries of the Inlander gave us the opportunity to provide a point-by-point rebuttal to the Nigel Jaquiss piece from Willamette Week, we were heartened to be able to correct the many misstatements and factual errors made in the original story.
After supplying that information to Fries, it was disappointing that the article remained virtually untouched. Even the sentence “It was built largely below the surface of the sand and sagebrush...” remains, even though it is factually incorrect, and downright silly to anyone who has visited the Tri-Cities area. Looking at the accompanying photo puts the lie to that sentence.
But this is a story about seeing what you want to see. It’s obvious that both the Inlander and Willamette Week would like their readers to see a distorted picture of nuclear energy in the Northwest.
Here’s another piece of information that was brought to Mr. Fries attention regarding seismic safety.
The article states: “Last month, the group released reports saying the Columbia Generating Station is seismically unsafe—something the plant’s operators deny.”
Here was our take that we provided to Mr. Fries: Yes we do deny it. But it’s not only us. In September 2013, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman stated in response to PSR raising seismic concerns: “The NRC continues to conclude that CGS [Columbia] has been designed, built, and operated to safely withstand earthquakes likely to occur in its region.” Columbia Generating Station exceeds the NRC’s seismic design requirements, and is capable of withstanding a massive earthquake. The NRC also has on-site, full-time inspectors at each of America’s nuclear energy facilities. Columbia has two such inspectors.
This month, the independent NRC again stated that there are no immediate seismic safety concerns at Columbia. This was in response to a second PSR plea following their receipt of the above letter. The NRC staff even pointed out where PSR was mistaken in its assessment.
A seismic survey of our area is currently underway by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Energy Northwest will implement any recommendations based on that survey, which will be delivered to the NRC.
The report by Robert McCullough likewise is a bit of sleight of hand by not taking into account capacity.
As we explained to Mr. Fries, McCullough’s failure to address the need for baseload capacity electricity is at issue, and why we believe he changed his recommendations for the December Northwest Public Radio interview (NWPR radio). He conducted a short-term, spot market assessment that only involved energy costs – not electric capacity costs (including new plant construction and transmission costs) or risk factors such as gas price volatility, the positive impact of diverse energy resources on market stability, and the very likely possibility of a future carbon tax.
Capacity factor is critical for calculating the value of any generation facility, and there is insufficient capacity in the region to replace Columbia without significant imports of power to the region. These imports will bring with them increased carbon emissions, major BPA transmission upgrades, and costs to preference utilities much greater than Columbia’s operating costs.
We invite your readers to get the rest of the story. An independent economic report on Columbia Generating Station's value to the region has been posted to our website. The bottom line: Operating Columbia through 2043 results in a $1.6 billion savings for NW consumers over the range of alternatives for replacement power.
For more details, visit: www.ColumbiaValue.com
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