NRC renews Energy Northwest’s Columbia nuclear license

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said late on May 23 that it has issued a 20-year license extension for Energy Northwest’s Columbia nuclear power plant in Benton County, Wash.

The renewal was signed May 22 after detailed safety and environmental reviews, NRC said. The new license will expire in December 2043. Columbia is a 1,150-MW boiling water reactor located about 12 miles northwest of Richland, Wash. Energy Northwest, the plant’s operator, applied for the 20-year license renewal in early 2010.

In April, the NRC staff published its final supplemental environmental impact statement, concluding there were no environmental concerns that warrant rejecting the 20-year license extension. The staff also concluded there were no safety concerns to preclude license renewal.

The Northwest’s only commercially-operated nuclear energy facility provides nearly 10% of all power generated in Washington state, Energy Northwest said in a news release. It produced over 7,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity in 2011.

“With the future of the plant now secured, we can recommit ourselves to making it one of the best run and top-performing nuclear power plants in the country,” said Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire. “We owe no less to the citizens of our state.”

The governor went on to say that she endorsed the plant’s relicensing because of the plant’s ability to produce baseload power without emissions. “It is a cornerstone of power production in the Pacific Northwest,” Gregoire said.

Much of the coal-fired capacity in the Pacific Northwest is being marked for retirement in coming years.

Columbia is the 72nd reactor license renewed by NRC. Some plants are still waiting, however. They include Entergy’s (NYSE: ETR) Pilgrim nuclear plant in Massachusetts. Its license is currently scheduled to expire in June.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.