Columbia Generating Station reconnects to power grid - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Columbia Generating Station reconnects to power grid

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RICHLAND, WA – Energy Northwest’s Columbia Generating Station reconnected to the Northwest power grid early Thursday morning and operators are slowly raising the power level to 100 percent. Full power is anticipated this weekend.

Columbia safely shut down at approximately 1:30 p.m. Monday when operators received a signal in the control room that an equipment cooling system showed low water volume.

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All shutdown systems, including multiple redundant safety systems, operated as expected and there was no threat to public health or safety. The system involved provides cooling to equipment in the plant, including reactor recirculation pumps and heat exchangers.

“The plant shut down as expected, the equipment responded as expected, and most importantly the operational team did their job as expected during the shutdown,” said Brad Sawatzke, Energy Northwest’s chief nuclear officer. “This was not a nuclear safety issue but the actions we took protected necessary equipment, allowing us to continue meeting our commitment to the region.”

Reactor unplanned shutdowns or scrams are not uncommon in the nuclear industry. On average, one in every two of the nation’s nearly 100 reactors scram annually. Prior to Monday, however, Columbia had not experienced a scram in more than six years, since November 2009, according to Energy Northwest's release.

Columbia Generating Station, a 1,190-megawatt boiling water reactor, produces enough electricity to power a city the size of Seattle and is the third largest generator of electricity in Washington state. All of Columbia’s electricity is sold at-cost to Bonneville Power Administration. Ninety-two Northwest utilities receive a percentage of its output.