Report Looks At Columbia Generating Station Safety

Mar 10, 2014
Originally published on March 7, 2014 4:08 pm

RICHLAND, Wash. -- A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists says the Northwest’s only commercial nuclear power plant reported three safety problems in 2013. Officials at the plant say the problems have been fixed.

The Union of Concerned Scientists analyzed how many times the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission sent inspection teams to nuclear plants across the country.

This is the fourth year the scientists' union has released the report. David Lochbaum, who wrote the report, said the safety problems at South-Central Washington’s Columbia Generating Station were minor this year.

But he said it’s important to get even the smallest details right at a nuclear power plant.

“Minimizing the number of small events you have has collateral benefits, in that you fix hardware, you fix training, you fix procedure problems that could contribute to more severe events,” Lochbaum said.

Before this year, the Columbia Generating Station didn’t have any problems mentioned in the union's annual report.

The report notes two security-related incidents at the Washington state nuclear plant. Additonal information for these events is not publicly available. The NRC did not issue any violations for either problem.

A spokeswoman for Energy Northwest, which runs the Columbia Generating Station, said the company self-reported the third problem, which was basically a dirty filter.

An air conditioning unit used to cool a room that cools batteries -– what Energy Northwest refers to as a redundant system -- had a filter that was plugged with silt and debris. NRC inspectors found that the filter had been installed backwards.

“The incidents referred to at Columbia were each quickly resolved and never was the health and safety of the public at risk. Columbia is currently under regular NRC oversight and continues to set local and industry records,” said Angela Walz, an Energy Northwest spokeswoman.

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