Cold Weather Shuts WA Nuke

Wednesday, December 21, 2016 @ 05:12 PM gHale

The Northwest’s only nuclear power plant suffered an unplanned shutdown just before noon Sunday.

The shutdown was the result of an equipment malfunction at the Bonneville Power Administration’s (BPA) substation near the Richland, WA-based Columbia Generating Station, operated by Energy Northwest.

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The cold weather caused the loss of the 500-kilovolt line connecting the nuclear plant’s main output transformers to the substation.

The power plant’s operating crew successfully stabilized the plant and officials for Energy Northwest said it remains safe.

After the outage, crews discovered a leak in the plant’s high-pressure cooling system, a standby system that cools the nuclear reactor core in event of an emergency. The leak was unrelated to the outage, said Mike Paoli, a spokesman for Energy Northwest.

The system leaked water and was a “minor maintenance issue,” Paoli said. The leak ended up fixed by Tuesday night, Paoli said.

A report filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the leak was not an emergency but the plant could not operate until they were able to fix it.

Though the leak is now repaired, the plant will not resume operations until the BPA takes corrective action to prevent the equipment from malfunctioning again, Paoli said.

It will likely be a few days until the plant is operating again, Paoli said.

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