Nuclear Power To Rescue US Northwest from Cold and Low Wind/Hydro

Nukes to the rescue.

“low stream flows, high natural gas prices and the very cold weather and low wind.”

For most of the month of February the Northwest’s only nuclear power plant has been under a “no touch” order to help keep the heat on across the region.

The Bonneville Power Administration, which markets the electricity produced at the nuclear plant near Richland, asked for the restriction during an unusually cold February across the state that increased the demand for electricity.

The policy limits any maintenance activity that would either require a reduction in power or would pose a risk to sustaining 100 percent production, said Mike Paoli, spokesman for Energy Northwest.

“No touch” is occasionally requested by BPA when unusually hot or cold weather increases demand for electricity.

For instance, in August 2017 the nuclear power plant was under the policy for about a week.

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But in February the plant was under a no touch policy for 23 of the past 26 days.

It restricted maintenance activities not only at the nuclear reactor, but also on its turbine generator and in the transformer yard.

The exception was for an hour or so on Feb. 16 when BPA agreed that it would be a good idea to do one of the periodically scheduled nuclear plant control rod adjustments.

Although the plant powered down by 30 percent, the change helped optimize power production, Paoli said.

Columbia Generating Station has the capability to produce 1,207 megawatts, which is typically enough energy to power Seattle and part of its metro area. It is the third largest electricity generator in the state.

The nuclear plant helps protect BPA from having to go out on the open market to buy power, said David Wilson, a BPA spokesman.

“We asked them for the “no touch order,” because of low stream flows, high natural gas prices and the very cold weather,” he told the Herald.

The cold snap comes as water flows that spin dam turbines are low and wind generation is not at peak production.

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