Last Nuke Standing – The Columbia Generating Station

It is time to shut down the Northwest’s Fukushima-style reactor on the banks Columbia River

Dirty, dangerous, and expensive – the Columbia Generating Station has been silently running on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation for the last thirty years.  Energy Northwest (formerly the Washington Public Power Supply System – WPPSS) plans to extend that for another thirty years.  This is an irresponsible risk to the people, the environment, and the economy of the Pacific Northwest.  Rather than courting disaster in return for less than 4% of the region’s electricity, the CGS nuclear plant should be shut as rapidly as possible and its highly radioactive wastes stabilized.

Why Shut the CGS Nuclear Plant Now?

The aftermath of the shocking Fukushima Dai-ichi multiple nuclear plant catastrophe, brought on by March, 2011’s massive Japanese earthquake and tsunami, has refocused many US nuclear critics’ attention on our own commercial fleet of 100 operating nuclear power plants. Here in the Pacific Northwest, with Trojan shuttered since 1993, there is one remaining nuclear power plant still operating – the Columbia Generating Station (CGS).

Located on the Columbia River within Washington’s Hanford nuclear reservation, the CGS nuclear plant is now thirty years old. It was formerly known as Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS) Nuclear Plant #2 – the only nuclear plant completed by Washington public power utilities out of five under construction, leading to what was at the time the largest municipal bond default in US history. WPPSS (pronounced “whoops”) has since changed its name to Energy Northwest.

Almost completely unnoticed during the last three decades of political fights over ending Hanford’s Cold War era bomb-making capability and developing the proper methods of cleaning up that heavily contaminated radioactive waste site, this lone nuclear power plant has been quietly churning away. After Fukushima, a number of individuals and groups in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia took a closer look at the CGS – a plant so shy it took the word “nuclear” out of its name. Ten years in advance of its license expiration, the plant went before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and extended its license until 2043, a full twenty years beyond its designed life.

The CGS nuclear plant is an aging hazard to our river and the entire Pacific Northwest. Here are a few pertinent facts about the plant:

* The reactor is poorly designed, vulnerable to catastrophic radiation releases.  It is a GE Mark II Boiling Water Reactor similar to the four Fukushima Dai-ichi plants that experienced catastrophic accidents in Japan last year. It has an elevated spent fuel pool, inadequately reinforced, identical to one which nearly collapsed at Dai-ichi #4, and still threatens Japan and the North Pacific with another massive release of radioactive material.

* The reactor has the potential to suffer hydrogen explosions.  The CGS nuclear plant also shares the potential problem of improper venting that caused hydrogen explosions at three of the Fukushima reactors when they lost their coolant.

* The local earthquake danger is greater than the plant was designed to withstand.  The CGS nuclear plant is threatened by additional documented earthquake faulting in the Yakima Fold and Thrust belt (see http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2022173243_nukequakesxml.html), putting the nuclear site at greater risk of seismic activity at a ground motion twice the maximum that the plant was designed to withstand.

* We don’t need the power.  According to State of Washington figures, this plant has produced less than 4% of the electricity Pacific Northwest residents consumed over the past decade – and in 2012, due to an extended six month shut down for repairs, it produced even less.  Energy conservation alone could make up the 4% difference, and wind and solar energy are also viable substitutes.

* Shutting it down will save money.  Respected utility economist Robert McCullough estimates that Northwest ratepayers could save $1.7 billion over the next 17 years if the plant is shut down (see http://www.wweek.com/portland/article-21636-costly_to_the_core.html).

Many of us who have looked closely at nuclear power issues believe continuing to operate this aging nuclear plant simply makes no sense. If the true costs are included, the energy produced is extremely expensive and the toxic wastes produced pose an unacceptable health risk.

What can I do?

If you are living in a publicly-owned utility in Washington state, your utility may be a member of Energy Northwest.  YOU may actually be part-owner of the Columbia Generating Station.  Contact one of the groups listed in the next section to find out if this is the case.

* If your utility IS an owner of the nuclear plant, contact your elected representatives and ask them to close the CGS nuclear power plant.

* If your utility IS NOT an owner of the nuclear plant, but you are concerned about the future of the Pacific Northwest and want to help end nuclear power in our region, please work with the groups listed in the next section to research, fundraise, and raise awareness.

Who are we?

Beginning the fall of 2011, a number of environmental groups in the region began to organize against extending the operation of this demonstrably dangerous nuclear plant.  These groups include the Oregon and Washington Chapters of Physicians for Social Responsibility, local chapters of the Sierra Club, Heart of America Northwest, Columbia Riverkeeper, Western Washington Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Ground Zero Community, Oregon Woman’s Action for New Directions, the Alliance for Democracy, and No Nukes Northwest.

Through a series of conferences, rallies, meetings, and strategy sessions, we have coalesced around a multi-pronged effort to demonstrate the unsafe nature of operating this nuclear plant and the manageable consequences of shutting it down.  We are now beginning the process of seeking support throughout the utility districts of Washington, which collectively own the nuclear plant, and of explaining our findings to citizens of the Pacific Northwest, and to appropriate decision-makers and opinion leaders in the region.  The campaign has begun and, with your help, we will win.

For more information:

Contact Oregon and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility’s Director of the Joint Task Force on Nuclear Power.  Chuck Johnson may be reached at (503) 777-2794 or by email at washpsr@gmail.com.  The PSR website has an extensive number of links for further information about nuclear power, its problems, and its consequences: http://www.psr.org/chapters/oregon/environmental-health-/nuclear-power.html

From the Pacific Northwest to Fukushima: the long, tragic trail of failed General Electric Nuclear Plants

From the Pacific Northwest to Fukushima: the long, tragic trail of failed General Electric Nuclear Plants

April 3, 2013 – 11:50 am By paul.koberstein Posted in investigative journalism, nuclear power

Newly found court documents from long ago are raising fresh questions about the safety of nuclear reactors made by General Electric. The documents shed new light on old, unresolved safety problems at GE reactors that still had not been fully addressed by 2011 when nuclear accidents at three GE plants devastated Fukushima, Japan.

GE, the third largest corporation in the world, has designed and built dozens of nuclear reactors around the world since 1958, including six at Fukushima, as well as the Northwest’s only nuclear power plant, the Columbia Generating Station located on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Washington — some 150 miles east of Portland and Seattle.

GE built six similar models of its boiling water nuclear reactor — the BWR 1–6 — and three sizes of containment buildings to protect the public from radiation coming off the reactors — the Mark I, II and III.

BWR

In 1974, GE revealed that in certain accident and non-accident situations, its smallest containment building, the Mark I, and a slightly larger version, the Mark II, could be subjected to “newly discovered” physical pressures that could structurally damage the steel containment and the equipment inside it. Later, GE acknowledged similar problems with the much larger Mark III.

However, as the old court documents reveal, GE’s top nuclear engineers had been expressing serious misgivings about the stability of the containment buildings long before 1972. In memos to their superiors that go back as early as 1964, the engineers questioned whether the reactors could remain stable during an accident scenario nearly identical to the one that unfolded a half-century later at Fukushima. However, they feared that a massive pipe break, rather than an epic earthquake and tsunami, would be the event that triggered the disaster.

The documents also remind us that in the 1990s, GE settled a series of claims made by utilities that had bought GE’s nuclear equipment. The utilities said the containment buildings at 10 plants were defective (see the list at the bottom of this page), equal to one-fourth of all GE nuclear power systems that were ever operated in the United States.

At least four of the disputes led to lawsuits. The lawsuits accused GE of knowingly selling defective reactors as well as committing various other acts such as breach of contract, racketeering and fraud as part of a marketing scheme to foist the reactors upon unsuspecting utilities and the public without their knowledge of the defects or their consent.

In their complaints, the utilities claimed each type of GE containment building — the Mark I, II and III — was defective.

The Richland nuclear power plant, its BWR-5 reactor and its Mark II containment structure were built from 1973–1983. The owner was then known as the Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS), a consortium of 27 publicly-owned utilities in Washington state. The plant is situated on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the most radioactively contaminated site in the country. Hanford, a former nuclear weapons factory, is owned by the US Department of Energy, which leased a portion of the site to WPPSS for operating the commercial nuclear power plant.

In 1999, the nuclear power plant was renamed the “Columbia Generating Station.” The new name, which replaced “Washington Nuclear Plant 2,” obscures the fact that nuclear fuel is what is used there to make electricity.

The name “Washington Public Power Supply System” is gone too. The utility consortium, hoping to rebrand itself in the wake of the financial disaster it created in the 1970s and 1980s, is now called “Energy Northwest.” The old WPPSS (usually pronounced “whoops” for obvious reasons) failed spectacularly while trying to build five nuclear plants at the same time in the 1980s. All but one were cancelled. Construction costs exploded and WPPSS defaulted on $2.25 billion worth of construction bonds in what at the time was the largest municipal bond collapse in US history.

Meanwhile, WPPSS and General Electric couldn’t agree on who was liable for paying to fix the plant’s defects. In 1985 WPPSS sued GE for $1.2 billion. WPPSS claimed that in 1971, when it bought the reactor from GE for $110 million, GE failed to disclose its knowledge about the reactor’s defects. A decade later, WPPSS had to spend another $297 million to rebuild it, delaying the initial start-up by 18 months.

In 1990, during trial in US District Court, Judge Alan A. McDonald said he heard “unrebutted evidence” that GE had falsely claimed that its nuclear plant hardware was “proven and tested” before it was placed on the market.

The proceedings were declared a mistrial after a jury wasn’t able to reach a unanimous verdict. Judge McDonald ruled that WPPSS could base its complaint against GE on negligent misrepresentation rather than on fraud and breach of contract. A second trial was about to start in 1992 when a settlement was reached.

As the Seattle Times reported at the time, GE settled the case for $134.9 million worth of goods and services, but paid no cash. However, GE agreed to increase the power output of the WPPSS reactor by 50 megawatts, an increase that could generate about $16.5 million worth of electricity in a year.

Documents from the case show that GE intended to conduct full-scale tests of the plants only after utilities began operating them in the backyards of communities like Richland, and the neighboring Kennewick and Pasco.

“The Court can only view that as a fairly sophisticated form of Russian roulette,” McDonald wrote.

Russian Roulette is a potentially lethal game of chance in which a player places a single round in a revolver, spins the cylinder, places the muzzle against his head, and pulls the trigger.

Read More: http://times.org/2013/04/03/from-the-pacific-northwest-to-fukushima-the-long-tragic-trail-of-failed-general-electric-nuclear-plants/

 

For Immediate Release

For Immediate Release

February 27, 2013

CONTACTS:

Tom Buchanan, WA Physicians for Social Responsibility, 206-947-6832

Chuck Johnson, OR Physicians for Social Responsibility, 503-777-2794

Leslie March, Sierra Club, 503-547-5479

 

Renowned Nuclear Expert to Speak in Seattle and Vancouver on Columbia Generating Station.

 Northwest’s Only Boiling Water Reactor and Nuclear Power Plant

 

Seattle - Paul Gunter, renowned expert on nuclear issues and director of Beyond Nuclear will speak in Seattle and Vancouver, WA this week.  Gunter has been focusing on the lessons we should have learned from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan nearly two years ago. This includes supporting a shutdown of GE Boiling Water Reactors like the Northwest’s only nuclear power plant, the Columbia Generating Station (CGS) located on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation along the Columbia River.  Gunter will identify the risks and future consequences if we don’t protect our own Fukushima-style boiling water reactor from containment failure.  (http://www.beyondnuclear.org/freeze-our-fukushimas)

A coalition of environmental and citizen action groups including WA/OR Physicians for Social Responsibility, Sierra Club Nuclear Free Campaign, and No Nukes NW are holding public meetings in Seattle, WA, and Vancouver, WA, with Gunter as the keynote speaker.  The coalition is asking the ratepayers of Energy Northwest (a group of NW utilities including the City of Seattle and Clark County formerly known as the Washington Public Power Supply System or WPPSS) to call for a shutdown of the Columbia Generating Station nuclear plant in favor of renewable energy and efficiency.

Miriam German, an organizer with Portland-based No Nukes NW, brings up the question of whether the CGS could survive a Fukushima-like event.  “The plant is located in an area that has seismic activity, wildfires and, according to the Nuclear Regulatory could be vulnerable to floods:  How will this plant hold up in an emergency?  Do we want to find out?“

The coalition cites the boiling water reactor as dirty, dangerous, and expensive.  “This is an irresponsible risk to the people, the environment and the economy of the Pacific Northwest.  Rather than courting disaster in return for less than 4% of the region’s electricity,” says Tom Buchanan, Vice President of Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility.  “The CGS nuclear plant should be shut down as rapidly as possible and its highly radioactive wastes stabilized.”

“It begs the question whether we are truly committed to renewable energy and efficiency when we continue to commit the public’s dollars to a dirty and dangerous boiling water reactor” remarks Leslie March, Sierra Club Nuclear Free Campaign.

Public meetings will be held in:

Seattle, February 27, 2013 7:30 p.m.  University Lutheran Church, 1604 NE 50, Seattle, WA 98115;

Vancouver, February 28, 2013 7:00 p.m.  Clark Public Utility, 1200 Fort Vancouver Way Vancouver, WA 98663

###

 

“EARTH – Too Big To Fail” – Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC)

Friday March 1
EARTH  – TOO BIG TO FAIL
Public Interest Environmental Law Conference
Paul Gunter - How To Shut Down A Nuclear Power Plant
Saturday March 2
EARTH  – TOO BIG TO FAIL
Public Interest Environmental Law Conference
Shut Down CGS
The Public Interest Environmental Law Conference is the premier annual gathering for environmentalists worldwide, and is distinguished as the oldest and largest of its kind. The Conference historically unites more than 3,000 activists, attorneys, students, scientists, and concerned citizens from over 50 countries around the globe to share their experience and expertise. The Conference is organized solely by the volunteers of Land Air Water (LAW), a student environmental law society, and is sponsored by Friends of Land Air Water (FLAW), a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.The four-day Conference includes over 125 panels, workshops, and multi-media presentations addressing a broad spectrum of environmental law and advocacy. Topics include: forest protection and ecological restoration, grazing and mining reform, labor and human rights, air and water pollution, Native American treaty rights, globalization and “free” trade, environmental justice, corporate responsibility, marine wilderness, international environmental law, water rights and dam removal, oil and gas litigation, genetic engineering, and urban growth.

Each day of the Conference culminates with keynote presentations from preeminent activists, scientists, politicians, philosophers, and authors. Past keynote speakers include Robert Kennedy, Ralph Nader, David Brower, Terry Tempest Williams, Ward Churchill, Vandana Shiva, Paul Watson, Winona LaDuke, Gerry Spence, Ramona Africa, Paul Hawken, and several recipients of the international Goldman Environmental Prize.

 

The Conference has become an event full of energy, innovation, and inspiration for all of us involved in the environmental movement. Whether you are a seasoned Conference attendee or a first-time participant, we look forward to seeing you!

1585 E. 13th Avenue Eugene, OR 97403-1279

Mission Statement

Mission Statement

Dirty, Dangerous and Expensive: 

The Columbia Generating Station, which produces less than 4% of the region’s electricity, is an irresponsible risk to the people, the environment, and the economy of the Pacific Northwest.  The CGS nuclear plant should be shut down as rapidly as possible.

About Us

About Us

CGS NNNW WP

Who are we?

Beginning the fall of 2011, a number of environmental groups in the region began to organize against extending the operation of this demonstrably dangerous nuclear plant, the Columbia Generating Station.  These groups included the Oregon and Washington Chapters of Physicians for Social Responsibility, local chapters of the Sierra Club, Heart of America Northwest, Hanford Challenge, Columbia Riverkeeper, the Alliance for Democracy, and a new group – No Nukes NW –  forged of the Portland Occupy movement.

Through a series of conferences, rallies, meetings and strategy sessions, we have coalesced around a multipronged effort to demonstrate the unsafe nature of operating this nuclear plant and the manageable consequences of shutting it down.  We are now beginning the process of seeking support throughout the utility districts of the State of Washington, which collectively own the nuclear plant, and to present our findings to appropriate decision-makers and opinion leaders in the region in order to shut down CGS.

The campaign has begun and we are in it to win it!