The Northwest's only nuclear plant has been approved to operate for an additional 20 years.
The plant's license was due to expire in 2023 but will now be extended through Dec. 20, 2043. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission signed the relicensing documents May 23, in Washington, D.C.
"Nuclear power has its place in the current and future production of electrical power for our nation," said Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire. "I know that it can provide reliable and affordable baseload power over the very long term. It can produce that power without greenhouse gas emissions. That is why I endorsed the relicensing of our plant. It is a cornerstone of power production in the Pacific Northwest."
The Columbia Generating Station has the capacity to produce more than 1,100 megawatts of power, enough to serve a city the size of Seattle. On average, it provides about 10 percent of the power that is marketed by BPA.
"We are very pleased that this reliable, carbon-free resource will continue to be part of the Columbia River Power System for the next 30 years," said BPA Administrator Steve Wright. "The affordability and consistency of nuclear generation provides a strong complement to more seasonal hydropower."
Unlike other resources that are weather dependent, the Columbia Generating Station produces electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week, unless it is shut down for refueling or maintenance. These outages occur every two years during the spring when the Columbia River Basin has ample runoff to generate electricity through the hydroelectric turbines.
Energy Northwest began pursuing license renewal in 2007. The formal application, more than 2,200 pages, was submitted to the NRC in January 2010. The NRC licenses all individuals who either operate or supervise the operation of a commercially owned nuclear power reactor in the United States. BPA provided over $17 million for analysis that contributed to the formal application.
As a Washington state, not-for-profit joint operating agency, Energy Northwest comprises 28 public power member utilities from across the state serving more than 1.5 million ratepayers.