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Northwest Nuclear Plant Scores Higher Safety Rating

Federal regulators say the Northwest’s only commercial nuclear power plant is now back on course after an 11-year safety miscalculation. The new designation means the Columbia Generating Station in southeast Washington gets a more relaxed inspection and oversight status.

Between 2000 and 2011, workers at the nuclear plant used faulty estimates for how much radiation could escape during a crisis. That mistake and others were found in an inspection just last year.

Now, in a letter, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the Mid-Columbia plant has improved and corrected the root causes of those issues. That’s good news for Energy Northwest which runs the Columbia Generating Station.

“No, there was no cake and ice cream, but it is something that we strive to achieve and take personal celebrations in achieving I think,” says Angela Walz, a spokeswoman with Energy Northwest.

NRC spokesman Victor Dricks says the agency has a one to five rating scale, with one, being the best, and five meaning the plant should be shuttered. Columbia Generating Station has gone from a level three, back to a level one.

On the Web:

Columbia Generating Station - Energy Northwest
Nuclear reactors - Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.