Regional Public Journalism
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Feds Look Over Columbia Generating Station's Disaster Flood Plans

Energy Northwest
The Columbia Generating Station is the Northwest's only commercial nuclear power plant.

The Columbia Generating Station outside Richland, Washington, is the Northwest’s only nuclear power plant. Now, the federal government is auditing the plant to make sure it could weather flooding.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is auditing all nuclear plants across the country for earthquake and flooding plans since the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said the plant managers have to take into account scenarios like an ice dam forming on the Columbia River downstream, the collapse or breach of several dams upstream including Grand Coulee, and massive rainfall.

The Columbia Generating Station’s plan would need to include plans to keep the reactor’s core cool and safe, as well as the spent fuel stored underwater. The plant, run by Energy Northwest, also has to show that it has enough backup generators and pumps installed -- and additional equipment in reserve -- in case of being knocked off the power grid in an emergency.

Although this process is happening across the country, it’s not completely transparent -- the Columbia Generating Station’s plans aren’t public until the NRC does its full review -- and then parts of it may never be, for security reasons.

The federal audit could stretch into 2018.

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.