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Federal 'Special Inspection' Begins At Columbia Generating Station

Energy Northwest
File photo of the Columbia Generating Station near Richland, Washington.

The federal government Monday started up a special inspection at the Northwest’s only nuclear power plant. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC, is looking into why a shipment of low-level nuclear waste was mislabeled and too radioactive.

In early November, workers at the Columbia Generating Station in southeast Washington shipped a package of low-level nuclear waste to a disposal facility about 10 miles away.

But when the package of filters arrived, workers noticed a higher radioactive dose coming off the package than there was supposed to be. In fact, workers measured seven times more dose than recorded in the shipment’s manifest.

The questionable package was sent back to the power plant -- and it’s still there. But now, three NRC inspectors will spend this week at the plant to figure out how that too-hot waste got shipped.

The special inspection will look at what broke down when the plant packaged up this radioactive waste. And if the new measures the plant has put in place are enough.

The NRC stressed in a press release there is now no risk to the public. But if there had been an accident with the container of waste in question, the public could have been exposed to radiation levels “in excess of NRC limits.”

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.