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Oregon and Washington PSR Join Forces to Shut NW Nuclear Plant
The campaign to close the Columbia Generating Station, formerly known as WPPSS Nuclear Plant #2

By Chuck Johnson, Director, OR/WA PSR Joint Task Force on Nuclear Power

The aftermath of the shocking Fukushima Dai-ichi multiple nuclear plant catastrophe, brought on by last year’s massive Japanese earthquake and tsunami, has refocused many US nuclear critics’ attention on our own commercial fleet of about 100 operating nuclear power plants. Here in the Pacific Northwest, with Trojan shuttered since 1992, 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 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, PSR chapters in Oregon and Washington took a closer look at the CGS – a plant so shy it even took the word “nuclear” out of its name. Ten years in advance of its license expiration, the plant was up before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission asking to extend its license until 2043, a full twenty years beyond its designed life.

Last fall, former Oregon PSR staff member Maye Thompson RN, PhD organized a working group of PSR members and other interested activists to see what could be done to oppose relicensing and help to shut down the plant. Shortly after that, Washington PSR Vice President Tom Buchanan began giving talks criticizing the CGS nuclear plant, activating a group in Vancouver, BC and organizing a conference in March that featured Dr. Helen Caldicott, Arne Gunderson, PhD, and former US Department of Energy official Bob Alvarez.

A meeting of the minds between the PSR chapters ensued, culminating in the decision to form an official joint task force on nuclear power and to hire me as a part-time staff member to coordinate our efforts. From the Oregon side, active Task Force members include Oregon PSR Board President John Pearson, MD, Hanford Advisory Board Member John Howieson, MD, Board Member John Bartels, volunteer-extraordinaire Jennifer James-Long, nuclear power opponents Lloyd Marbet and Cathryn Chudy, and Executive Director Kelly Campbell. I officially began work on July 1, 2012. We will be convening groups of citizens living in the public utility districts that, together, own the Columbia Generating Station nuclear plant – including Seattle City Light, Clark County Public Utility District (PUD), and other Columbia River county PUDs. Together we will demand a shutdown of the nuclear plant and a firm ‘no’ to a recent proposal to build an experimental reactor on the former WPPSS #1 site next to it.

The CGS nuclear plant has now received its twenty year license extension and is an aging hazard to our river and the entire Pacific Northwest. Here are a few pertinent facts about the plant:

  • 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 identical elevated spent fuel pool, inadequately reinforced, to one which has cracked at Dai-ichi #4, now threatening Japan and the north Pacific with another, even more massive, release of radioactive material.
    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. Neither of these issues, nor the additional documented earthquake faulting in the Yakima Fold and Thrust belt, putting the nuclear site at greater risk of seismic activity, were considered in the relicensing process.

  • According to State of Washington figures, this plant has produced less than 5% of the electricity Washingtonians consumed over the past decade – and last year, due to an extended six month shut down for repairs, it produced even less.

  • Many of us who have looked closely at nuclear power issues believe that relicensing 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.

If you wish to join our task force on nuclear power, please contact us.


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