Seattle Anti-Nuke Resolution Compromise Keeps CGS Running
June 3, 2016
The Seattle City Council unanimously approved a
resolution May 31 opposing the use of fossil fuels and
“new” nuclear energy, while also “requiring an ongoing
evaluation of existing nuclear power generation on the
basis of health, safety, reliability and cost.”
Resolution 31667 directs Seattle City Light “to reflect
this position in its policies and interactions with other
utilities, federal and state agencies, and organizations of
which it is a member or participant,” including Energy
Northwest, owner of the Columbia Generating Station,
the region’s only nuclear plant.
Chuck Johnson, Joint Nuclear Power Task Force
director for the Physicians for Social Responsibility’s
Oregon/Washington chapter, said the resolution
represents compromise language reached in negotiations
with the mayor and general manager of City Light, who
rejected earlier language advocating that City Light work
with ENW to close CGS “as rapidly as possible.”
City Light was “not gung-ho” about this, Johnson
said, but agreed the language was a “reasonable
Citing Washington state statistics, the resolution noted
that City Light’s generation fuel mix included 4 percent
nuclear—all of it from CGS—1 percent coal, and less than
1 percent natural gas. The utility—which proclaims itself
the “nation’s greenest utility”—says it has been carbon-
neutral since 2005, when it began purchasing carbon offsets.
Carbon-based replacement power was envisioned in a
study by energy consultant Robert McCullough, who said
the region could save $1.7 billion by shutting down CGS
early. This was part of the original resolution language
submitted by PSR to the city, which Seattle Mayor Ed
Murray rejected because of Seattle’s commitment to
non-carbon power, Johnson said.
Johnson said PSR is now looking at how to replace
CGS with affordable non-carbon resources. “That seems to
be the way we could potentially get consensus,” he said.
The resolution does not address the cost of power, and
neither City Light nor the mayor’s office returned calls
Energy Northwest spokesman Mike Paoli called the
resolution “unfortunate,” adding, “But we do not believe
it is necessarily indicative of opinions across the City
of Seattle government. We don’t have any illusion that
Seattle has a pro-nuke posture, but we don’t think they
are anti-nuclear either.”
The resolution reflects “a lot of bad information from
people who have a vested interest,” Paoli said.
“Nuclear is clean, affordable energy,” he added.
“I’d like to hope that at some point in the near future, the
enormous value of nuclear power will be reconsidered.”
PSR’s Johnson said the resolution is an incremental
step that requires the city to promote and “build
momentum” for the policy at groups it is a member of,
such the Public Power Council and Energy Northwest.
Mike Jones, City Light’s representative on the ENW
board of directors, told Clearing Up that he doesn’t see
the resolution as “seriously different from what we have
“We consistently use that position to push Energy
Northwest to make sure the focus is on reliability, safety
and cost, and this really just clarifies what we have been
doing and makes it policy that we will continue to do
that,” Jones said. “I don’t see it as a big departure.”
The resolution came to the full council after being
approved on a 3-0 vote of the council’s Energy and
Environment Committee May 24, where 11 people—
including representatives of the Northwest Energy
Coalition, Heart of America and Sierra Club—spoke in
favor of the resolution, while three spoke against it.
Many of the supporters appeared to believe the
resolution was for shutting down CGS and cited nuclear
waste and CGS’s similarity to the failed Japanese
Fukushima plant—and CGS’s 1970’s-era seismic
specifications—as reasons for their support. But the
compromise resolution speaks only of “new” nuclear
power, and two of the opponents said new nuclear
technology, in addition to being safer, allows for the
recycling and/or burning of all nuclear waste.
While ENW opposed the resolution, Johnson said
ENW’s recent efforts to test member interest in a new
nuclear plant fell short, with only about a half-dozen
members expressing interest in a new nuclear facility
ENW’s Paoli flatly denied that claim. He said the only
new nuclear project ENW has worked on is the Carbon
Free Power Project, a series of small modular reactors
from NuScale that the Utah Associated Municipal Power
Systems has proposed. ENW has secured a first-right-of-
offer for operation and maintenance.
Paoli said the 11-member ENW Executive Board
voted unanimously last September to provide UAMPS
nuclear consulting services, for which it has been
reimbursed about $100,000 to date. Some ENW members
toured NuScale’s facilities in Corvallis, Ore., he said,
but no other votes or attempts to solicit participation from
members for any nuclear project has occurred.
ENW hopes to find out by August if UAMPS will go
forward with the project [Ben Tansey].