Statement to the Seattle City Council
By Roger Lippman, May 24, 2016
As a Seattle
voter, I encourage your support for the resolution directing
City Light to carefully evaluate the operation of the
WPPSS-2 nuclear reactor (now going under the sanitized name
Columbia Generating Station).
summarize concisely the problems I see with the continued
operation of the nuclear reactor, which provides a small
fraction of the electricity used in the city and the state.
I hope that
City Light will study these issues and come to the
conclusion I have: the plant should be shut down.
Its production costs are higher than the market value of
electricity produced in this region. A recent economic
study demonstrates that regional ratepayers would save
over $200 million annually if the plant were to be shut
down. Also, the cost of decommissioning is increasing
faster than the rate of inflation, so shutting it down
sooner saves money, since it eventually had to be shut
down anyway, no matter what.
This reactor is a similar design to the Fukushima
reactor and subject to a similar breakdown from
unpredictable catastrophes. Japan had a nuclear energy
program that was respected for operating within
anticipated safety concerns. Unfortunately, it was the
unanticipated, perhaps unforeseeable risks that they
didn’t anticipate or foresee. The same must be said
The risk of an earthquake at that location is twice what
was understood when the plant was built, so it is
under-engineered. Structures currently built in the area
must meet much higher seismic standards, but the nuclear
power plant has not been retrofitted to meet those
higher standards. Indeed, it probably would be
uneconomic to do so. If it costs too much to make it
safe to operate, should it be operating?
There is plenty of surplus power available in the state.
We have seen the absurd situation of cheap, safe wind
turbines being shut down so that the expensive,
dangerous nuclear plant can continue to operate. It's
time to transition to clean, safe energy. It's also time
to invest in retraining nuclear workers for what is
surely the wave of the future – solar and wind power,
which create a lot more jobs than nuclear power.
The City of
Seattle needs to take a strong position in support of
shutting down this dangerous, unnecessary power plant. We
need to provide regional leadership.