RICHLAND, Wash. -- Two groups are asking the federal government to shut down Washington state’s only operating nuclear power plant until new seismic studies can be evaluated.
The Oregon and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility sent a letter to the Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) asking it to order the closure of Energy Northwest’s Columbia Generating Station near Richland. The groups said the seismic fitness of the plant is based on 30-year-old geologic information. They said new studies show a much higher possibility of stronger quakes with epicenters much closer to the plant.
The groups pointed out that the Department of Energy halted construction of its nearby Waste Treatment Plant when the new geologic information surfaced in 2005 and upgraded its seismic standards.
Officials at the Columbia Generating Station downplayed the report. Assistant vice President of Engineering David Swank said when the plant was built in the 1970s and 1980s it was constructed to levels far above the predicted seismic risks. He said built-in safety margins would help the plant withstand very powerful quakes. Swank added it has enough back up power on site to prevent any problems like those seen at the Fukishima plant after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. He pointed out that plant withstood the earthquake but was damaged instead by the tsunami.
Geologists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are currently evaluating the new geologic information and the fitness of the Columbia Generating Station. Swank said the plant will abide by those findings.