The suspension requires Energy Northwest, operator of the region’s only nuclear-power plant, to come up with corrective actions within 90 days, and also submit to an inspection and participate in a management inspection.
The state Department of Health last month suspended Energy Northwest, operator of the region’s only nuclear-power plant, from using a low-level nuclear-waste disposal site due to errors in a shipment manifest.
The July 26 suspension, first reported by KING5, requires Energy Northwest to come up with corrective actions within 90 days, and also submit to an inspection and participate in a management inspection.
The company operates the Columbia Generating Station, a boiling-water nuclear reactor located north of Richland. Energy Northwest says the station is the third largest producer of power in Washington state.
An internal Energy Northwest memorandum acknowledges problems in the shipment of low-level radioactive wastes. Written July 26, the same day as the state suspension, it cites “multiple deficiencies with the shipments of radioactive wastes.”
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In addition to a July 20 shipping problem that resulted in the state suspension of shipping, the memo by Robby Peek, an Energy Northwest quality services supervisor, detailed a series of other incidents that violated state and federal requirements.
They include multiple examples of incomplete and inaccurate radioactive shipment documents that were discovered in November 2015.
The July order follows another Health Department suspension of shipping privileges In November 2016 after discovery of an improperly packaged shipment. That incident led to a higher level of oversight by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as well.
Peek wrote the incorrect information increased health and safety risks to the public, and “has led to a loss of regulatory confidence in our ability to accurately document” the packaging and shipping of waste.
Mike Paoli, a spokesman for Energy Northwest, said that the manifest mistake that led to the July suspension by the state did not result in public health or safety risks. He described it is an administrative error that resulted from an incorrect manifest mistakenly being sent along with correctly packaged waste.
Paoli said that a report to respond to the problems is now in draft form, and will be submitted to the state once it has undergone further review.
“The U.S. nuclear industry, and Columbia Generating Station overall, has a stellar safety record,” Paoli said.
Charles Johnson, a plant critic with Oregon and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, said that the state shipping suspension is part of a broader problem of poor performance.
For the last two years, the Columbia Generating Station has ranked in the bottom 25 percent of the nation’s power plants, according to the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, an industry rating group.
Information in this article, originally published Aug. 14, 2017, was corrected Aug. 14, 2017. A previous version of this story inaccurately described the ranking of the plant among Washington state energy producers.