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Energy Northwest Mum on Evaluation

by Chris Mulick, Herald staff writer
Tri-City Herald, March 17, 2005

OLYMPIA -- Energy Northwest's performance in an industry group's evaluation of nuclear plant operations is slipping.

The public power consortium won't talk about the details of its most recent evaluation by the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations or even give its score, citing an INPO policy that its members not talk about its reviews as a condition of membership.

But the utility said the INPO described Energy Northwest performance as "generally in keeping with the high standards required in nuclear power" but that "a few significant weaknesses may exist."

That's language that historically correlated with a score of 3 on the INPO's score range of 1 to 5, with 1 being the highest. Energy Northwest received a 1 in 2000. That score was downgraded to a 2 in Energy Northwest's last evaluation.

In an interview, Energy Northwest spokesman Brad Peck said that rating recently was degraded further after a team of evaluators visited in January.

"Our company leadership was disappointed by the INPO numerical rating, but they are quick to acknowledge that the assessment was fair and comprehensive," he said in a prepared statement.

Peck said the INPO didn't have concerns about the 1,157-megawatt Columbia Generating Station's safety systems but raised questions about reliability.

"INPO gave us a solid evaluation, and we've already begun tackling the areas they identified as needing some work," Vic Parrish, Energy Northwest's chief executive, said in a prepared statement.

Though the evaluation's review period included the end of the plant's longest-ever continuous run, it also included lengthy delays in coming out of what turned into a near four-week-long unplanned outage last summer.

Energy Northwest won't provide more details about the INPO report because it is considered "a proprietary document we don't own," Peck said.

"We being public power, it gets kind of gray, I admit," he said.

Energy Northwest paid $731,884 in annual dues to the INPO in December and also must provide a loaned employee or executive each year.

Peck said Energy Northwest's long-term performance suggests the Columbia Generating Station is reliable and points to Nuclear Regulatory Commission ratings that remain strong.

Chris Mulick
Energy Northwest Mum on Evaluation
Tri-City Herald, March 17, 2005

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