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State's Only Nuclear Power Plant Won't be Sold

by Steve Ernst
Puget Sound Business Journal, February 17, 2003

Energy Northwest will not be putting the state's lone nuclear power plant up for sale, or outsourcing the management of the 1,200-megawatt Columbia Generating Station.

The Richland-based consortium of 16 public utilities that operates the Columbia Generating Station has been studying for the past year the idea of either selling or outsourcing management of the plant.

Spurred by the energy crisis of 2000-01, Energy Northwest initially was studying the feasibility of finishing off what's known as WNP-1, Columbia's dormant sister plant located on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

During that study, several groups expressed interest in acquiring or managing the plant, prompting Energy Northwest to explore the idea of selling Columbia.

Ultimately, Energy Northwest's member utilities opposed the idea over fears it might cause future economic damage to their ratepayers.

The executive board of Energy Northwest said that Columbia was too valuable an asset to the region to hand control over to a third party. The nuclear plant gives the Bonneville Power Administration great flexibility in managing its hydroelectric system and helps keep the region's power bills down.

"It adds diversity to the region's power supply, is the largest generating asset not dependent on weather conditions, does not adversely affect fish or other wildlife and produces no carbon dioxide," the executive board wrote in its review of the nuclear program.

Energy Northwest pledged to manage the plant as efficiently as possible, while looking for ways to help shelter BPA from the increased costs associated with additional security at the plant.

Energy Northwest changed its name from Washington Public Power Supply System in 1999. In the late 1970s, WPPSS proposed a plan to build five nuclear power plants. Only Columbia, also known as WNP-2, was finished and put into operation. Two other plants, WNP-1 and WNP-3, were partially finished before WPPSS defaulted on $2.2 billion worth of bonds.

Puget Sound Energy seeks to defer payment from BPA

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission is expected to grant Puget Sound Energy's request to defer a payment from the Bonneville Power Administration.

Known as the "residential and farm energy benefit," this is a payment investor-owned utilities receive from the BPA for benefits from the federally financed Columbia River hydroelectric system. Customers of public utility districts get power from the BPA at cost, while customers of investor-owned utilities get a subsidy instead.

Bonneville is facing a $1.2 billion budget shortfall over the next three years and would like to defer the payments to help save money in the short term.

Under the plan, the BPA would stop making its residential and farm energy payment to Puget beginning Feb. 15, 2003. That would last until September 2003.

Puget would lose about $27.6 million over the seven-month period. Bonneville would pay the money back over a 60-month period at a 3 percent interest rate.

The deal will save BPA $55 million, but Puget's customers could see their bills climb 75 cents each month until September.

Steve Ernst
State's Only Nuclear Power Plant Won't be Sold
Puget Sound Business Journal, February 17, 2003

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