Nuclear Power Provides A Whole Lot More Than Just Energy
In this case, the study focused on the Columbia Generating Station, operated by Energy Northwest, in eastern Washington State. Performed by the Nuclear Energy Institute, the study found that the power plant, with a nameplate capacity recently increased to 1,207 MW, generates over 9 billion kWhs of emission-free electricity every year, enough to power the City of Seattle.
All while generating more than $690 million in economic output – over $475 million for Washington State and over $215 million for the rest of the United States.
Additionally, the analysis finds that Columbia Generating Station supports almost 4,000 jobs annually. Nuclear power produces more jobs at higher pay than all other energy sources combined(see figures).
The nuclear plant contributes approximately $13.4 million annually in local and state taxes. This includes $5.3 million in privilege taxes, i.e., a tax for the privilege of producing electricity in the State of Washington. Per state statute, privilege taxes are distributed to the state school fund, state general fund, and 37 separate jurisdictions within 35 miles of the power plant.
So it is fortunate that Columbia Generating Station is licensed to operate for another 25 years – at least.
I don’t know how often we have to show these benefits for every nuclear plant before people realize that the cost per kWh in a warped subsidized electricity market isn’t the only measure of economic strength.
Nor is carbon the only positive environmental effect of this nuclear plant. Yes, Columbia Generating Station prevents the emission of over 3.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the same amount released by approximately 778,000 cars every year. But the power plant also does not emit other air pollutants such as mercury and other heavy metals, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide, precursors to acid rain and urban smog.
Whether it’s replacing inefficient lights with light emitting diode fixtures, installing occupancy sensors in office buildings and warehouses, recycling hundreds of tons of plastic, aluminum, paper, cardboard and metal each year, or reducing electrical consumption and fuel use with employee carpooling, installation of electric vehicle charging stations, and removing or replacing purchased gases, Columbia Generating Station has the smallest environmental footprint per kWh of electricity produced of any other type of power station in America.
Columbia Generating Station is the third largest generator of electricity in Washington State, providing 10% of the State’s total generation. All of its electricity is sold at-cost to the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), which sends it out to 92 northwest utilities.
This analyses follows other positive reports on Columbia Generating Station by the Public Power Council and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council that concluded that the power plant saves rate payers $271 million a year compared to replacing the plant with renewables.
Columbia Generating Station has set generation records in five out of the last six years. Just last month, December 2017, the power plant set a new monthly production record, sending more than 867 million kWhs of electricity to the Northwest power grid. That’s a capacity factor of 104%. The unusual cold actually allowed more power to be produced than is normally possible.
Columbia Generating Station produced more electricity for the Northwest power grid during 2016, 9.6 billion kWhs, than any other year in its 32-year history, beating the previous generation record set in 2014 (9.5 billion kWhs). Energy Northwest also operates solar, wind and hydroelectric stations as well, all emission-free.
Columbia Generating Station’s electricity output has been steadily increasing over the past five years in part from work performed during the plant’s biennial refueling and maintenance outages, work that has added roughly 40 MW to its capacity since 2011.
Last year, the Northwest Public Power Association awarded Energy Northwest first place for safety performance. Separately, Washington State’s Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Washington Businesses named Energy Northwest the 2016 Employer of the Year.
It doesn’t get much better for a power company than this. Those states still considering shutting down their nuclear plants need to pay attention.
Dr. James Conca is an expert on energy, nuclear and dirty bombs, a planetary geologist, and a professional speaker. Follow him on Twitter @jimconca and see his book at Amazon.com