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Pacific Northwest Relying On Nuclear Energy During Cold Snap

Slashdot reader Lije Baley writes: As the unusually long cold snap in the Pacific Northwest has both increased electric demand while decreasing snow melt and stream flows needed for hydroelectric generation, local power companies are asking their customers to conserve energy. Meanwhile, the region’s last remaining nuclear plant has been a critical low-carbon resource for keeping the lights and heat on, as Forbes reports. “As reported by Annette Cary of the Tri-City Herald, the Bonneville Power Administration, which markets the electricity produced at the nuclear plant near Richland, asked Energy Northwest, the operator of the power plant, not to do anything that would prevent the plant from producing 100% power at all times during an unusually cold February across the state that increased the demand for electricity â” no maintenance activities, even on its turbine generator and in the transformer yard,” reports Forbes. “Don’t do anything that would stop the reliable and constant power output of nuclear.”

“‘No Touch’ is requested by BPA when unusually hot or cold weather increases the demand for electricity, notes Mike Paoli, spokesman for Energy Northwest,” the report adds. “Many regional transmission and system operators across the United States ask nuclear plants to keep running during extreme weather because nuclear plants are the least affected by bad weather. Columbia Generating Station has the capability to produce 1,207 MW, which is enough energy to power Seattle. And it is usually putting out all of this power at all times. Energy Northwest already has a diverse mix of non-fossil fuel generating systems that, in aggregate, produce over 10 billion kWhs of electricity each year while emitting less than 20 gCO2/kWh. The No Touch order at the Columbia Generating Station is expected to be lifted soon, although continued cold weather could require it to keep producing max power.”

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