In Pacific NW, 1 nuclear plant is more expensive to maintain than 31 hydro-electric plants

Washington State has one nuclear power plant that is up for renewal.

Seattle Times science reporter

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RICHLAND — When Washington's only commercial nuclear-power plant applied for license renewal last year, the timing seemed charmed. Hailed as a clean alternative to carbon-belching coal and gas, atomic power was poised for a renaissance.

Operators at the Columbia Generating Station near Richland were so bullish on the technology they talked about expanding with small, modular reactors.

In another Seattletimes article discussing the cost and benefits of nuclear power, the maintenance cost is mentioned.

Looking only at operating and maintenance costs, Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) puts the price at 3.6 cents per kwh. Hydropower costs about 2.8 cents per kwh.

BPA has had to boost rates — including a proposed 8 percent increase for 2012-13 — to pay for upgrades at the nuclear-power plant. According to a 2009 BPA analysis, it costs more to maintain and operate the Columbia Generating Station than all 31 of the hydropower plants in the Columbia Basin combined.

But the plant provides about 10 percent of BPA's electricity, which would have to be replaced if it were shut down.