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Regulators asked to close Washington nuclear plant until crack in cooling system repaired via The Oregonian

Anti-nuclear groups want federal regulators to keep the region’s lone nuclear plant shut down until repairs are made to a cracked pipe that feeds cooling water to the reactor.

The Columbia Generating Station in Richland, Washington, shut down a week ago for scheduled maintenance. Operators said the plant just completed a record 683-day uninterrupted run.

Energy Northwest, the utility consortium that operates the 1,100 megawatt plant, contends said the cracked pipe is a minor repair that doesn’t need to be done immediately. The consortium said activists are seizing on the issue to forward their agenda of seeing the plant shut for good.

The pump is the latest in a growing list of issues that activists have raised about the plant, which they claim is uneconomical, outdated and isn’t designed to withstand the size earthquakes that are possible at the site.

The Physicians for Social Responsibility on Wednesday petitioned the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to suspend the plant restart until the pipe has been repaired. The group contends the fix is crucial in light of recent seismic studies showing that a major earthquake could cause more ground movement at the plant than designed to withstand.

Energy Northwest was required to deliver its own seismic review of the site to Nuclear Regulatory Commission in March. But the commission on Tuesday gave Energy Northwest another two years analyze how the expected ground movements would impact structures at the plant.

The petition said that the crack or any other pipe damage during an earthquake could cause water to drain more rapidly from the reactor, affecting the ability to keep the radioactive core cool.

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