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Columbia Generating Station, the lone nuclear plant in the Northwest, was returned to service Thursday after repairs.

COURTESY ENERGY NORTHWEST - Vapor rises from the cooling towers at Columbia Generating Station, a nuclear power plant north of Richland, Wash., along the Columbia River. The Northwest's sole nuclear power plant went back on line Thursday, May 24, after being shut down for six days, according to Energy Northwest, the power plant owner/operator.

Columbia Generating Station, located along the Columbia River north of Richland, Wash. was shut down on May 18 when one of the station's main power transformers automatically disconnected from the transmission system following a grid disturbance. The transformer's protection system sensed an issue and initiated a trip signal, which resulted in a main generator trip that took the plant offline, according to Energy Northwest.

During the interim, the operator completed other maintenance on plant equipment that can only be done when the power plant is offline.

Damon Motz-Storey, clean energy organizer for the Physicians for Social Responsibility, said it's the third time the plant has been shut down for unplanned reasons in the last 18 months. It shut down in August 2017, a month after the plant's waste-shipping license was suspended by the Washington State Department of Health for shipping waste that was seven times more radioactive than labeled, Motz-Storey said. It also was shut down in December 2016.

"It's not as reliable as advertised in meeting the grid's energy needs," he said.

John Dobken, spokesman for Energy Northwest, disputed that, noting the plant has been operating at an average 92 percent capacity over the past five or years.

The nuclear plant is located along the Columbia River on federal property at the Hanford nuclear complex, 10 miles north of Richland.

The plant's location on the Columbia River makes is "a unique health and safety hazard to the Portland region," Motz-Storey said.

COURTESY: ENERGY NORTHWEST - Cooling towers at Columbia Generating Station north of Richland, Wash., the lone nuclear power plant still operating in the Northwest. Opened 35 years ago, Columbia Generating Station is the only power plant built among five once proposed by the failed Washington Public Power Supply System initiative. The consortium of public utility districts or PUDs was often dubbed "Whoops" because of its WPPSS acronym, when the five-plant expansion plan was mired in a longrunning financial scandal.

WPPSS, founded by the Washington Legislature in 1957, was later renamed Energy Northwest.

It serves 27 public power member utilities in Washington, with more than 1.5 million ratepayers.

The nuclear plant's power is sold at cost to the Bonneville Power Administration, and 92 Northwest utilities receive a share of the electricity.

Columbia Generating Station is the third-largest source of energy in Washington.

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