March 24th, 2014 12:45 pm | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: Business, Environment, Politics

Nuclear Plant's Watchdog Pressing Energy Northwest on Accounting of Nuclear Fuel Transaction

cgsColumbia Generating Station - Energy Northwest
A Portland-based consultant who has questioned the high costs of the Pacific Northwest's only nuclear power plant is now engaged in a huge public records battle with its operator, Energy Northwest.

The Tri-City Herald
reports that the utility has estimated it could cost $1.5 million to $3 million to comply with McCullough Research's records request about its purchase of nuclear fuel from a financially-troubled nuclear fuel producer located in Kentucky.

Publicly-funded entities, such as Energy Northwest, are required by law to produce records upon request, but the cost of compliance is often a matter of negotiation between the entity that has the records and the person seeking access.

The Herald notes that the penalty for non-compliance can be high.

"Ignoring the request is not an option, the [Energy Northwest] executive board was told. The University of Washington recently was fined about $700,000 for failing to produce public records, said Energy Northwest attorney Robert Dutton," the paper wrote.

Read more here:

Late last year, energy consultant Robert McCullough's firm published a report examining the operations and economics of the region's only nuclear power plant, the Columbia Generating Station, located on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeastern Washington.

McCullough, whose investigation of Enron's market manipulations built him a national reputation, concluded that the nuclear plant is uneconomical and that closing it could save ratepayers in the regional Bonneville Power system $1.7 billion over the next two decades.

"People who are paying for it," McCullough told WW in a Dec. 11, 2013 cover story, "should want it closed."

Energy Northwest disagreed with that conclusion, which McCullough included in a 200-page report he wrote for the Oregon and Washington chapters of Physicians for Social Responsibility. That group opposes nuclear power for health and safety reasons. also picked up on McCullough's report, focusing on the economics of a complex, $700 million transaction Energy Northwest entered into for long-term fuel supply. McCullough raised questions in his report about the prudence of that transaction.

Although his work for Physicians for Social Responsibility is complete, McCullough remains unsatisfied with Energy Northwest's explanation of the transaction and is seeking further underlying information.

That's not pleasing Energy Northwest.

"I consider this a harassment move just to get in our way, and guess who ends up paying," Sid Morrison, Energy Northwest executive board chairman and former five-term Congressman told the Herald.

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