The Bonneville Power Administration is considering whether it would save money by no longer buying power from the Washington Public Power Supply System’s nuclear power plant on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.
BPA, the federal agency that markets electricity in the region, is simply considering all cost-saving alternatives, said spokeswoman Dulcy Mahar.
“All of our resources are on the table for re-examination,” Mahar said. “Plant No. 2 is far from the only thing being looked at but it’s on the table. There are no sacred cows here.”
Bonneville cannot shut down the plant but it has control over the supply system’s budget because it buys all of the plant’s power.
The plant is known as No. 2 although it was the only one completed of the supply system’s five planned nuclear power plants. The plant supplies about 10 percent of BPA’s power needs.
Examining the cost-efficiency of the plant is part of a cost-cutting effort.
“We’ve been trying to tighten our belt for the last two years to try to stay competitive,” Mahar said. “The market has moved faster than even we imagined and we have competitors who are actually offering to take a loss for a number of years to buy into the market. We’re faced with competition for the first time in Bonneville’s 57-year history.”
Supply system spokesman Richard Romanelli was not surprised by the review.
“It’s not at all unexpected for Bonneville to look at Plant No. 2’s costs. BPA has been pretty forthcoming over the past couple years (and) given us a pretty plain message that we have to be competitive if we want to continue operating,” he said.
The nuclear power plant won’t be competitive unless it can bring down the cost of power to 27 mils, or 2.7 cents, per kilowatt hour, BPA said. Over the past two years, the cost of power from the plant, not including debt service, was 34.7 mils per kilowatt hour, BPA said.
“Plant No. 2 has got to live up to the same test we apply to everything else: If it doesn’t help us be competitive, it’s not going to be around,” Mahar said. “It’s got to prove its value.”
Romanelli said the supply system is working to make the plant more efficient.