energy

Department of Energy

Washington state played a key role in helping the U.S. develop nuclear weapons. The Department of Energy hails the Hanford site as an “engineering marvel.” It was the first large scale plutonium production facility in the world and was erected in a mere thirteen months. Now lawmakers want to make part of the site a national park, along with nuclear facilities in Tennessee and New Mexico.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

The Bonneville Power Administration’s long-serving chief is stepping down. Steve Wright was the acting BPA administrator in 2000, when the western U.S. was struggling with an energy crisis. He served as permanent head for a decade and now says he’s retiring in January.

CH2MHill / Northwest News

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu fielded questions about safety at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation Friday. He assured hundreds of workers listening in a Richland park that challenges in the massive cleanup of radioactive waste are getting attention at the highest level.

Secretary Chu said he’s really serious about wanting safety at Hanford. He’s particularly focused on the site’s $12 billion waste treatment plant, now under construction. It’s meant to stabilize 56 million gallons of radioactive waste.

The first debate between the leading candidates for Washington governor took place Tuesday in Spokane. The candidates were asked for their stance on the coal export issue. EarthFix’s Ashley Ahearn reports.

Since 1978, one eastern Washington county has out-produced all other wheat-growing counties in the U.S. But what to do with all the leftover straw? Reporting for EarthFix, Courtney Flatt explains a group of students at Washington State University has found a way to provide power from farmers’ scraps.

Researchers have developed a fuel cell that could one day power your neighborhood. From EarthFix, Courtney Flatt explains, this new system is much more efficient than power plants.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu plans to visit the Hanford Nuclear Reservation next week to discuss the site’s safety culture. Chu’s fly-in comes just as the Hanford Advisory Board struggles this week to settle on its official advice on the safety culture at the southeast Washington complex. Correspondent Anna King reports.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber Tuesday released plans to increase renewable energy in the state. Both Washington and Idaho already have energy plans in place. Reporting for EarthFix, Courtney Flatt has more.

Image via U.S. Senate / U.S. Senate

A high level whistleblower at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is moving ahead with a lawsuit against a federal contractor. But Walt Tamosaitis would have to appeal in order to take the federal government to court. At issue is the safety culture at Hanford.

Walt Tamosaitis sued the U.S. Department of Energy and contractor URS after he was removed from his job. He claims it was retaliation for raising safety concerns about the $12 billion waste treatment plant going up in southeast Washington.

A California American Indian tribe Tuesday asked federal regulators to order the removal of four dams on the Klamath River. The tribe says a restoration plan for the river is stalled. Amelia Templeton reports.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

Hundreds of employees of the Northwest’s only commercial nuclear power plant celebrated Thursday. The Columbia Generating Station now is licensed to run for another 20 years. Correspondent Anna King was there.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the new 20 year license. That means the plant in southeast Washington will send up plumes of steam, visible for long distances across the desert until 2043. It took employees 5 years to finish the application process. Carl Adrian heads the Tri-City Development Council. He says the plant is an important employer here, but it’s more than that.

Longview Considers Coal Exports At Former Aluminum Plant

May 24, 2012

Residents of Longview, Wash., want to see a new industry take over the old Reynolds aluminum smelter site south of town. But they disagree over whether a proposed coal export terminal will be a good fit. Cassandra Profita reports.

The natural gas industry is interested in mineral rights in a Northwest wildlife area. Aaron Kunz explains.

This month, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission authorized the state to auction off the mineral rights for nearly 400 acres in the Payette River Wildlife Management Area. The auction could take place in late July.

Suzanne Budge is with the Idaho Petroleum Council. She explains why the company, Snake River Oil and Gas, is interested in the mineral rights.

Water Conservation Linked to Energy

May 18, 2012

A Northwest environmental group is offering a new reason to conserve water: it’s a way to save energy and shrink your carbon footprint. Aaron Kunz explains.

Conservation group Idaho Rivers United monitored 15 water providers in western Idaho to see how much energy they used. It’s the first research of its kind in the country -- and it’s attracting attention.

Liz Paul of Idaho Rivers United says the group hopes the information gives the public a new way of thinking about the water they use.

Doling out water in the arid western United States is tough to do. There’s not much to be had, and everyone wants a fair share. What’s fair? It depends who you ask. But as correspondent Courtney Flatt reports, one basin in central Washington is finding a way for fish, farmers and communities to have enough water.

Photo courtesy of Bechtel National, Inc.

An independent oversight team from the Department of Energy is visiting the Hanford Nuclear Reservation this week. Richland Correspondent Anna King explains why.

The agency is called the Department of Energy’s Office of Health, Safety and Security or H.S.S. It’s responsible for enforcing the Energy department’s self regulation of nuclear safety, worker health and safety and information security.

Oregon Governor Wants Power Users To Help Meet Clean Energy Goals

May 10, 2012
Oregon State Governor's Office

Gov. John Kitzhaber said Thursday that power customers could play a bigger role in the state's clean energy future. He spoke at the Northwest Smart Grid Summit in Portland.

The governor says a smarter power grid can help Oregon reach his 10 year goals for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

For example, Kitzhaber says, projects are underway to install two way electric meters in people’s homes. The meters will allow utilities to tell their customers when and where they're using the most energy. That information could prompt customers to reduce their energy use to save money.

Hundreds Rally Against Coal Exports In Portland

May 8, 2012

Hundreds of people gathered at Portland's Pioneer Square today to protest coal export projects in the Northwest. Cassandra Profita reports.

The Department of Energy says it’s considering whether to require a Hanford contractor to pay back a $15 million bonus. A new federal report says the bonus was for mixing tanks that managers have since been unable to prove are up to nuclear standards. Correspondent Anna King reports.

Wind farms along the Columbia River were asked to shut down for about 10 hours over the weekend. For the second year in a row, spring rain and snowmelt have led to an oversupply of hydropower on the Columbia River. Amelia Templeton reports.

Courtesy of Riverbank Power

If you thought the great dam building era of the Northwest was long over, you might be mistaken. But we're not talking about damming rivers here. This is about building long earthen dams to make new off-stream hydropower reservoirs. They're being designed to act as giant batteries and shock absorbers for the electric grid. Correspondent Tom Banse explains.

Photo courtesy of NRC.gov

The utility Energy Northwest is launching a new TV ad campaign to improve the image of nuclear power. But as correspondent Anna King reports, the ads touting nuclear energy as green might be a tough sell.

Energy Northwest operates the only commercial nuclear power plant in the region. It’s called the Columbia Generating Station in Richland.

The Port of Coos Bay is negotiating with three companies interested in building a coal export facility on Oregon’s South Coast. Through interviews and records requests, EarthFix has learned the identities of two companies involved in the deal. Amelia Templeton reports.

Coos Bay is one of six ports in the northwest pursuing a deal to build a coal export terminal. The coal would come from mines in Montana and Wyoming. If the companies reach a deal with the port, it won’t be the first time coal is big business on Oregon’s south coast.

Photo credit: Ashley Ahearn / KUOW

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Canadian pipeline operators are considering expanding the line that brings oil from the Alberta Oil Sands to western British Columbia. Environmentalists and others say that raises the potential for oil spills in Northwest waters and, it involves a different type of oil.

Right now the Trans Mountain pipeline moves 300,000 barrels of oil per day to an export terminal near Vancouver, B.C. If the Canadian government approves the expansion that amount could almost triple. More oil in the pipeline means more oil loaded onto large tanker ships. Those ships will eventually head out the Strait of Juan De Fuca to the Pacific.

Photo by Ildar Sagdejev / Wikimedia Commons

RICHLAND, Wash. – New research has found that commercial building owners can chop their heating and cooling costs nearly in half by implementing a few energy efficient controls.

Those big rooftop heating and cooling systems you see on top of supermarkets and strip malls could produce big savings for building owners. Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., studied buildings across the country. They used computer simulations to find an average savings of 25 to 35 percent after retrofitting existing systems. Srinivas Katipamula led the study.

Why A Sociologist Is Part Of Building A Better Power Grid

Apr 12, 2012
Photo credit: U.S. Dept. of Energy / Photo courtesy U.S. Dept. of Energy

PULLMAN, Wash -- Washington State University announced it’s created a new research center. It will look for ways to bring the country’s aging electricity system in line with 21st century power needs. Besides experts in energy and computer science, the assembled team of researchers includes sociologists and psychologists.

United States Department of Energy

RICHLAND, Wash. – A new report says the geothermal industry is steadily growing. projects are planned throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Although renewable energy development faces uncertainties with production tax credit extensions, the Geothermal Energy Association says its industry is expanding. A new report found about 150 projects in the works in the western United States.

Ashley Ahearn / N3

Six ports in the Northwest are now considering building export terminals to bring American coal to Asian markets. One of those ports is Grays Harbor – west of Olympia. 5 million tons of coal could move through that port each year. If that coal is burned in places like China that would be the same as putting about two and a half million new cars on the road. But the new terminal represents much-needed jobs in this county – and that has people talking.

Photo credit: Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

The region’s main electricity wholesaler, the Bonneville Power Administration, has major shortcomings with regards to its cyber security and computer systems. That’s according to a report released today by the Department of Energy’s investigative arm.

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