Suit Over Columbia Nuclear Plant Steam Condenser Replacement Goes to Mediation

Litigation between Energy Northwest and Babcock & Wilcox over costly delays during a steam condenser replacement has been put on hold as the companies mediate the case.

The Tri-City Herald reported Saturday that a district court judge suspended proceedings in the Columbia nuclear plant case until this spring, at the earliest. The parties requested the delay partly to avoid the costs and work associated with meeting deadlines for discovery and other legal steps scheduled before mediation is expected to take place in mid-April.

The suit stems from work conducted last year at the boiling water reactor in Central Washington. A refueling outage scheduled to last 80 days took more than twice that time as problems arose with the concurrent steam condenser replacement. B&W has alleged it was not made aware of unfavorable plant conditions before bidding on the $33 million contract and that it was provided incomplete design documents. The suit claims that resulting delays cost the company $50 million.

Plant operator Energy Northwest has suggested B&W was inadequately prepared for the work. The utility forced work stoppages totaling 20 days related to industrial safety concerns regarding contractor personnel, and at one point it hired an additional company to speed completion of the project’s welding.

The reactor returned to service in late September and has been operating at full power.

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