Humboldt Bay Power Plant

PG&E's Humboldt Bay Power Plant (HBPP) is located just South of Eureka near the mouth of Humboldt Bay, in Humboldt County, California.

Prior to construction of the units at the Humboldt Bay Power Plant site, power to the Eureka area was supplied by a small steam plant fueled by lumber mill and logging waste. It was supplemented by the steam electric plant of the SS Donbass III, a World War II Russian Lend-Lease tanker that had broken in half. The stern of the tanker was tugged down to Eureka, beached, cleaned up, and wired into the Eureka electric system. The General Electric Company turbine-generator was in excellent shape, and in January 1947, the SS Donbass III power house went on line.

The Humboldt Bay Power Plant was conceived in the early 1950's because the area demand for power was growing. Unit 1 which was commissioned in 1956 and Unit 2 which was commissioned in 1958 provided power to Humboldt County for 54 years and 52 years, respectively. The nuclear power plant, Unit 3, was commissioned in August 1963, and operated as a 65 megawatt natural circulation boiling water reactor with Atomic Energy Commission License #7. Unit 3 was shut down in 1976 for refueling and seismic upgrades. Repairs subsequently extended the planned shutdown period and in that interval, there were significant changes to nuclear safety standards for reactor operation and design. Ultimately, the decision was made that further modifications were not economical, and that Unit 3 would not be restarted. In 1983, PG&E announced its intention to decommission Unit 3, and in 1986, PG&E requested an NRC license amendment for SAFSTOR, a condition which would permit Unit 3 to store nuclear fuel, but not operate. This SAFSTOR license was received in 1988.

The HBPP Nuclear Decommissioning Project was approved by the PG&E Executive Project Committee on October 6, 2009. The decommissioning of Unit 3 is scheduled to be complete by December 31, 2015. Work at HBPP involves a number of projects, some completed, and some continuing.

Nuclear Plant Decommissioning

The project to decommission and remove the nuclear plant (Unit 3) is being performed by a group of contractors managed by PG&E. The project will span a period of several years. The decommissioning has begun by removing radioactive Unit 3 components, piping and some structures. Subsequently, remaining structures and materials will be decontaminated or removed to permit building demolition. At the conclusion of the demolition, site restoration will be performed. At the end of the project, the structures remaining on the site will be the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI), the Humboldt Bay Generating Station (HBGS), the switchyard, and limited office space.

This photo shows a mural, commisisoned August 2010, commemorating the legacy of the plant, on the outside of an Office Building that will remain.

As of April, 2012, the project progress includes:

  • Completed construction of the the Independent Spend Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI). Spent nuclear fuel was transferred from the Unit 3 Spent Fuel Pool to the ISFSI in 2008.
  • Completed construction of the Humboldt Bay Generating Station (HBGS) in 2010, permitting decommissioning of Units 1 and 2.
  • Above grade demolition of Units 1 and 2 was completed in 2011 to provide space for the final stages of Unit 3 decommissioning and demolition.
  • Successful removal of large Unit 3 components (Transformers, Turbine, Generator and Condenser) and safe transport of these oversized, overweight shipments to their disposal sites.
  • Reactor vessel segmentation and removal has begun. Completion is scheduled for year-end 2012.

Humboldt Bay Generating Station (HBGS)

HBGS began commercial operation September 28, 2010 with technology that will provide cleaner and more reliable electricity to Humboldt County. The Generating Station consists of 10 reciprocating engines (model 18V50DF, manufactured by Wärtsilä). With 163 MW total output, HBGS provides power to approximately 120,000 homes. HBGS is 33 percent more efficient than the old HBPP fossil fuel Units 1and 2 with 83 percent fewer ozone precursors and 33 percent fewer CO2 emissions. It uses a closed loop cooling system with negligible water usage, eliminating the need to use water from Humboldt Bay for once-through cooling. The Wärtsilä reciprocating engine technology is ideal for providing a reliable backup to intermittent renewable resources such as wind power that are currently being developed in the region. HBGS will normally run on natural gas with ultra-low sulfur diesel as its backup fuel.

The HBGS engine building.

Humboldt Bay Power Plant Fossil Units

There were four fossil-fueled units at PG&E's Humboldt Bay Power Plant (HBPP); two steam boiler plants (52 and 53 MW for Units 1 and 2, respectively) and two trailer-mounted Mobile Emergency Power Plants (MEPPs), which were placed at the plant in 1976 to produce additional power after the shutdown of the nuclear Unit 3. Each MEPP used a jet engine and gas turbine to drive an electric generator to produce electricity. The steam boilers were primarily fueled by natural gas (with an option of fuel oil as a backup) and the two combustion turbines used diesel oil for fuel.

Unit 1 was retired Thursday afternoon, September 30, 2010 after 54 years of service. Unit 2 was retired Wednesday evening, September 27, 2010 after 52 years of service. The existing Humboldt Bay Power Plant Units 1 and 2 and the two combustion turbine units were replaced by the 10 new units of the Humboldt Bay Generating Station (HBGS).

Photo shows intermediate stage of Unit 1 and 2 decommissioning, with the structure wrapped in white membrane for safe asbestos abatement.

Related Information

Humboldt Bay Power Plant - Unit 3 Nuclear Decommissioning Team

  • Loren Sharp, Director and Nuclear Plant Manager
  • John Albers, Rad Protection Manager
  • Robert Arroyo, Site Services Manager
  • Andrew Cordone, Project Superintendent
  • Kerry Rod, Decommissioning Manager
  • Mark Smith, Engineering Manager

Community Advisory Board (CAB)

The HBPP Community Advisory Board meets regularly to provide a public perspective on plant activities. PG&E would like to thank the following people for their participation.

  • John Driscoll, Field Representative, The Office of U.S. Representative Mike Thompson
  • Mariann Hassler, Representative, Humboldt and Del Norte Counties Building & Construction Trades Council
  • Michael Manetas, HSU Environmental Resources Engineering Dept., Retired
  • Matthew Marshall, Executive Director, Redwood Coast Energy Authority
  • Dave Meserve, Member, City of Arcata Nuclear Weapons Free Zone and Peace Committee
  • Paul Meyers, Superintendent/Principal, South Bay Unified School District
  • Holly Nash, Member, South Bay Union School Site Council
  • Ross Nash, Board Member, South Bay Union School District
  • Julie Owens, Resident, King Salmon
  • Jimmy Smith, 1st District Supervisor, Humboldt County Board of Supervisors
  • Dr. Angus Stewart, Resident, King Salmon
  • Donna Stoneman, Former Resident, Humboldt Hill
  • Don Tuttle, Humboldt County Dept. of Public Works, Retired
  • Michael Welch, Director, The Redwood Alliance