Monday, 5 November 2012

Superstorm Sandy deals another blow to nuclear power 'reliability'

US news wires are humming with stories about the biggest nuclear shutdown since Fukushima as over 32 GWe of nuclear power was shut down during 'Superstorm Sandy'. This is another blow to what is the myth of nuclear power as a reliable energy source. As reported in an earlier blog last year, when storms were reported as leading to a wind turbine catching fire, little attention was paid to the much more serious storm-related shutdown of Hunterston B in Scotland. Indeed, British nuclear power stations are prone to unplanned outages which plunge thousands of people into darkness (for example Sizewell B in May 2008). It is ironic that wind power is cast as intermittent when in fact its output is predictable on the basis of increasingly sophisticated advance weather forecasts. But nuclear shutdowns occur instantaeneously with no warning causing massive problems for the electricity system. As posted on the earlier blog about the as-yet-far from completed Hitachi 'deal', Hitachis' preferred reactor type (Advanced Boiling Water Rectors) have a poor record for reliability, with half of them effectively being on line for less than half the time. We do not know about EDF's planned EPR power stations of course since none have actualy started operating yet.

So why are the Government planning to pay nuclear power a lot more subsidies than onshore wind under Electricity Market Reform? It certainly has nothing to do with reliability! It does not have anything to do with the Coalition agreement, either. Did the Lib Dems really agree to give nuclear power around £100 per MWh over 25 year contracts in an electricity market reform strike whilst onshore wind gets only £80 per MWh for 15 years? Isn't it strange that the nuclear industry, the Government and the engineering establishment have been telling us for so long how much cheaper that nuclear power is compared to renewables - all they need is the right 'framework' and it will be 'cheaper' for the consumer! Well it won't, and we should ring-fence the money for renewables, not nuclear!

Learn about policy options for implementing renewable energy by making amendments under the forthcoming Government Energy Bill at a Conference on January 18th at the University of Birmingham:

See the Superstorm Sandy report below:

Superstorm Sandy behind largest nuclear power outage since Fukushima

November 2, 2012
Superstorm Sandy, which tore through the Northeast United States causing property damage and even numerous deaths, led to three nuclear reactors shutting down and several other plants to reduce operations. Reuters reported the storm caused 32,045 megawatts in nuclear power outages on October 30 - the highest amount since May 2011 when the Fukushima disaster occurred in Japan.
Three reactors experienced shutdowns during the storm. They were Indian Point 3, in Buchanan, N.Y.; Salem Unit 1, in Hancocks Bridge, N.J.; and Nine Mile Point 1, in Scriba, N.Y. Operators reported all safety systems responded as designed.
Three additional nuclear plants in Connecticut, Vermont and Pennsylvania also chose to reduce power due to the storm, Reuters reported. They resumed full power by October 31.
Although Nuclear power plants are built to withstand hurricanes and other natural disasters, safety protocol requires plants to shut down operations when faced with potentially extreme conditions. In the case of Sandy, operators took precautions against hurricane-force winds, power loss and nearby water levels exceeding flood limits.
Thursday, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it was beginning to return to normal inspection coverage for nuclear power plants in the Northeast.  Heightened coverage will continue at Oyster Creek, a plant in Lacey Township, N.J., still in an “Alert” status due to high water levels in its water intake structure.

1 comment:

  1. I recall reading about this. It did not get wide publicity, but it absolutely occurred. The reality is that the reliability of nuclear power is quite overrated.
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