The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

EDF’s unreliable claims of “flexible nuclear generation”

Nuclear Load Following. PV Magazine 5th Sept 2017 In 2015, Électricité de France put out a pamphlet titled Flexible nuclear generation to foster the development of renewable energy as one of its
“50 Solutions for the Climate.” The pamphlet boasts of the flexibility
of EDF’s nuclear fleet, showing a 1.3 GW nuclear power plant increasing
and decreasing its output by 70% within 30 minutes. The documentation
centers on the Golfech plant, and shows these impressive feats of rapid
ramping, with two cycles up and down within a 24 hour period. And while EDF
noted that such cycling was prompted by daily changes in demand, it also
stresses that such capabilities will be able to make nuclear power a good
complement to the fluctuating output of wind and solar on the grid.

However, in Northern Germany a situation has played out which challenges
this line of reasoning. In February the Brokdorf nuclear power plant was
taken offline after damage to its fuel rods was found. According to a local
nuclear supervisory authority, the operation of the plant in
“load-following” mode had contributed to unexpected oxidation of the
rods. As of July, the plant was operating in “safe mode,” and
politicians from Germany’s Green Party are calling on a Swiss reactor
near the German border with similar problems to be shut down.

So can nuclear accompany high levels of renewable energy? This is a technical and
economic question, and one that has ramifications for the future of the
technology. Nuclear power plants are regularly ramped up and down in
France, to partially respond to the shift in electricity demand from day to
night. Additionally, in other nations plants such as the Brokdorf facility
are ramped to respond to fluctuations in wind and solar generation,
although the vast majority of nuclear power plants are not.

The nuclear industry claims that all currently deployed boiling water reactors (BWR)
and pressurized water reactors (PWR), which make up the entire nuclear
fleet in the United States and the majority in Europe, can ramp quickly.

However, IASS Potsdam Senior Fellow Craig Morris, who has written
extensively about nuclear energy and renewables, has stated that “no
nuclear fleet worldwide is ramping to any significant extent, so we
actually have no idea whether ramping will work in practice.”

While developed nations should prioritize rapid decarbonization over short-term
costs, there is not now and never will be an unlimited amount of money to
pour into this problem. The nuclear industry knows this, and as such the
attempt to cast nuclear power plants as a suitable accompaniment to high
levels of wind and solar is ultimately a desperate act by an industry which
is in severe crisis in both Europe and the United States.

Nuclear reactors may be able to ramp (within limitations), but ultimately nuclear is
fighting for space on the grid with wind and solar. As such the building of
new nuclear power plants, and in some cases the extension of licenses for
old ones, can limit the transition to renewable energy


September 11, 2017 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, spinbuster

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