European nuclear plant operators gear up to ensure power supply

Author: ICIS Editorial

2020/03/16

LONDON (ICIS)--European nuclear power availability is expected to remain robust with strict safety measures already being implemented by the major plant operators amid the coronavirus outbreak.

UK

While there has been one reported case at the Sellafield plant in Cumbria, there does not seem to be an immediate impact to output.

System operator National Grid said they will be closely monitoring the situation regarding the coronavirus and expect all control rooms to continue at full operational capability, so if there is a sudden drop off in availability, there will be enough back-up generation in place.

So far in 2020, nuclear has accounted for 16% of generation compared with just 8% in the same period last year. Wind generation on the other hand has accounted for over 30%, almost double the output in the 2018-period.

In the event of a sudden shutdown of nuclear capacity, the UK should have enough renewable load to account for the shortfall in generation. The UK has around 9.5GW of installed nuclear capacity.

FRANCE

In France, where nuclear accounts for over 60% share in the generation mix, utility EDF said on Monday it is taking the necessary measures to ensure the continuity of electricity supply.

Nuclear availability is forecast to stay 3.6GW below the 2015-2019 average until the end of the month, according to grid operator RTE. This is in line with availability in the past week.

Also on Monday, RTE announced the launch of its business continuity plan in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

RTE expects demand to drop at a national level with the decline in economic activity and therefore will adjust the supply-demand balance instantaneously.

GERMANY

In Germany, measures are in place to ensure the continued operation of nuclear reactors as they are considered critical infrastructure.

“So far there are no indications that the energy supply in Germany could be affected by the pandemic,” a spokeswoman for the federal ministry for economic affairs and energy told ICIS on Monday.

“Appropriate measures are in place for the event that an increasing number of staff are absent,” she added.

Utility RWE said last week that it had activated its “tried and tested” crisis organisation.

NORDICS

In Sweden, which relies on nuclear for 40% of total power supply, plant operators said there has been little impact on production due to coronavirus and that there are contingency plans in place.

Vattenfall, which owns the 3.3GW Forsmark and 3GW Ringhals plants told ICIS they were taking steps to minimise the impact of the virus on production.

German utility Uniper, which has stakes in all three of Sweden’s nuclear plants pointed to an otherwise healthy supply situation, with Swedish hydro reservoirs at 44% full capacity, well above the seasonal average.

“The conditions are very good for the Swedish electricity system’s ability to continue to deliver,” a Uniper spokesman said.

A spokesperson from TVO, operator of Finland’s Olkiluoto nuclear plant was not available for comment.

CEE/SEE

Czech incumbent CEZ which operates the country’s 1.9GW Dukovany and 2GW Temelin plants, had implemented preventative measures since the end of February, a spokeswoman said on Monday. Both plants accounted for 35% of Czech production in 2019.

“All measures are purely preventative, we have not registered any cases of coronavirus at the nuclear plants so far,” she added.

Czech availability currently stands at around 60% as 1GW Temelin and 468MW Dukovany units are in planned maintenance.

At the time of writing, representatives of Hungarian nuclear plant Paks had not responded to ICIS requests for comment. The 2GW plant is currently fully operational. Paks accounted for 49% of Hungary’s 2019 production.

Slovenia’s 700MW Krsko nuclear power plant is also online. All measures have been taken to ensure the main operational functions are uninterrupted, the plant operator announced on Friday.

In Slovakia, one 470MW unit at Mochovce nuclear plant will be in planned maintenance between 28 March - 15 April. Plant operator Slovenske Elektrarne published a statement on Wednesday saying safety measures have been taken across its plants.

In Bulgaria, 2GW Kozloduy nuclear plant is operating at full capacity at the moment. One 1GW unit is due to go offline from 14 April until 24 May.

“Given the significant dynamics of the situation in the world, the list of measures at the nuclear power plant is constantly updated,” a Kozloduy spokesperson said on Monday.