Intermittent Nuclear Plant Back on Line

July 14, 2016

As the video above points out, arguments that wind and solar are “intermittent” and therefore unreliable are erroneous – as they fail to understand that ALL forms of energy are intermittent, and can fail at any moment.  Utilities, therefore, are required to have sufficient back up resources available to pick up in a moment’s notice when a large power plant might go offline.

In the case of wind, for instance, the flow of energy is quite predictable days in advance, and although occasionally an individual turbine goes off line for a few days or weeks, it is almost unheard of for an entire multi-hundred megawatt array to go down at once.
Not so with coal or nuclear plants, which can trip offline in a microsecond.

Case in point.

St. Joseph Michigan Herald Palladium:

BRIDGMAN — Donald C. Cook’s Unit 2 nuclear reactor is back in operation, about a week after it was shut down due to a steam line rupture.

The reactor was returned to power at 6 p.m. Tuesday, spokesman Bill Schalk said.

On July 6, workers manually took the reactor off-line after the steam line rupture was discovered.

Preliminary findings indicate the steam line ruptured due to “vibration-induced metal fatigue” of a steam expansion joint bellows, Schalk said.

Staff will redesign the equipment and make changes when the unit is shut down for a planned maintenance and refueling outage in the fall, he said.

“We’re working on that already,” he said. “We’ll either do something to reduce vibrations or strengthen the equipment.”

Metal parts had to be fabricated for the plant by its vendor before the repairs could be completed, Schalk said.

The steam line leads to low-pressure turbines and released pressurized, high-temperature steam. The rupture damaged the wall of the turbine building.

Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors assigned to the plant, and from the NRC’s regional office in Lisle, Ill, will be independently evaluating the company’s response to the incident.


18 Responses to “Intermittent Nuclear Plant Back on Line”

  1. Although it’s unlikely that a multi-megawatt windfarm will go down “at once”, it can certainly go down to zero over the course of a few hours and stay offline for days. (And in fact, such multi-day wind “droughts” are common.) Just because such events are predictable doesn’t make them much easier to deal with. The power gap still must be filled.

    The question then becomes, with what should we back up highly intermittent sources like wind and solar? Because right now the answer to that question is natural gas. And that’s just not a long-term pro-climate solution.

    Greater penetration of wind and solar into the grid will result in greater mismatches between generation and load (the so-called “duck curve”) which in turn require greater amounts of dispatchable power available to come on or off the grid rapidly. So the question you have to ask yourself, Peter is this: do you want that dispatchable power to be natural gas? Or non-fossil? If the latter, what’s your preferred source?

    • “Tesla”-batteries 😉

    • Andy Lee Robinson Says:

      It is always windy somewhere.
      It is always sunny somewhere.

      Energy can be stored in many forms:
      potential, such as lakes, masses, flywheels and compressed air
      chemical/electrical in hydrogen and batteries
      thermal, in molten salt or other high heat capacity medium.

      We could have many creative forms of energy supply and storage, with efficient machines, less demand and an intelligent grid.

      Fossil fuels don’t need to be part of the future, except for aviation for the time being.

  2. […] And remember, all forms of electrical energy are intermittent. […]

  3. Tesla’s Powerwall will add 13 cents per kWh to your electricity, over-and-above whatever you’re paying for generation. Clearly generation + storage will always be more expensive than generation alone, and by significant amounts. With 35% capacity factor for wind, 65% of your power would be paying that premium.

    That’s one reason the entire global supply of grid-level energy storage, including pumped hydro, would power the global electricity supply for a whopping 25 minutes. But in a RE-only world, we would need days worth of storage. And every dollar of capital investment we spend on storage is a dollar of capital investment that couldn’t be spent on zero-carbon generation.

    Got anything else?

    • Andy Lee Robinson Says:

      What would you pay to be able to breathe air that doesn’t kill you?

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      ” But in a RE-only world, we would need days worth of storage. ”

      That’s a little overblown.

      I’m here all night.

      Seriously, tho, the better the grid, the less the problem.

      • Take a look at actual records from an actual wind turbine sometime. I bet you can’t find a single one that doesn’t have a 48-hour or greater gap in it during a calendar year.

        Yes, we would need DAYS of storage.

        • Gingerbaker Says:

          No, Keith, we may not need days of storage. Because when that wind turbine is down other wind turbines are up, or other solar farms are up,and eventually wind and tide will be producing.

          That wind is intermittent is not a revelation. And we are no longer in an abstract theoretical world on this – we have actual real-world data on how solar and wind work together, and it does not show that local worst-case performance is how the national grid will perform.

        • According to one study (2013), some locations would need days of storage but it wouldn’t be a deal breaker. Without massive investment in a super-grid and at 2030 RE and storage prices (projected at half today’s non-subsidized prices), we could have a nearly 100% RE grid with retail electric prices comparable to today, and such a grid would require storage of 9-72 hours, depending on the local climate. A key finding was that “seemingly excessive” RE generation reduces the amount of storage needed if cost is the parameter to be optimized. The study was based on a large regional grid in the US northeast. Presumably some regional grids (darker/less windy) would have larger — possibly prohibitive — storage needs, others less.

          Pretty interesting study and methodology and, I thought, nicely transparent.

  4. miffedmax Says:

    From what I understand, the real challenge isn’t storing wind from renewables, it’s moving it around the grid.

    While that would require some investment in infrastructure, some of it could be done as a one time charge, and some would be part of necessary maintenance/replacement anyway. The real problem has more to do with getting competing state and local agencies and power generators to cooperate.

  5. jpcowdrey Says:

    you are exaggerating the problem. A 10% loss in levelized net generation isn’t all that bad.

    The whole world is not going to be windless (or sunless) for days on end.

    You aren’t the first person to consider this. It pays to do a little research before spouting off.

  6. Kaj Luukko Says:

    I just made a graph about power generation in Germany during this year. Here is wind and nuclear power.

    Which one is intermittent, which is not? Which one is causing more grid issues?

  7. redskylite Says:

    As the Japan Meteorological Agency Monthly Anomalies of Global Average Surface Temperatures released yesterday show, June 2016 was the hottest June since JMA’s records began (in 1891), followed by June of 2015 (2) then June of 2014 (3). We know that burning fossil fuel is causing the main-part of the temperature rise. We know that sea level rise is happening and accelerating. We know we must wean ourselves off fossil use. That is coal, oil and gas.

    We know, that today, we can use both nuclear and renewable energy instead. We have the expertise to do it, we need to back that expertise with investment and will power. Following generations expect.

    California survived a heatwave without Aliso Canyon online, so can the rest of us.

    “On June 20 and 21, temperatures across the Southwest hit record triple digits. It was a scorching way to start the summer. For Southern Californians, early arrival of extreme heat tested the region’s already compromised electricity system: Residents braced for rolling blackouts as the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility (one of the primary sources of power generation in the region) was offline after a disastrous methane leak last winter. Aliso will remain offline until Southern California Gas Company can assure regulators, legislators, and the community that it can be operated safely and efficiently.

    . . .. Ever increasing amounts of local solar and renewables on the grid, driven in part by the California’s landmark SB 350 law, and a late sunset (it was the day before the summer solstice), indicate renewables played a role. “

    • I totally agree that nuclear and RE are both key components to a fossil-free future energy supply.

      On this site we have never seen an anti-solar post, and we have never seen an anti-wind post. But we have seen a steady drip, drip, drip of anti-nuclear posts over the years.

      This is supposed to be a climate blog. It would be nice if we attacked the problem, which is fossil fuels, and stopped attacking one of the solutions.

  8. Take Jason Box’s comment to heart with regard to the “echo chamber” not just from the fossil fuel group but also from “people with their hearts in the right place”….

    Take the time to “plow through” the reports and understand the details.

    On this issue you are part of the “echo chamber” of misinformation.

    This is a link to a fairly well thought through book on this issue, by Richard Hienberg and David Fridley called “Our Renewable Future”… it is available free online.

    Please do your homework…..

  9. Says:

    1. Carolyne Vanbeek _July 16, 2016 at 11:44 AM_ ( Dear Andrea, You had written that the robotized line has been already studied and designed with the help of the manufacturer, which is ABB: do you confirm this ? Thank you, Carolyne 2. Andrea Rossi _July 16, 2016 at 3:39 PM_ ( Carolyne Vanbeek: Yes, I confirm. Warm Regards, A.R.

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