More Heat, Less Nuclear Power
With summer heat topping 20 15’s records, there was less electricity available from the U.S. nuclear fleet during June, July and August as 2016 nuclear power plant outages soared 51% from a year ago.
That’s an average of 4.3 gigawatts (GW), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Summer outages were at their highest in June, reaching 9.9 GW, or about 10% of total U.S. nuclear capacity, on June 17 and averaging 6.2 GW for the month. Outages dropped to an average of 4.4 GW in July and 2.4 GW in August when the Carolinas contributed to the to the total with the automatic shutdown of the Robinson Nuclear plant due to a turbine trip.
Last year, nuclear outages reached the lowest level since 2007, with outages totaling just 0.1 GW – 100 megawatts (MW) – during four days in August 2015. The low level of outages helped the nation’s electric utilities meet the demand created by 2015’s record heat.
The reactors provided no help this year as each of the first six months, from January to June, set new temperature records, putting 2016 on track to be the hottest year ever on record, NASA officials said in July.
Nuclear power plants, which provide baseload generation, account for nearly 20% of total U.S. electricity generation on an annual basis. Nuclear outages typically arise from refueling and maintenance, power uprates, and unplanned shutdowns.
Maintenance boosted this summer’s outage total as two nuclear units – Indian Point 2 in lower New York and Salem1 in southern New Jersey -- entered outages in May that lasted for 100 and 101 days, respectively, to replace damaged reactor core baffle bolts.
In contrast, the Clinton Power Station, a boiling water reactor (BWR) in central Illinois, set a record in May for the shortest BWR refueling outage in the United States, the EIA noted. GE Hitachi completed the outage services in just 11 days.
Robinson’s shut down was unplanned and Duke Energy is “continuing to assess the cause of the turbine trip,” spokesman Charles Ellison said, adding: “Since the plant is off line, we have decided to move forward with planned maintenance work on our low pressure turbine.”
Mitigating the impact of the August 24 shutdown -- the lowest weekly power demand in the Carolinas since the week that started with Memorial Day, according to the EIA's U.S. Electric System Operating Data.
At 724 MW, Robinson is the smallest of the 11 reactors at six power plants in North and South Carolina. With 10,679 megawatts of generation capacity -- about half of Duke’s Carolina capacity – the six are the second largest U.S. nuclear fleet. When commissioned by Carolina Power & Light in 1971, Robinson was the first commercial nuclear power plant in the southeastern U.S. and the largest in the world, according to Wikipedia.
Brunswick Operator Joins Board
Duke Energy's board added nuclear knowledge last week when the former Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) executive vice president for industry strategy, William E. Webster Jr., became the 13th director.
INPO is an independent nonprofit that plays a critical role in ensuring the safe and reliable operations of the nation’s nuclear fleet. Recently Websterhad responsibility for nuclear plant and corporate evaluations, plant operations, plant technical support, and nuclear industry performance monitoring, training and education activities.
“Bill Webster’s vast nuclear industry experience will be a tremendous asset for our company,” said Lynn Good, Duke Energy’s CEO.
Webster retired as executive vice president of INPO on June 30, 2016. Before joining INPO in 1982, he received senior reactor operator certification at Duke Energy’s Brunswick Nuclear Plant and served in the U.S. Navy.