Nuclear Nuisance Nuclear Shambles Wind of Fortune

St Jude 1 : Nuclear 0

As if to prove how inadequate nuclear power is as a reliable long-term energy investment strategy for the UK, one little gale forced the Dungeness B station to go offline. Aptly, this storm is now being referred to as “St Jude’s” – he the patron saint of lost causes. Here is a dialogue from one of the networked forums I read :-

From: Alexander
Date: Monday, 28 October 2013, 12:38
Subject: New UK wind energy record ?

Hi All,

While we are busy discussing Hinkley C and the Government’s atomic power plans, it looks as though wind energy may have hit a new record high of 5,254 MW [megawatts], courtesy of the storm, now named St Jude or something like that.

See BM Reports [Balancing Mechanism for the National Grid, Reports] settlement period 38 for 28-10-13.

The predicted output was 6,185 MW, so maybe there was curtailment [wind turbines turned off] due to excessive wind speeds or lack of grid connection capacity. However, I don’t think I have seen such a high total grid connected wind output before.

From: Fred
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 2:04 PM

We hit 5,739 MW of grid connected wind on the 15th September this year (2013). This was from 7,136 MW of grid connected capacity.

I don’t think it was that windy in Scotland. The [National] Grid normally overestimates the power it gets from [wind power]. My impression is that the Irish, who have a much harder job in estimating wind are getting better at it. In our case there has been no real improvement in predictive power since I began monitoring wind [power] some five years ago.

There was also a sudden drop in nuclear output of about 900 MW, last night from over 8 GW [gigawatts] down to about 7.1 GW. Was this a power line failure or something like Hartlepool having to be taken back off line ?

From: Martin
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 2:21 PM

Nuclear outage was Dungeness B :-

From: Bert
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 2:27 PM

I wonder what the ‘wind backup fraternity’ (including Michael Portillo) make of the Dungeness outage ?

[This is a reference to those who say that wind power is not useful, since it is variable, and needs to be backed up by other generation sources when the wind is not blowing.]

From: Neil
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 2:34 PM

Well spotted Fred, thanks Martin.

After all those years of public meetings and letters in the press about turbines turning off in high winds and large-scale intermittency due to storm fronts shutting down windfarms !

1.1 GW instantaneous [loss of power] – and smack on the morning [power demand] pick-up – that will be hard to beat !

Made my day.

PS North Wales is not even particularly windier than usual.

From: Fred
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 3:34 PM

Dear Martin (and Neil),


A pinch of observation is worth a ton of pontificating.

So Dungeness B is off-line owing to this lesser “Great Storm”.

However I do wonder what goes on at an AGR [Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor] in such circumstances. There is huge amount of heat within the reactor and CO2 [Carbon Dioxide] circuit, so steam production will continue for at least a few hours, even if the control rods are dropped in.

Presumably most of the steam has to be diverted into the condenser by-passing the turbines, but presumably some power will need to be generated to keep the CO2 circulating fans going.

For the staff this will be a very “active” time after the usual months of staring at dials which only change by microscopic amounts. It would be interesting to see how long it takes to get the plant back on line.

From: Alexander
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 4:02 PM

Fred, Martin, Neil,

OK so no new wind record, but curtailment of atomic power Dungeness B by a storm which didn’t quite seem to equal 1987’s hurricane, presumably from the grid being brought down. As you state, this demonstrates the vulnerability of large generating units compared to the multiplicity of renewable sources. It seems that increased use of pumped storage and HEP [HydroElectric Power] together with some OCGT [Open Cycle Gas Turbine] was used to cover for the 800 MW loss.

As you say, observation of factual record is invaluable.

From: Dave A.
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 4:08 PM

Hang on Alexander, this is EXACTLY the scenario that the STOR [National Grid’s Short-Term Operating Reserve] system introduced by [National] Grid was designed for, and this includes nearly 1 GW of diesels [power generation using diesel engines] which can start in less then 5 minutes (more complicated than that actually) with instantaneous load shedding used to deal with the 5 minutes. See :

Exactly the same system could be used, even with 4,000 MW of diesel to deal with the rare, sudden and unpredicted loss of wind output, whilst other firm plant are brought up.

From: Bert
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 4:08 PM

> It would be interesting to see how long it takes to get the plant back on line.
> Fred

Quote from article posted by Martin earlier:

unit availability was expected to be zero for the next seven days.

From: Alexander
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 4:17 PM

OK Dave,

Maybe STOR diesels could have been activated, but inspection of the BM Reports appeared to show that the shortfall was made up by increased use of pumped storage and HEP together with some OCGT. I believe their start up times are at least as short or shorter than the diesels.
Just interpreting what happened.

From: Martin
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 4:19 PM

This sudden and substantial outage is not considered newsworthy by the BBC – a search on their website finds nothing. Curious considering the high profile media coverage of energy just now !

From: Dave A.
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 4:27 PM

Yes – Dinorwic can go to full power if spinning in air in about 10 secs I think ? Something like. Diesels can start to full load in about 15 secs, but grid expects them to do it in 2, 5 or 20 minutes depending on band they bid into. OCGT are much longer something like 1/2 an hour, and don’t start reliably, and if they don’t start there is a very long purge period, whereas diesels can be repeatedly cranked.

From: Alexander
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 4:39 PM


I did hear mention of it on World at One Radio 4.

From: Dave A.
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 5:46 PM

In the last big storm a lot of the outages on large power stations were caused by wind blowing debris such as wet plastic sheeting which became wrapped around the HV [High Voltage] lines.

From: Dave A.
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 5:52 PM

Worth saying again, that the reason the UK has STOR of the size it is, – about 2 GWe, is ENTIRELY due to Sizewell B, which was originally planned to be 2 x 660 MW separate sets, but due to the high cost, Walter Marshall, the then CEGB chairman set up a task force to lower the price. (Think about it, it’s not possible to just lower the price of some engineering at the stroke of a pen, it has consequences) and the result was that the 2 660 [units] behaved as one, so if one shut down, so did the other.

Thus STOR is designed to meet the sudden failure of Sizewell two 660 MW sets.

From: David H.
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 5:59 PM

It may be worth looking at any change in forward prices over the next week. The Reuters report said the reactors would be off-line for at least a week. A week is 176 hours. Assuming 1GW, that means the system is short some 176GWh and this will need to be purchased, probably by EDF. This should make the market move, but by how much ?

There is discrepancy between Reuters and “observation”. Fred’s reports are of 800 MW reductions, yet Reuters says 2 * 550 MW, and Neil says 1.1 GW (I assume from 2 * 550 MW). The 800 MW could represent the exports, with the further 300 MW being the parasitic load. EdF website says “Net electrical output” of 1,040 MW. To quote Wikipedia “consisting of two 615 MW reactors […] Like the “A” station, its turbines were built by C.A. Parsons & Company and it has two 600 MWe [megawatts of electrical power] turbo-alternator sets, producing a maximum output of 1.200 MWe, though net output is 1,090 MWe after the effects of house load, and downrating the reactor output due to corrosion and vibration concerns.”

The report says that the shutdown was caused because power to the site was shut off. Of course, I doubt it was “shut off”, but it could well have failed. Could this make NG [National Grid] liable for the no doubt substantial financial losses to Dungeness. And a grid failure of two double circuit tower lines (separately routed for all but the last mile or two) is cause for serious concern. I wonder where that failure arose.

From: Bert
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 5:59 PM

Are the costs of extra STOR included in the cost calculations for Hinkley ?

From: David E.
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 6:01 PM

As at Fukushima, without external power you are reliant on diesel [power generation] sets to maintain cooling of decay heat (they can’t self generate without risks – that was what Chernobyl was trying to test…) Maybe they were (wisely) nervous about the pumps not runnning, or even about inundation during the storm. Dungeness is at sea level and one of the UK sites most at risk of surge storm flooding. But in any case there was plenty of wind [power] coming in to the grid so we didn’t need Dungeness. It’s a textbook example of what we will see in the future. Inflexible nuclear caught out by climate change and renewables stepping in to take over – when they can. If demand had been very high (and there was no wind [power]) then the gas plants would have to take the extra strain. The small extra cost of running them more ought then I guess be paid by nuclear [power plant operators], since it was that which failed, though I can see why some would say it would be wind’s problem too.

From: Dave A.
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 6:09 PM

[re: added STOR costs] actually they will be trivial…..but of course, because the plant sizes are bigger, [the total amount of] STOR [capacity] will have to increase 🙂

From: Dave A.
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 8:23 PM

[re: the BBC not covering this nuclear outage] They are afraid of getting their knuckles rapped by that Grant Shapps. Who is demanding they are more transparent and open, in the ways that government ministers are with the jobs they will go on to in the nuclear industry when they leave office.


From: Dave A.
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 9:04 PM

It doesn’t prove anything, we all know that nuclear power stations and other power stations suffer sudden unpredictable outages needing back up.

What is interesting is to see if the dumb media report this and contrast it with the exaggerated claims of anti-wind folk about wind’s unreliability.

From: Fred
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 10:36 PM

From the Daily Telegraph

“A nuclear power station automatically shut down its reactors after debris blown by hurricane-strength winds fell onto its power lines and led to a loss of supply. It could be up to a week before the two units at Dungeness B plant in Kent – one of Britain’s nine nuclear power stations – are up and running again. But a spokeswoman for EDF Energy, which runs the site, said she hoped energy would be restored much sooner and that the public should “absolutely not” be concerned by the shut-down. The two units shut down safely and diesel generators within the site were providing power for essential systems to continue to operate, Sue Fletcher of EDF said. “This is an issue caused by the unusual weather, which led to a loss of power like many of the homes in the surrounding area,” Ms Fletcher said. “We share the discomfort of people locally.” The plant has the capacity to produce 1040 megawatts of energy, providing power for some 1.5 million homes. More than 200,000 homes across the country have experienced a loss of power because of what has been dubbed ‘St Jude’s’ storm. Martin Pearson, station director at Dungeness B, added: “This is a scenario we are well prepared for and we quickly responded calmly and professionally to the loss of supply. The reactors are safely shutdown and National Grid staff are now working to restore the supply and once that is done we’ll bring both units back on line.”

From: Neil


What does a small (20 kW ?) wind turbine blown over prove – very little – but it got shown on TV today and I bet it may provide some grist for the anti-wind lobby.

That fact that a 1 GW nuclear power station goes down in the same storm and its NOT deemed TV newsworthy (I have mainly monitored BBC) gives an insight to how the (BBC and other) journalists think…

The debate between wind / renewables and nuclear is visceral – ‘relating to deep inward feelings rather than to the intellect’.

Suppose I should write to the BBC Trust about content (they are suggesting that themselves at the moment for their review) !

The incident does show a vulnerability of nuclear power stations – they are only a few diesels away from multi-billion £ disasters

One reply on “St Jude 1 : Nuclear 0”

St Judes day storm did provide an uncomfortable demonstration of reality for nuclear lobbyists. Nuclear does indeed also need to be “backed up” just like wind energy.

Furthermore while some of the wind turbines would have had to be feathered out of the winds for a few hours at most during peak wind speed, its takes the best part of a week to shutdown and restart a nuclear power plant!

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