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Academic Freedom Nuclear Nuisance Nuclear Shambles

The Nuclear Generation #1

I am tired of repeatedly having the same conversation about nuclear power.

Them: “Nuclear power plants generate 20% of Britain’s electricity.”
Me: “But that’s less than 10% of all the energy consumed in the UK.”
Them: “Nuclear power is a reliable provider of electricity.”
Me: “But unplanned outages at nuclear power plants generally increase with age.”
Them: “Nuclear power is experiencing a renaissance.”
Me: “But globally, there are less than 75 nuclear reactors under construction, compared to a total world fleet of 435, and most of them are over 25 years old…”

Lots of people believe that nuclear power is “boom town” in Britain, and yet I know from looking at some of the numbers and projections that there is a risk that new nuclear reactors may only be replacing old nuclear reactors – at the end there would not be more nuclear power than there is now. And more : that there is also a risk that most of the current nuclear reactors could be shut down for decommissioning before their replacements could be ready.

What, I wondered, could I produce as a projection of nuclear power in the UK ? What numbers and figures would I need to plug into a model of nuclear generation in Britain ? It’s a bit pointless trying to uncover reality by looking at annual totals of electricity generation from nuclear power plants. To really understand what is happening, and what the trends are, and the prospects for the future, I would need to have more fine-grained data. So I set off in search of some. First port of call : EdF Energy (the UK wing of √Člectricit√© de France).


26th March 2015

Dear XXXXXXXXXX,

I am an Associate Research Fellow with Birkbeck, University of London,
and I’ve just completed writing a work on low carbon gas – or
Renewable Gas, as I’m calling it.

I still haven’t worked out what my next project is, but in the
meantime, I’m looking at various numbers in the energy sector in
general, and blogging and Tweeting :-

https://www.joabbess.com
@joabbess

With today’s announcement on Energy Trends from the Department of
Energy and Climate Change, questions are circulating about the
performance of various energy resources :-

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/energy-trends
https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/energy-trends-march-2015
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-energy-statistics-statistical-press-release-march-2015

So far, I have been able to find :-

1. Data about total electricity generation from nuclear power each
year (gigawatt hours (GWh), terawatt hours (TWh)) – for example in the
Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES), Table 5.1 “Commodity balances”
:-

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/338750/DUKES_2014_printed.pdf

2. Data about the generation capacity of the total of nuclear power
plants, and individual nuclear power plants (GW, MW) – for example,
DUKES table 5.10 “Power Stations in the United Kingdom”, and the
current status of each EdF nuclear power plant online :-

https://www.edfenergy.com/energy/power-station/daily-statuses

3. Data about the total lifetime generation of power from nuclear
power plants that have been shut down – NDA “Lifetime Plans” series
from 2006, and overall plan from 2013 (TWh) :-

https://www.magnoxsites.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Magnox-Plan-Summary-2013.pdf
https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=NDA+Lifetime+Plans+2006/07

4. Historical data about nuclear power plant electricity generation
in the UK – DUKES Table 5.1.1 “Fuel input for electricity generation”
(Mtoe which can be converted to TWh) :-

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/338471/dukes5_1_1.xls

What I cannot seem to find is historical data about the annual power
generation of individual nuclear power plants in TWh – in other words,
the annual electricity output for each reactor-turbine combination
over the last 25 or so years.

I’m wondering if EdF Energy could help point me to published data of
this nature.

Many thanks,

jo.


1st April 2015

Hi Jo

I just tried calling – XXXXXXXXX passed your query on to me. We don’t publicly release generation from individual power stations as that information is commercially sensitive.

Sorry we can’t help – you seem to have found all the data that I would have pointed you to anyway – but do get back in touch if there’s anything else.

Many thanks

YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY


1st April 2015

Dear YYYYYYYYYYYYYY,

Many thanks for getting back to me on my question.

It seems strange to me that EdF Energy consider the productivity of
their assets as “commercially sensitive” – since almost every other
piece of data about the company is contained in corporate financial
accounts, generally available to the public. I would have thought this
data on generation would be very important to your shareholders, but
perhaps they are more concerned about dividends and profits than the
actual flow of electrons.

I am not going to speculate on what that could suggest or imply. EdF
Energy clearly need to report this data to HM Government, as the
annual total of nuclear generation is included in statistical reports,
although I need more fine grain for my research. I decided that I
might need a backup plan to acquire this data, so I need to let you
know I have submitted a Freedom of Information request to DECC.

I consider EdF Energy’s reply to my request as unhelpful, and I shall
be noting it to my colleagues.

Regards,

jo.


Dear Jo

Thanks for your response and good luck with your research. Please keep in touch as I’m sure there is lots of information we can help you with if we have it available. I should have sent you this link to our monthly update to the stock market which gives total nuclear output for each month, but doesn’t break it down site by site.

https://www.londonstockexchange.com/exchange/news/market-news/market-news-detail/12267856.html

Hope that helps


Dear YYYYYYYYYYYYYYY,

Thank you for the link to your monthly update to the London Stock Exchange.

I’m sure that would be useful for the average investor, but I need to
know about the performance and status of individual atomic reactors
and their generation turbines on a month-by-month basis, as I am
hoping to understand the viability of each nuclear power plant by
looking at trends, especially trends in outages (planned and
unplanned).

I am hoping to be able to find some data on outages (for example, due
to accidents) through the monitoring bodies, but this would not be
appropriate for understanding all outages and their underlying causes.
For example, I cannot find a detailed report on what happened at
Dungeness during the night of the St Jude’s storm in October 2013. The
only details I have been able to scavenge are one-liners from EdF
Energy and vague paragraphs from the press, plus circumstantial
evidence from other lines of enquiry. Considering the prior ONR [Office
for Nuclear Regulation] reports on water ingress at the power
plant, and the beach repair in the following months, I consider more
detail on this particular outage to be important to explain. If this
were not also “commercially sensitive”, it would be useful to me to
see an executive-style report of this outage.

Regards,

jo.


We’ll see what happens next…

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