Cool running reactor fleets

08 January 2014

Nuclear power fleets in North America have run at high capacity through the recent period of extreme cold.

People in a wide area across the USA and Canada have been hit by temperatures much lower than usual during a weather phenomenon where fluctuations in the polar vortex have seen dense cold air move south from the Arctic. Demand for electricity and heating fuels has surged, prompting requests for conservation of energy by people and businesses. Throughout this, nuclear reactors in the USA and Canada have maintained a high level of performance.

Cook nuclear power plant, 2013 (Cook) 460x170
Both units at the Cook nuclear power plant in Michigan were operating at 100%
(Image: AEP)

Having completed readiness checks and maintenance outages before the season of high demand, 97 of the USA's 100 reactors were in operation yesterday - all but three of them generating at over 90% of rated capacity.

Duke Energy, which operates 11 units totalling 11,408 MWe, announced its highest ever demand, while warning customers about potential outages from overloaded circuits. Some people were indeed hit by blackouts in North and South Carolina as well as Florida due to stress on the power networks.

Tennessee Valley Authority also recorded extraordinary demand at 32,460 MWe - just 112 MWe below its winter record. The company said it expected demand to edge downwards from today with conditions expected to ease somewhat. Its six reactors were all at 100% capacity, supplying about 20% of demand.

In Canada, Ontario Power Generation's fleet of eight reactors across the Pickering and Darlington sites were at 90% capacity on average. Bruce Power said its eight units were meeting 30% of Ontario's demand.

US trade body the Nuclear Energy Institute said American plants had been "unfazed" by the cold. "No nuclear energy facility has reported unusual issues during the cold snap, due in part to Nuclear Regulatory Commission and plant procedures to ensure continued safe operation in extreme weather conditions."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News