by Jerome a Paris
Sat Apr 7th, 2012 at 08:18:18 AM EST
EDF Says Fires at Penly Nuclear Reactor Extinguished
Electricite de France SA, the biggest operator of nuclear reactors, said two fires were put out in their early stages at its Penly plant in Normandy.
(...) data on the website of Reseau de Transport d’Electricite, the French grid operator, showed that EDF halted the 1,330-megawatt reactor at 12:20 p.m. local time. There are two reactors at the site in northern France. Penly-1 was generating normally this morning, according to the latest data available.
I'm flagging this item not to point out the danger of nuclear plants, but to point out a specific cost usually ignored: that of intermittency of nuclear. As the extract above notes, 1.3 GW brutally disappeared from the grid, and it could have been double that if the other reactor had had to be cut off. The grid had to be able to deal with such an incident, which meant it had to find another 1.3GW available on short notice - in fact, the grid must be able to deal with the unexpected drop of any large plant - and by their very nature, nuclear plants are very large.
When you consider that the Gravelines power plant has 5.7 GW of installed capacity, you realize that the grid needs to have at all times the ability to deal with the brutal interruption of that level of capacity, should any event take the site down altogether. While rare and usually benign, events which temporally take down a nuclear plant do happen once in a while and thus impose a permanent cost on the power system which must be over-designed in order to cope with such a possibility.
And when you look at how grid costs are calculated, you see that they are proportional to the maximum load a generator can put into the system - and thus these costs fall, logically, on the largest coal and nuclear plants.
Which means, in practice, that intermittency of nuclear is costlier than intermittency of wind...