Fire at Didcot power station means the UK power grid is in for a rough ride this winter

Didcot_firePeter Miller writes in WUWT Tips and Notes:

There has been a major fire tonight at Didcot B power station in the UK – this plant provides around 3% of the country’s electricity.

In addition, an abnormal amount of the UK’s nuclear power stations are currently down for maintenance or repair.

A cold winter will bring widespread black outs in the UK and with it the long overdue realisation by the lumpen proletariat that an energy policy reliant on intermittent, unreliable, expensive wind power is totally insane.

Bishop Hill notes:

News is breaking of a major fire at the Didcot B gas fired power station in Oxfordshire. From the photos, this a big one which will put it offline for a long time. The station’s cacacity is 1300MW or thereabouts, so it represents a pretty serious erosion of the UK’s already paper-thin safety margin. Time to start praying for a mild winter.

Meanwhile:

Winter 2014 set to be ‘coldest for century’ Britain faces ARCTIC FREEZE in just weeks

WINTER 2014 is on track to be the coldest for more than a CENTURY with Britain just weeks away from a crippling ARCTIC FREEZE.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/nature/520672/Winter-weather-2014-UK-forecast-cold-snow-November

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142 thoughts on “Fire at Didcot power station means the UK power grid is in for a rough ride this winter

  1. Do not listen to anything the express or mail publish about weather. They are not interested in accuracy. …only sensationalism!

    • First of all don’t panic….
      Energy Secretary Ed Davey said:
      “I’ve been reassured by National Grid that there is no risk to electricity supplies. I will be keeping in touch with the relevant authorities throughout.”

      • We could always burn Ed Davey, of course. Then there’s Jeremy Hunt, Vince Cable, Nick Clegg, George Galloway, Vivienne Westwood, Emma Thompson. We could import Americans like Sean Penn. There’s a huge resource!

      • Keith, a quote from ‘Yes Minister” “Never believe anything until it has been officially denied.”.
        What Ed Davey said is the standard masterpiece of misstatement by a civil servant. There is no risk ‘at the moment’ is what that statement says, it is not saying “no risk to future electricity supplies”. The sentence is also incomplete – throughout…. what? The fire? The night? The coming winter?

  2. Come on now, the Express gave up with journalism long ago. Now they just print the weather forecast on the front page and sensationalise it as much as they can. Doesn’t make it any more accurate being a headline.

    • You got there first.
      The Express predicts an extreme season every three months.
      It’s cheaper than doing journalism.

      • Did The Express predict it?

        …..James Madden, forecaster for Exacta Weather said “significant snowfall” is likely in WEEKS with savage frosts and thick winter fogs threatening widespread misery.
        He said: “Over the coming weeks and into November, it is likely to turn progressively colder, even very cold at times, in particular, in parts of the north as northern blocking becomes a somewhat more prominent feature…….
        http://www.express.co.uk/news/nature/520672/Winter-weather-2014-UK-forecast-cold-snow-November

        Here is the Met Office UK covering all bases and NOT making any forecast. 😉

        10 October 2014
        …..
        What does the current outlook say?
        Our latest three-month outlook suggests an increased risk of milder and wetter than average conditions for the period Oct-Nov-Dec based on our seasonal forecasts and those from other leading centres around the world.
        However, there are still substantial probabilities that average or opposite (ie cool and/or dry) conditions may occur. This is because there are many competing factors that determine what our weather will be like in the coming months.
        The outlook also highlights an increased risk of unsettled weather relative to what is usual for the time of year, but – again – there are still reasonable chances of other scenarios.
        The increased risk of more unsettled than average conditions does not mean the late autumn and early winter will necessarily be like that of last year…..
        https://metofficenews.wordpress.com/2014/10/05/the-met-offices-outlook-to-the-end-of-2014/

      • Jimbo:
        So from that forecast the met office has obviously hired Al Sleet as their forecaster.
        (Al Sleet, aka The Hippy Dippy Weatherman – George Carlin)

      • M Courtney
        October 20, 2014 at 1:11 am
        “The Express predicts an extreme season every three months.
        It’s cheaper than doing journalism.”
        Nothing is cheaper than “doing journalism”. Judging from what I read in the media.

    • Do you have any sympathy for poor pensioners who will literally be freezing and dying in the dark?
      It won’t be the likes of, say, Zac (estimated net worth £300m) Goldsmith who will be doing the freezing.

      • Conflating Zac Goldsmith with poor pensioners is a mite disingenuous since he isn’t a pensioner. (As you rightly point out, of course, he isn’t poor either!)
        You are, of course, completely correct that he won’t be freezing and certainly not in the dark. As an “honourable member” of the House of Commons, he will be totally protected by power cuts etc. since Parliament will be the last place in the country to be cut off. These parasites will do anything to protect themselves whilst at the same time letting the rest of us go hang. So, as well as working in a well lit and well heated building (and with the many subsided bars to sustain them in their hours of need), they will naturally claim all sorts of expenses to keep themselves comfortable at home too. That gravy train must keep going.

      • I believe the “idiots” referred to are those who voted in Cameron and the other CAGW religionists who brought about the current crisis. It likely includes many of the “poor pensioners”.

    • Further to William’s comment:
      There are real and unfortunate consequences to spending billions and billions on green scams that do not work to significantly reduce CO2 emissions or to provide electricity, that do not work for engineering and economic reasons. See Germany where consumers are now paying three times more for electricity than the US average. Germany is now desperately constructing coal fired power plants to avoid brownouts. Green policies that are madness will led to economic collapse and country wide brown-outs if they are not stopped.
      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2290444/Madness-How-pay-billions-electricity-bills-Britains-biggest-power-station-switch-coal-wood-chips–wont-help-planet-jot.html

      But the sad truth is that we ourselves should be neither laughing nor crying. We should be rising up to protest, in real anger, at those politicians whose collective flight from reality is fast dragging us towards as damaging a crisis as this country has ever faced.

      Alistair Buchanan, the retiring head of our energy regulator Ofgem, recently warned that our electricity supplies are now running so low and close to ‘danger point’ that we may face major power cuts quoted text

      This month sees the closure of several of our remaining major coal-fired power stations. Plants such as Kingsnorth in Kent, Didcot A in Oxfordshire and Cockenzie in Scotland (capable of generating nearly 6,000 megawatts a year — a seventh of our average needs) will stop production as a result of an EU anti-pollution directive. This means that, to keep Britain’s lights lit, we’ll soon be more dependent than ever on expensive gas-fired power stations. The trouble is that our gas supplies are becoming ever more precarious. Only this week we were told that Britain has just two weeks’ worth of gas left in storage — the lowest amount ever.
      The result of this dog’s dinner of an energy policy is that, on the one hand we can look forward to ever-soaring energy bills, while on the other hand we will have crippling power cuts.
      The tragedy is that, listening to our politicians such as Ed Davey, the Lib Dem Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, it is only too obvious that they haven’t the faintest idea of what they are talking about. They live in such a la-la land of green make-believe that they no longer connect with reality — and seem unable to comprehend the national energy crisis now heading our way with the speed of a bullet train.

      Germany, which already has five times as many wind turbines as Britain, is now desperately building 20 new coal-fired stations in the hope of keeping its lights on. The first, opened last September, is already generating 2,200 megawatts; nearly as much as the average output of all of Britain’s wind farms combined. China, already the world’s largest CO2 emitter, is planning to build 363 more coal-fired power stations, without any heed of the vast amount of emissions they’ll produce. India is ready to build 455 new coal-fired power stations to fuel an economy growing so fast that it could soon overtake our own.

      P.S. The AGW problem has no basis in science and is not support by observations. Roughly 90% of the warming in the last 70 years was due to solar magnetic cycle changes. The solar magnetic cycle is now declining faster than at an time in the last 1000 years. I am truly curious how the AGW climategate scientists will try to explain unequivocal global cooling.

      • William Astley
        October 20, 2014 at 1:45 am

        William, these plants are not being closed due to AGW. They are being closed as a result of the “Large Combustion Plant Directive” – which is intended to prevent acid rain – the previous falsified claim from the Greens that was supposed to be killing forests and fresh water fish.
        See http://www.defra.gov.uk/industrial-emissions/eu-international/lcpd/
        Despite the claims of acid rain being disproved the EU Bureaucracy continues to enforce regulations to prevent it, even if that means old people die of cold in energy poverty. The same blind application of regulations will happen even if AGW is comprehensively falsified and the world cools, the EU (and EPA) bureaucrats will continue to enforce carbon dioxide emissions limits. Rules and regulations are needed for the continued employment of bureaucrats after all.

    • There are a lot of us in the UK who disagree with changign to biomass and all that other sustainable renewable idiotic stuff. But we don’t get the choice. All the major parties, except UKIP, are signed up to this green nonsense.

    • My 75 year old mother is sick and living alone in the UK, I am in Australia and can do nothing to help, your comments are insensitive to say the least.

    • That’s OK then, no problems, Just lost the equivalent of the London Array Wind farm nothing to worry about.

  3. Drax may not be in as dire a situation as first seems. The elevators built to feed in wood chips are dual purpose as they can also feed in coal. But then again would that be allowed?

    • “The elevators built to feed in wood chips are dual purpose as they can also feed in coal”
      Drax, like all other large scale coal plants actually burned powdered coal. You can’t simply dump solid coal in.
      The question is in what state are the ball-mills and blowers that provide the capacity to get the coal to the burners?

      • Pretty good. Drax only cioncerted because the government promised lots of subsidies if they did.
        Of course they were lied to.
        They can’t run the hours for coal as I understand it, or they get fined. Maybe. I havent studied exactly where they sit on the coal scheme of things legally.

  4. Conspiracy theory time, someone is sabotaging the UK power grid.
    Either that or they’ve suddenly become terrible at maintenance for some reason.
    2 nuclear reactors down, and now this.
    This is ridiculous.

    • Just underinvestment.
      Run advanced engineering on a shoestring and keep trying to extend the life of plant – and breakdowns will occur.
      Even the coalition Government admit that electricity generation has been underinvested in. But they blame the last administration, of course
      And they think windpower and £16billion of cables to link it up (page 85 of Delivering UK Energy Investment) will be enough.
      With good luck for the weather they might be right.

    • Possible design. Liking nuclear or coal power is electoral suicide unless a few days of rolling blackouts were stopped by very quickly bringing the plants back on line.
      Kinda hard to argue against the power source that brought the lights and heat back on. 😉

  5. a tip for anyone in the uk running a diesel car. at the first sign of cold weather get at least one 5 gallon container of fuel set aside at home. any shortfall in power supply will be made up by diesel fueled generators as the current government are too stupid to realise the cunning plan to stave of public unrest caused by regular power outages until after the next election is likely to see the same unrest when diesel supplies for their cars run out. the law of unintended consequences.

  6. Taking the Express weather headline – they said the same last year – something about months of snow and ice and were completely wrong. This is the last place I expected to see alarmist writing on any subject.

  7. 1 gallon = 4.54609 litres. Assuming your diesel car is reasonably fuel efficient, you do 4.54609 litres to 100 km. So 5 gallons will take you 500 km. Assume you travel 25 km per day on average, this gives you fuel for 20 days. Suggest for a bad winter you need at least 5 times that, just over 3 months of fuel restrictions.
    But, ISTR, last time there were fuel shortages and restrictions, there were heavy penalties on ‘fuel hoarding’.
    You just can’t win!

    • Yes, who can forget the guy who filled up a leaky 107 litre wheelie bin with petrol and whose neighbours had to be evacuated.

    • “Quit hoarding!” said the Grasshopper to the Ant, “Or I’ll fine you!”
      So the Ant, who had gathered openly so the Grasshopper might learn, instead gathered in secret so the Grasshopper wouldn’t know better, and wouldn’t come begging and stealing during Winter.

  8. The official information is that the fire will not affect electricity supplies in the UK as other stations will cover any shortfall. Your headline, as well as being misspelt, is unnecessarily pessimistic

    • Maybe, Ian. But the point is that with our capacity here in Britain, and with a few stations off-line at the moment, it wouldn’t take much for us to be tipped into power cuts – it really wouldn’t. A few stations knocked out by a small terrorist campaign would bring Britain to its knees. We have power that we can bring in from France, but it isn’t much. We’re walking a knife edge at the moment. I don’t know if you live here, but a couple of years back we learned that we were whisker close to power cuts – revealed months later.

      • It is not just the UK at risk , we also supply some of Ireland’s needs (North and South) via interconnectors from Scotland and Wales. At present , with autumn winds, metered wind power is supplying more than 4GW , but this is close to its limit and we are importing 1/2 of the 2GW available from France.
        The latter, with 50GW available from nuclear and hydro ,is sitting pretty and exporting to all adjacent countries. If Hollande’s plans to close all nuclear power stations and convert to wind ever happen then Western Europe will be in deep trouble.

      • Greg Kirkby
        October 20, 2014 at 2:22 am

        You must be an accountant 🙂
        “What are all those fire extinguishers doing here? When was the last time this office had a fire?”
        Similar things were said in the USA before the Oklahoma bombing and again before 9/11.
        There was already considerable concern about terrorist attacks on the national grid in UK, but now the previous and current government policies have made continuity of supplies extremely fragile.

      • Greg, are you serious? Ian W deals with your post correctly. Attempts have been made to keep the location of the National Grid co-ordination centre a secret – because of terrorism. Only thing is, the BBC recently had a TV programme that showed the inside of the centre, and pasted up on the screen where it is, geographically, for a second or two! During a BBC programme that featured it just six months prior, the presenter said she couldn’t say where it is. Good ol’ BBC! I know exactly where it is down to the exact building – as one of my customers works there.

      • Thanks Sandy. Greg has a kitchen cupboard full of snake oil, if anyone wants any.

      • @ SandyInLimousin, I note that Greenpeace are still taking the easy route in their protests. They stop coal fueled power stations, but they don’t picket actual coal mines to stop the coal coming out. I wonder why? Could it be that coal miners might actually stop their protest? 🙂

      • “Attempts have been made to keep the location of the National Grid co-ordination centre a secret – because of terrorism”
        That’s complete nonsense – the locations are in the public domain.
        The primary Electricity grid control location is just outside Wokingham; the equivalent for the national gas “spine ” (i.e. the high pressure network) is in Hinkley, Leicestershire. You can find either via Google Maps
        That’s not to say you’d find it easy to gat anywhere close to the control rooms themselves -you wouldn’t. Or that there aren’t failover facilities elsewhere.

      • SadButMadLad
        No deep coal mines left in the UK, a bit of open cast but that upsets the Ecoloons. Despite having several centuries of coal reserves the UK is a net importer.

    • Oh, that’s all right then. As long as it’s ‘official information’ we’re bound to be safe. After all, would they lie to us??? [WMD anyone?]

      • Otter – nope. I’m from England the NYT isn’t widely distributed here. Anyway, I read enough crap in British newspapers; why would I want to read more from a foreign organ. What I do know is that our former Prime Minister, Tony BLiar, lied through his teeth over the issue.

  9. My first thought was “Was this fire started deliberately or was it a genuine accident?”. Here is Aus, Tasmania has had it’s first bush fire, and it was started deliberately. I can see a re-run of power blackouts in the UK similar to those of the 1970’s, the Govn’t has already hinted this would be the case.

  10. Slightly worried that to meet our UK long term emission targets we must be weaned from heating our homes with gas. The remnants of that Bermudan hurricane will arrive in Scotland tonight and set all the wind turbines spinning. Please send more remnants, I think we are going to need them.

    • Enough of using other peoples remnants, we are British, we want our own independent wind, untouched & unsullied by foreigners, DickEd Davey will see us though, hes promised “the lights wont go out” so we’re bound to be OK.
      Must go; Nurse says it’s time for my pills & a lie down.

      • I think Bermuda still thinks of itself as British so these remnants could still be classed as, “untainted”.
        I was slightly amazed at how quickly the hurricane leftovers got here, I had been told that the ocean winds arriving in Ireland were remarkably clean and fresh after their long crossing. Now patently nonsense.

  11. Most of us take a warning about “COLDEST” and “FOR MORE THAN A CENTURY” with the same Dead Sea sized grain of salt that we take “WARMEST” and “IN THE HISTORY OF THE PLANET”.
    Still, it’s far more likely that this will be another in a string of brutal winters in the NH than a mild one. With power demand already approaching capacity the potential for visible trouble is increased.

  12. It is always worth checking sources. In this case the story comes from the Express, a notoriously inexact peddler of sensational stories. Moreover, if you look at their source, they are quoting an outfit called Exacta Weather. These are the people who said that last winter in the UK would be very cold with major snow falls. It was actually mild but very wet.

    • Jimmi_the_dalek;
      I have followed Exacta weather for three years and he made these predictions in May this year. Yes he fully accepts that the winter of 13/14 he and other forcasters got completely wrong, due to not taking into account the CME that happened. The majority of his long term forcasts over the years have been 75% accurate. please check out his website.
      Anthony this is the first time posting although a silient folower fro more than two years. Love WUWT.

  13. I see via some reports – the BBC has 25 fire engines, DT, Express -12 engines, others 20 (incl BBC) attending.

  14. When I saw that the fire was in a cooling tower I was puzzled because the huge concrete convection cooling towers don’t contain much at all that is combustable and being inside is like being in a continual downpour. However looking at the photo’s they look like fan forced towers which contain a fair amount of stuff that will burn even when it’s wet. I last worked on cooling towers in the late 70’s and they were the old fashioned Venturi types. I suppose they changed to the new fan driven units because they are cheaper to build and the operating costs are a function of power output. They have done the same with big transformers too but when the fans go down they lose the whole thing. Penny wise, pound foolish I guess.
    They say that at the moment the station can supply enough power with the one tower down thanks to the mild weather. A spokesman said it could be a different story at tea time on a cold February evening.

    • I seem to remeber they contain wooden racks over which the water cascades. If that tower was unused, and the racks were dry, they would burn furiously in their own convection.

    • OT, I guess) In the 1970s I was in a group checking out bicycle routes that had to be relocated due to coal mining activity in western Pennsylvania. We came across a minehead coal plant, one of a group of four scattered around that part of the state. There was always one plant shutdown, and the one we were at was the one shutdown. We asked a security person if we could ride around inside the fenced area, but he said no, there were too many dangers to be aware of.
      Then he told us about the hyperboloid cooling tower (those are big suckers, by the way!) at one of the other plants. They had a redwood lattice inside to splash the falling water around to encourage more evaporation. During maintenance, a welder working inside the tower accidentally set fire to the now dry wood. Given the aerodynamic design, the wood burned really quickly, apparently it was quite a sight. IIRC, the welder did not get out and burned to death.

      • Using redwood makes sense. Its resistance to decay makes it desirable for many applications. Water on wood is very attractive to several species of fungus.
        Seems I had read once the bearings on submarine propeller gear boxes were made of wood. Quiet and durable.

  15. Meanwhile, the BBC breakfast TV reports that despite the incident, the supply of power has not been interrupted.

  16. My friends; it is the honest truth that modern man needs cheap and reliable energy to meet the needs of our 7 Billion people. Modern industrial society is a great boon to humanity and darn few want to return to a hunter-gather existence.
    Someday some political party will wake up and promise the people cheap and reliable energy and they will win in a landslide. Odd that no one has yet gone that route.

  17. Anthony watch out for this James Maddon character in the Express article about Arctic Freezes – he’s a snake oil salesman, I three years of “predicting” winters for the Express he has got it spectacularly wrong on all three occasions!

  18. I’m sorry, I don’t often say this, but the headline of this article is complete nonsense. It is a classic case of catastrophic thinking, something I understand skeptics here are usually quick to accuse others of. If you want to see the state of UK power supplies vs generation and where that power comes from you can monitor this site http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk .WUWT can be a a really useful site, although I fundamentally disagree with some of the ideas, but please, don’t morph into an environmental version of the Daily Mail which breathlessly announces catastrophes ever other day.

    • Agreed.
      But I had this article as an Inverse Guardian story, not a Daily Mail-lite.
      The spelling in the headline, you see.

    • Are you this Gareth Phillips, a Director at Policies for Sustainable Development?
      If so, you are definitely part of the problem in the UK’s future energy supply, not part of its solution.
      “I fear for the future of humanity in the face of climate change. If a drought in Russia can trigger the Arab Spring, then I hate to think about what prolonged variations in climate can trigger. Historically, periods of great civil unrest were triggered by poor agricultural yields, famine and hunger. Such events today spell untold misery for the people directly effected and threaten the peace and security of everyone else – including my children.”

  19. To be honest, I think we’ve dodged the bullet on this one, in terms of losing generating capacity this winter.
    Looking at the photos above, there seem to be three heat exchanger units damaged. That’s out of 16 for each of the two units on site ( a quick look at Google Maps will show you the overall installation). Assuming the damaged units can be isolated – highly likely – it’s at most going to involve a relatively small reduction in capacity at just one of the two CCGT units of Didcot B. Probably no more than 60-100MW.
    The decision to run the Heysham I and Hartlepool AGRs is more significant in terms of total capacity loss – With one reactor at Heysham with one boiler out and the remainder running at lower temperatures, output from that unit is likely to be down by 30% or so – 200MW. A 20% reduction on the remaining Heysham I reactor and the two at Hartlepool amounts to 120MW/reactor – so a total reduction in capacity of about 500-600MW.
    National Grid was quoted about a couple of months ago as stating there was 3-6GW of margin at anticipated peak demand, which if I remember rightly was about 57-58GW. With this, the Heysham/Hartlepool capacity reductions, the loss of a 500MW unit at Ferrybridge, and the less publicised turbine fire at Ironbridge, about 1700MW of that reserve is now not going to be available this winter.
    We now look like being on system margin as low as 2.2%.

    • System margin as low as 2.2% seems razor thin to me, but at least there is margin. But does this calculation include all the “green” output actually working well during the winter? In other words, can we trust the figures given?

      • m/”But does this calculation include all the “green” output actually working well during the winter?”
        No. Grid routinely gives wind a “firm rating” of about 8-10% of nameplate capacity, which is what would be used in their capacity calculation. It gives solar no capacity credit at all.
        And yes, 2.2% is extremely thin.
        For what it’s worth, I do expect there’ll be a number of occasions where heavy industrial users will be expected to reduce load over the winter. I don’t anticipate power cuts to domestic users though.

  20. Each cell of the cooling tower is in parallel to its neighbour in the water system. Even if they have lost 5 cells as suggested once they have confirmed there is no damage to adjoining systems they will be able to get up an running again. As the weather gets colder the loss of the cells will probably have little or no effect given they are designed to provide full load in the summer.
    Returning the damaged cells to service will take some time but I doubt this will have a lasting impact on security of supply.

  21. It’s okay, we don’t need energy. Energy is a luxury, not an essential. We can live without it. Just need a few more blankets, that’s all. [/sarc]

  22. We’ve prepped for a hard black winter –
    2 small gensets + 1,000 liters of fuel,
    battery powered LED lighting
    3x 20 liters drinking water barrels, rest of water will be rainwater/snow
    always keep plenty of tinned food in (just in case)
    & 2 freezers full

  23. “realisation by the lumpen proletariat”
    ‘Scuse me! I take exception to that.
    I think you’ll find that most of the bill-paying suckers that faithfully pay their electricity bills have been watching an endless procession of dimwit politicians sloping their collective shoulders on power-station renewal/replacement for several decades now. Frankly we can’t actually do anything about it: if we withhold payments we’ll get cut off, and if we vote in another set of dimwits they seem to continue the same policy. I’ve lost hope.
    However, if by “lumpen proletariat” you meant the House of Commons, then please ignore the previous paragraph.

  24. Nuclear plants typically schedule outages for refueling and maintenance in the spring and fall, particularly in the US, when the relatively mild weather (not too hot, not too cold) means less demand for electricity. October is in the middle of outage season, so it should be no surprise that several nuclear power stations are offline right now.

      • Theoretically, you could — say, in an emergency — but practically, no. It doesn’t make economic sense to do so. It’s better just to get the refueling, maintenance, and inspection over, so that the plant can run reliably until the next outage, which in the US is typically 18 months away.

    • Looks like 5 planned outages and 3 unplanned. Only 7 units up and running. Two are scheduled to come back online this week. Barring any unfortunate circumstances surrounding the boiler inspections, several more should be back online in the next month or so.
      Regarding the margin, I understood that UK had recently made a decision to construct another unit (or 2?) at Hinkley Point. Of course, with the current rate of construction, you’re probably looking at a decade before it’s producing power.
      From the outside, though, it doesn’t surprise me that UK has a thin margin. It’s a fairly small market to go installing lots of excess capacity…
      rip

  25. Who is conflagrating the problem now.
    It was a cooling tower not a power generator.
    They do not need all of them in the winter cold.
    The winter may be cold but winter off 62 was colder.
    No sun shine for 12 weeks. and the ground frozen to 3foot depth.
    Water pipes frozen, water in gas pipes freezing and blocking the gas.
    Diesel coagulating in fuel pipes.
    People slipping and breaking bones on the accumulated ice on pavements.
    Nope been there done that….. Nothing to see please move on.

  26. http://www.edfenergy.com/energy/power-station/daily-statuses
    Dungerness -dead
    sizewell – half dead
    hunsterton – half dead
    heysham 1 – dead
    hartleypool – dead
    so reliable this nuclear stuff!!
    Sizewell B
    Last updated: 17 Oct 2014 13.56hrs
    Generation (MW) data as at: 17 Oct 2014 11.30hrs
    .Reactor 1 Turbine Generator 1
    Offline
    -7 MW
    Shutdown category Planned
    Expected return to service w/c 08-Dec-14
    .Status Statutory/refuelling outage
    Next statutory outage On outage
    Turbine Generator 2
    In service 601 MW
    Status Nominal full load
    Next statutory outage Oct-2014
    Hunterston B Reactor 1 Turbine Generator 1
    Offline -7MW
    Shutdown category Planned
    Expected return to service w/c 08-Dec-14
    Status Statutory/refuelling outage
    Next statutory outage On outage
    Turbine Generator 2
    In service 601 MW
    Status Nominal full load
    Next statutory outage Oct-2014
    Hunterston B
    Generation (MW) data as at 17 Oct 2014 11.30hrs
    Reactor 3 Turbine Generator 7
    In service 289MW
    Status Low-load refuelling
    Next statutory outage Oct-2015
    Reactor 4 Turbine Generator 8
    Offline -24MW
    Shutdown category Planned
    Expected return to service w/c 03-Nov-14
    Status Unit shut down to address turbine bearing high vibration
    Next statutory outage On outage
    Heysham 1
    Reactor 1 Turbine Generator 1
    Offline -10MW
    Shutdown category Planned
    Expected return to service31-Dec-14
    Status Shut down for boiler inspections
    Next statutory outage Jun-2016
    Reactor 2 Turbine Generator 2
    Offline 0MW
    Shutdown category Non planned
    Expected return to service 09-Nov-14
    Status Shut down for boiler inspections
    Next statutory outage Apr-2015
    Hartlepool
    Reactor 1 Turbine Generator 1
    Offline -3MW
    Shutdown category Planned
    Expected return to service 22-Nov-14
    Status Statutory outage/boiler inspections
    Next statutory outage On outage
    Reactor 2 Turbine Generator 2
    Offline -5MW
    Shutdown category Non planned
    Expected return to service 09-Nov-14
    Status Shut down for boiler inspections
    Next statutory outage Jan-2016
    Dungeness B
    Reactor 21 Turbine Generator 21
    Offline -18MW
    Shutdown category Planned
    Expected return to service 20-Oct-14
    Status Off-load refuelling
    Next statutory outage Mar-2017
    Reactor 22 Turbine Generator 22
    Offline -18MW
    Shutdown category Non planned
    Expected return to service 21-Oct-14
    Status Unit shut down following a boiler feed pump fault
    Next statutory outage May-2015

    • Yes, as you highlight, they’re mostly planned shutdowns. This is the middle of outage season, when the demand for electricity (and price of electricity in a deregulated, merchant environment) is at one of its lowest points of the year.

    • These are old nuclear stations that should have been decommissioned years ago. The maintenance issues are hardly surprising, really.
      The problem is not these shutdowns. The real problem is Tony Blair, who said in 1998 that we needed new nuclear power stations – but then prevaricated for 12 years because he would not make any difficult decisions. Tony Blair wanted to be nice to everyone, to get reelected, so refused point blank to make any difficult decisions.** So he deliberately let the nation go to pot.
      Ralph
      ** Blair went to war in Iraq because George Bush knew about Miranda. You will need a knowledge of astronomy to work that one out.

  27. Whilst I personally hope we DO have power cuts this winter (it’s the only way to make the bulk of the British public wake up to the situation), Richard North (EU Referendum) is constantly banging on about the considerable reserves provided by STOR. This is the cunning plan to build lots of distributed diesel & gas powered generation, and utilise the backup generators already installed in large buildings, hospitals etc. According to him there won’t be any cuts, but as far as I’m aware none of this plan has been put to the acid test yet. That moment may be getting closer!
    I bought some fresh fuel and tested my small genset last week, and I’m assembling a selection of batteries & lights, plus inverters to keep fridges & freezers cold. We have gas cooking and central heating – the latter has dedicated battery, inverter & changeover switch to power the controls and pump…

  28. Keitho
    October 20, 2014 at 1:28 am
    When I saw that the fire was in a cooling tower I was puzzled because the huge concrete convection cooling towers don’t contain much at all that is combustable and being inside is like being in a continual downpour. However looking at the photo’s they look like fan forced towers which contain a fair amount of stuff that will burn even when it’s wet. I last worked on cooling towers in the late 70’s and they were the old fashioned Venturi types.

    I work on and around cooling towers, as did my father for many years. It’s too early (too little information is out that is correct and accurate) to make a real conclusion, but I’ll add my three cents to the discussion anyway. Just realize that they are assumptions and cautions, NOT engineering-level conclusions.
    A hyperbolic cooling tower works based on the difference in expansion as the outside air is drawn in the “gap” between ground level and the tower’s round outer surface. In the gap, we place tens of thousands of linear feet of sloped boards and baffles. The outside air crosses the hot water flowing (splashing down) across these baffles , is heated up and picks up large amount of humidified/highly-ariated water drops! – then the newly warmed air heads up the inside of the cooling tower by natural draft. No large fans means a considerable power savings over the year, BUT it requires some careful combinations of average and minimum and maximum air temperatures; minimum, maximum and average air humidities; average and maximum wind speeds, nearby terrain, the required heat exchange rates needed for the water at the peaks in mid-summer and at the peaks of mid-winter. Add to the problems are the “visual” impact of large cooling towers, and they are not appropritae in many areas. In general, if a nearby river or bay is available, it is almost always the preferred heat exchange source.
    A fan-driven cooler is lower, less expensive to build (but more expensive to run), less visually obnoxious, and and takes much less time to build. At higher interest rates in earlier times, the shorter construction time of a fan-driven cooling row can pay for a lot of fan motor expenses!
    But, remember those boards and baffle plates in the natural draft towers? The ones that – if evr dried out – burn like crazy because of the natural draft of air flowing across them? Same thing happens in smaller, fan-driven cooling plate baffles. Their interiors and fan motors and power supplies and water systems can burn out. And, once burned, it takes a good bit of time to replace everything so it can run again. Big pipes (30 and 36 inch diameters), huge fans (10-20 meter diameter) and balanced aero-deriviative helicopter-sized blades are NOT found in your nearby WalMart or Ikia big-box stores!
    If several “boxes” of a set are burned out, it is almost certain that the whole row is out until the piping can be restored. These are run in parallel to get even water temperatures back to the power plant condensers. Huge 1 meter remote controlled valves are NOT cheap, and so few cut-out valves are installed out in the row of fan-driven heat exchangers. Figure if two sets in a dual-tower cooling setup are burned, the whole half-tower is out until it is rebuilt. I could be wrong on that, but P&ID’s of power plant cooling systems are usually not web-accessible either.
    Margins? You “want” to run a grid with 10% margin. You “can” run a grid theoretically with only 2% margin, if nothing else ever goes wrong any other place in the grid.
    This spokesman is a typical politician – talking to other politicians for their voters through a compliant press “corpse” that has demanded green energy politics – and not design or efficiency – runs power plants.

    • I’ve often seen manually-operated butterfly valves at individual cooling tower cell inlets (mostly used for flow balancing) that could act as isolation valves in a pinch. It’s been awhile, but I seem to remember 10″ pipe size for the 3-5 multiple cell inlets being fed by a 30″ cooling water header.

  29. Is the UK grid truly homogenous, such that a single plant’s contribution (or lack thereof) can be described in National terms? Does this impinge the “margin” in temporal surge capacity more than the total “capacity”?

    • Yes. There are some constraints in transmission capacity between England and Scotland but these are well above the credible export either way; otherwise the Grid’s built and run as a single entity.

  30. 3% doesn’t seem alarming. A grid normally has way more than 3% excessive capacity, regardless.
    And most of those nuclear plants have capacities not much less than the one that burned. I would doubt that they would schedule refuelings during high consumption times of the year – they almost always schedule those for Spring or Fall (it is Fall, you know). Maintenance of nuclear plants (unless an emergency) always occurs during refuleing down times and those down times aren’t typically going to last any 2 months, which is what would be required for their outputs to be missed. Skeptical about this alarmist
    article.

    • Col Klink submitted on 2014/10/20 at 7:40 am
      3% doesn’t seem alarming. A grid normally has way more than 3% excessive capacity, regardless.
      And most of those nuclear plants have capacities not much less than the one that burned. I would doubt that they would schedule refuelings during high consumption times of the year – they almost always schedule those for Spring or Fall (it is Fall, you know). Maintenance of nuclear plants (unless an emergency) always occurs during refuleing down times and those down times aren’t typically going to last any 2 months, which is what would be required for their outputs to be missed.

      No, not true. Well, all of your individual statements are correct, but the conclusion is not.
      3% reserve IS alarming BECAUSE 3% reserve is the lowest a grid ever wants to go! The national grids want 10% reserve DURING all period including the plants down for routine and long-term maintenance. (It would like 15%-18% reserve all the time so when some of the plants go down for routine maintenance the remaining ones can support a 10% reserve.)
      At 3% they have no reserve. Worse, because of the high wind capacity over there, the uncontrollable hourly and daily “ups and down” of wind generators will stress (increase the metal fatigue on conventional plants) the operating ones by forcing them up and down in excursions that break steel and castings due to thermal and too-fast heat-up rates. Thus, other breakdowns are MORE likely after long periods of low-reserve power production. And, of course, the green eco-philiacs will NOT let the thermal plants to relax emissions or air permits, so they HAVE TO shut down and restart continually during this period. More stress. More chances of additional failures.
      True, all grids worldwide schedule plant outages during spring-fall when demand is lowest. Those outages are seldom less than 4 weeks, often as long as 2 months. A nuclear plant also needs major steam turbine open-and-inspect, open-and-machine, open-and-replace turbine blades, condenser tubes, oil and water pumps, etc. A generator repair period will shut down a nuke longer than a simple refueling, but without the generator upgrades, the nuke is nothing but an expensive teapot.
      Power output is missed each hour a plant is down. It does not take a 2-month outage to make its impact felt.

  31. They run the grid in a way it is able to tolerate a power loss from a generating plant of 0.7GW or 1.8GW depending on which part of page 12 you accept:
    https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/ofgem-publications/88523/electricitycapacityassessment2014-fullreportfinalforpublication.pdf
    The above is the official report into grid capacity etc.
    Fig 3 pg 13 shows the capacity of the grid slowly reducing till next year then it starts to rise.
    It seems that they are sailing very close to the wind on this, a bit of a shame really because the UK had exceptional reliability in the past.

    • “the UK had exceptional reliability in the past.”
      But that was when it was the Central Electricity Generating Board CEGB, that was got rid of by grubby no-nothing politicians.
      Politicians should never be allowed to run country’s it should be left to people with skills not 2nd rate PPEs.

  32. Old maxim: Hope for the best – plan for the worst.
    Ed Davey maxim: Hope for the best……..er…er… that’s it.
    I wouldn’t leave him in charge of a whelk stall.

  33. Do realize that a typical car puts out 50 to 90 amps at 12 VDC. (really 13.8 at full spin). That’s about 500 to 1000 Watts. Plenty to run lights and a small blower motor on a heater (furnace). I have a 1 kW inverter I bought for all of $70 that is ready to connect to the car battery in a major emergency. I travel with a 300 W inverter that is the emergency lighting / laptop / cell charger / etc. power source. Cost was about $30. For less than 1/2 a tank of gas, your vehicle becomes a very large self mobile emergency power station with a very large tank…

  34. Andy Dawson :
    you mention a turbine fire. I used to work on both gas turbine roters and steam turbine roters. even rebladed a couple of rows on one. I am a bit adrift about the term “turbine fire” please refine the term. just what burned????? the turbine roter, case or the building??????????
    also for the guys that are talking percentages of power more than need in the three percent range being sufficient to keep a national grid up.
    go to the website caiso.com it is maintained by the California grid operators and is quite an eye opener. it shows total power available, expected load based on calculations the day before, the hour before and actual load. (by the way they refresh the thing every 6 minutes and the best time to look at it is late in the evening west coast united states time as they refresh from zero at midnight.)
    the real eyeopener is the renewable graph. it shows “current wind power, current sun power and a whole bunch of other contributers that the greenies have beaten us into.” no large hydro. that tends to upset the apple cart of politically correct statistics.
    keep in mind that all of the graphs have the same scale but that the main graph is sectioned between the big boys and the weird sources because the greenies contribution is so small it won’t show up on the main graph very well.
    enjoy
    pk

    • “I used to work on both gas turbine roters and steam turbine roters. even rebladed a couple of rows on one. I am a bit adrift about the term “turbine fire” please refine the term. just what burned????? the turbine roter, case or the building??????????”
      mostly the hydrogen coolant in the stator.

  35. “In addition, an abnormal amount of the UK’s nuclear power stations are currently down for maintenance or repair.”
    You will embrace wind power or else!!

  36. Thanks for the alarmism, but this is not a big deal.
    Although I’m a stay at home Mom, and not an engineer, this is obvious from the newspaper report and the Aerial photos.
    1 Didcot B has a capacity of 1360 megawatts. Only half, Unit 1, 680 megawatts was materially affected..
    2.) Only Unit 1’s cooling tower was affected. The complex, critical parts of the station were unaffected. .
    3 Unit 1’s cooling tower has15 cells, 4 were damaged. Possibly six. The station could probably run with the remaining 9, even during the summer and only suffer a 2% loss of power. During the winter, it can certainly run with 9. Indeed in the winter they likely shut down several anyway, to save the power used by the fans..
    4. Its October. Power is not in great demand. They may shut all production for a week or so, just to get organized.
    5 Then Unit 1 will remain shut down unit most of the cooling tower can be made operable again. The damaged cells can be repaired later.
    For now, they need to demolish the remains, cart away the debris, clean out the water basin, pull and attach new power and instrument cable. If they hurry, they will be done by Christmas.

  37. skorrent1
    October 20, 2014 at 10:54 am
    I believe the “idiots” referred to are those who voted in Cameron and the other CAGW religionists who brought about the current crisis. It likely includes many of the “poor pensioners”.
    I assume you are not in the UK or you would realise that until recently there was zero option if you were not an AGW disciple. Only UKIP is even remotely sceptical of AGW and in many areas that is not a realistic option.
    It is also unfair to blame the ordinary person when eve the BBC has become officially a brainwashing organisation for the AGW religion. How many people can undersatand the computer models to see that the claims are outrageous.

  38. Erm! maybe we can call this the Watts effect!! Wind energy record power generation achieved yesterday 6.37GW
    http://www.bbc.com/news/business-29715796
    but in all seriousness, the UK’s grid has needed an overhaul for years, yet always seems to be overlooked by the incumbent government. The old nuclear plants are well past their use by dates, so they are now shifting the safety limits to keep them in action. Wind energy is pretty suitable for our location and environment, but ugly and expensive to maintain i’d say we are approaching saturation there. A decision is desperately needed to decide the direction of the UK’s future generation and as the old sites like didcott reach end of life we can expect more incidents like this in the coming years, lets just hope its not nuclear.

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