British Energy encounters teething trouble

26 July 2007

Sir Adrian Montague, chairman of British Energy, speaking at the company’s AGM has acknowledged that boiler issues at Hinkley Point and Hunterston, and the failure of essential cooling water pipework at Hartlepool has left output from nuclear stations “disappointing.” At 51.2TWh, some 9TWh lower than last year, output was significantly down as a result of the unplanned outages.

The four units at Hinkley Point and Hunterston have been returned to service, albeit at reduced power, although “we have encountered some teething problems during the process of raising load,” Montague added.

Operating the units at the reduced power level of approximately 70% requires fine tuning of the boilers and the balancing of temperature differentials across them and one unit at Hunterston was shut down to allow for additional work on balancing the water flows in the boilers. Similar additional work on other units at Hunterston and Hinkley Point may also be required, in each case about two weeks.

Work is continuing to increase power from the units, but reaching 100% power is “unlikely,” BE admitted.

However, nuclear output in the first quarter of this financial year, 2007-08, was 13 TWh after total nuclear unplanned losses for the period of 3.1 TWh (being unplanned losses of 2.6 TWh attributable to operations at Hinkley Point B and Hunterston B and unplanned losses of 0.5 TWh attributable to other stations). Despite operational issues, the company says it recorded a good financial performance on the back of higher achieved electricity prices.

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