Coexistence of nuclear with renewables on electricity grid

September 6, 2020

by: Don Jones, retired nuclear industry engineer, 2020 Sept.14

There are opposing views on whether nuclear and non-hydro renewable energy – variable intermittent renewable energy (VIRE) like wind and solar – can coexist on an electricity grid.
We have this now typical view from Duke Energy (Ref.1), “More importantly, Duke Energy’s plan follows an emerging trend that acknowledges a clean energy economy is only possible with all carbon-free technologies working together. As more companies and policymakers look for solutions to our climate challenges, we must create a pathway to ensure nuclear, wind, solar and other carbon-free technologies successfully exist together.”

Duke’s statement contradicts the view expressed in the oft quoted, , “If someone declares publicly that nuclear power would be needed in the baseload because of fluctuating energy from wind or sun in the grid, he has either not understood how an electricity grid or a nuclear plant operates, or he consciously lies to the public. Nuclear energy and renewable energies cannot be combined “– Siegmer Gabriel (former Federal Environment Minister of Germany).

Can they coexist? Not at present time, not without help from gas, coal or hydro to provide the load-following capability.

In Ontario VIRE does not have priority over nuclear. Available VIRE is manoeuvred before nuclear is manoeuvred and if necessary curtailed completely.  Presently the CANDU reactors on the Ontario grid do not load-follow (Ref. 2) so to maintain grid stability course power adjustments are made by bypassing steam on one or more of the eight CANDU units of Bruce Power (load-cycling) and more frequent power adjustments (load-following) are made by the hydro generators and/or the combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) units. Even without VIRE it would not be possible to have a stable Ontario grid without the load-following and frequency control capability provided by the hydro and/or gas generators.
Read the rest of this entry »


CANDU cousins in India – Performance in 2019

June 8, 2020

By: Donald Jones, retired nuclear industry engineer, 2020 June 3

Most of India’s nuclear reactors are of the pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR) type with horizontal pressure tubes, just like the Canadian designed CANDU. In fact the first PHWR (not the first nuclear reactor) in India was the Rajasthan Atomic Power Project (RAPP) unit and was a CANDU designed by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) that used the Douglas Point unit in Ontario as reference design but modified to aid localization. RAPP-1 entered commercial operation 1973 December. While RAPP-1 was being constructed the design of RAPP-2 was started. However the detonation of a nuclear device by India in 1974 curtailed completion of the design by AECL and India was on its own as far as nuclear technology was concerned. The design was completed by India and RAPP-2 eventually entered commercial operation in 1981 April. Since those early days India has developed its own indigenous designs of PHWRs with net electrical outputs of 202 MWe, 490 MWe, and 630 MWe. They bear little to no resemblance to Douglas Point. All 17 PHWR units operating in 2019 (excludes RAPP-1 which has been shutdown since 2004) were 202 MWe net (220 MWe gross) except for two 490 MWe net (540 MWe gross) units. There were four 630 MWe net (700 MWe gross) units under construction with none in operation. All PHWR power units, except for RAPP-1, are designed, owned, and operated by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. Several of the country’s PHWRs have been refurbished for extended life operation. For more detailed information on the Indian nuclear program see, Nuclear Power in India (reference 1).

The performance data are taken from the Power Reactor Information System (PRIS) database of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Note that the Load Factor term used in the PRIS database has the same meaning as Capacity Factor (CF). CFs are based on the (net) Reference Unit Power and on the (net) Electricity Supplied, as defined in the PRIS database, so capacities referenced in this article are net electrical MW output. The lifetime, or cumulative, CF is based on the date of commercial operation and will include the outage time if the unit has been refurbished. Only the performance of India’s PHWRs is reviewed in detail but India’s four operating non-PHWR units are mentioned.

Lifetime CFs and some recent annual CFs have suffered because of uranium shortages and India’s technical isolation because of it not being a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Things eased somewhat with the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group agreement achieved in 2008 but the civil liability law introduced in 2010 has still restricted access to foreign technology. Some units are not under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards and cannot use imported uranium and domestic uranium is in short supply. All this has affected and may still be affecting plant performance. Even so at the end of 2013 Rajasthan unit 5 held the world record in lifetime CF at 94.4 percent, according to Nuclear Engineering International magazine (PRIS data give 94.9 percent to end of 2013). On 2014 September 6 Rajasthan unit 5 achieved a 765 day continuous run at full power. On 2018 December 31 Kaiga unit 1 was taken offline for maintenance after completing 962 days of unbroken operation since 2016 May 13, a world record, with a CF of 99.3 percent. This shows what good design and good operation/maintenance can accomplish.

Read the rest of this entry »

Performance of Ontario’s CANDU nuclear generating stations in 2019

June 8, 2020

By: Donald Jones, retired nuclear industry engineer, 2020 June 3

The raw performance data for 2019 are taken from the Power Reactor Information System (PRIS) database of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Note that the Load Factor term used in the PRIS database has the same meaning as Capacity Factor (CF). CFs are based on the (net) Reference Unit Power and on the (net) Electricity Supplied, as defined in the PRIS database. For Ontario, at least, the Energy Availability Factor in the PRIS database can be read as the Unit Capability Factor (reference 1).

The performance of some of Ontario’s nuclear generating stations is affected by the surplus baseload generation (SBG) in the province. Some nuclear units saw electricity output reductions during periods of SBG. This means the CFs are not a true performance indicator for those units (reference 2). A better metric of performance in these cases would be the Unit Capability Factor (UCF – used by Ontario Power Generation and by Bruce Power). The Energy Availability Factor (EAF) is another performance indicator and is shown in the PRIS database. The EAF adjusts the available energy generation for energy losses attributed to plant management, planned and unplanned, and for external energy losses beyond the control of plant management while the UCF only includes energy losses attributed to plant management and excludes the external losses beyond control of plant management like load cycling/load following, grid failures, earthquakes, cooling water temperature higher than reference temperature, floods, lightning strikes, labour disputes outside the plant etc.

For Ontario there should be little significant difference between CF, UCF and EAF for units that do not load cycle (an external energy loss) since other external energy losses will be close to zero. For units that load cycle the UCF will be higher than the EAF and higher than the CF but the EAF should not be significantly different from the CF. For example, going back to 2017 PRIS data, Bruce B unit 7 had a 2017 annual CF of 92.8 percent and an EAF of 96.3 percent. However based on what was just said above this EAF of 96.3 percent must really be a UCF of 96.3 percent and this anomaly will apply to all EAFs given in this article.The UCF and the EAF are based on reference ambient conditions so, unlike the CF, they cannot exceed 100 percent. In some cases the CF can be more than the EAF because the cooling water temperature is lower than the reference temperature and that increases the electrical output of the unit.

Read the rest of this entry »

CANDU 6 Performance in 2019

June 8, 2020

By: Donald Jones, retired nuclear industry engineer, 2020 June 2

History

The two lead CANDU 6 projects were Gentilly 2 in Quebec and Point Lepreau in New Brunswick and these were quickly followed by Embalse in Argentina and Wolsong, now Wolsong 1, in South Korea and all came into service in the early to mid 1980s. These can be regarded as the first tranche of CANDU 6 build.

The second tranche of CANDU 6 units came with Wolsong 2, 3 and 4 in South Korea, Cernavoda 1 and 2 in Romania, and Qinshan 3-1 and 3-2 in China (the other units at Qinshan site are not CANDU), all entering service between 1996 to 2007. Each of the second tranche CANDU 6 units incorporate lessons learned from operation of the earlier units with changes to meet latest regulatory codes and standards.

Capacity Factor

The Capacity Factors are taken from the PRIS (Power Reactor Information System) database of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). Note that the Load Factor term used in the PRIS database has the same meaning as Capacity Factor (CF). Capacity Factors are based on the (net) Reference Unit Power and on the (net) Electricity Supplied figures, as defined in the PRIS database. The Energy Availability Factor (EAF) is another performance indicator and is shown in the PRIS database. The EAF adjusts the available energy generation for energy losses attributed to plant management, planned and unplanned, and for external energy losses beyond the control of plant management. The Unit Capability Factor (UCF), another performance metric, only includes energy losses attributed to plant management and excludes the external losses beyond control of plant management like load cycling/load following, grid failures, earthquakes, cooling water temperature higher than reference temperature, floods, lightning strikes, labour disputes outside the plant etc. The UCF seems a much better indicator of how well the unit is being managed than either CF or EAF but it is not specifically identified in the PRIS database (reference 1). Note that Bruce Power and Ontario Power Generation use UCF as a performance indicator.

Read the rest of this entry »

Small Modular Reactors in Canada’s future

December 5, 2019

By: Donald Jones, retired nuclear industry engineer, 2019 December 04

The announcement on 2019 December 01 by the premiers of Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick about cooperation in the development and deployment of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) (Ref. 1) should not have come as a total surprise. Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has been working with a Micro Modular Reactor (MMR- a smaller version of a SMR) vendor to assist in getting its design through the pre-licensing vendor design reviews of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). Bruce Power and New Brunswick Power have also been working with SMR vendors. There are many (Ref.2) SMR vendors at different stages in the review pipeline of the CNSC with no two reactors being the same. In some cases the design is an improved version of small reactors that have operated successfully in the past but now meeting current design codes and safety regulations in a modular configuration. Small reactors of various capacities and capable of rapid power manoeuvring have been used for many years to power submarines, aircraft carriers (U.S.A) and heavy duty ice breakers (Russia). Small reactors of many different designs are not new but the concept of designing  them for serial construction and collectively to comprise a large nuclear power plant is new. Read the rest of this entry »


Ontario’s IESO uses wind and solar to reduce the carbon intensity of its electricity system

October 15, 2019

By: Donald Jones, retired nuclear industry engineer, 2019 October 15.

Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) power plants produce electricity very efficiently with steady state baseload and intermediate load overall efficiencies of over 60 percent for newer units. Most presently operating units would have somewhat lower efficiencies. Unfortunately on most power grids with significant wind and/or solar generation they rarely operate at steady state (reference 1).

Operating CCGT plants at part load and stopping and starting the gas turbine(s) leads to lower plant efficiency and increased emissions of greenhouse gases per megawatt-hour generated as well as wear and tear on the units. Every time a CCGT is warming up gas is being burned while the gas turbine is slowly increasing power and warming up the heat recovery steam generators (HRSG), and the steam turbine when steam becomes available. This increases the heat rate giving higher kg GHG/MWh. If a CCGT had a bypass stack the gas turbine could be delivering power very quickly but at high heat rate (low overall efficiency) since it would be operating simple cycle and giving higher kg GHG/MWh. When increasing power (manoeuvring/ramping) in the operating range the HRSG and steam turbine metal have to be warmed up which takes away gas for no useful power output, increasing kg GHG/MWh.

Ontario has a very low carbon intensity electricity grid averaging 40 g CO2e/kWh. In 2018 more than 93 percent of the electricity generated in Ontario came from non-GHG emitting resources, predominantly nuclear and hydro with some wind and solar. Nuclear provided 61 percent of generation in 2018. There is about 10000 MW of gas-fired and oil-fired generation connected to the transmission grid mostly CCGTs burning natural gas and just under 5000 MW (nameplate capacity) of wind and solar. CCGTs are used to meet peak load demands and provide operational flexibility. Read the rest of this entry »


Performance of Ontario’s CANDU nuclear generating stations in 2017

April 3, 2018

By: Donald Jones, retired nuclear industry engineer, 2018 March 29

The raw performance data for 2017 are taken from the Power Reactor Information System (PRIS) database of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Note that the Load Factor term used in the PRIS database has the same meaning as Capacity Factor (CF). CFs are based on the (net) Reference Unit Power and on the (net) Electricity Supplied, as defined in the PRIS database. For Ontario, at least, the Energy Availability Factor in the PRIS database can be read as the Unit Capability Factor, see later. More information and performance data for 2016 are in references 1 and 2.

The performance of some of Ontario’s nuclear generating stations is affected by the surplus baseload generation (SBG) in the province. The surplus usually arises because of unreliable intermittent wind generation coming in at times of low demand and wind generation is expected to increase even more over the next several years. Some nuclear units saw electricity output reductions during periods of surplus baseload generation (SBG). This means the CFs are not a true performance indicator for those units (reference 3). A better metric of performance in these cases would be the Unit Capability Factor (UCF – used by Ontario Power Generation and by Bruce Power). The Energy Availability Factor (EAF) is another performance indicator and is shown in the PRIS database. The EAF adjusts the available energy generation for energy losses attributed to plant management, planned and unplanned, and for external energy losses beyond the control of plant management while the UCF only includes energy losses attributed to plant management and excludes the external losses beyond control of plant management like load cycling/load following, grid failures, earthquakes, cooling water temperature higher than reference temperature, floods, lightning strikes, labour disputes outside the plant etc.
Read the rest of this entry »


Performance of Ontario’s CANDU nuclear generating stations in 2015

March 18, 2016

By: Donald Jones, P.Eng., retired nuclear industry engineer, 2016 March 19

At the end of 2015 Darlington had a four unit average lifetime Capacity Factor (CF) of 83.6 percent and an average annual CF of 76.1 percent. Bruce A had a four unit average lifetime CF of 69 percent and an average annual CF of 86.1 percent. Bruce B had a four unit average lifetime CF of 83.5 percent and an average annual CF of 84.4 percent. The six unit Pickering station had a six unit average lifetime CF of 72.4 percent and an average annual CF of 78.6 percent. Performance data for 2014 are discussed in reference 1.

The raw performance data for 2015 are taken from the Power Reactor Information System (PRIS) database of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Note that the Load Factor term used in the PRIS database has the same meaning as CF. CFs are based on the (net) Reference Unit Power and on the (net) Electricity Supplied, as defined in the PRIS database.

The performance of some of Ontario’s nuclear generating stations is affected by the surplus of generation in the province. The surplus usually arises because of unreliable intermittent wind generation coming in at times of low demand and wind generation is expected to increase even more over the next several years. Some nuclear units saw electricity output reductions during periods of surplus baseload generation (SBG). This means the CFs are not a true performance indicator for those units (reference 2). A better metric of performance in these cases would be the Unit Capability Factor (UCF – used by Ontario Power Generation and by Bruce Power) or the Energy Availability Factors (EAF) that are shown in the PRIS database. The EAF adjusts the available energy generation for energy losses attributed to plant management and for external energy losses beyond the control of plant management while the UCF only includes energy losses attributed to plant management and excludes the external losses attributed to grid related unavailability and other things. This means that on unreliable grids, for example, UCF will be significantly higher than EAF but for Ontario there will be no significant difference. The UCF and the EAF take into account reductions in plant output due to load cycling and load following. For units that load cycle and/or load follow the CF will be significantly lower than the EAF. For example, Bruce B unit 5 has a 2015 annual CF of 86.4 percent and an EAF of 91 percent. The UCF and the EAF are based on reference ambient conditions so, unlike the CF, they cannot exceed 100 percent. In some cases the CF is more than the EAF because of lower than design cooling water temperatures that increase the electrical output of the unit. The only reason for using the EAF here (see later for Bruce units) instead of the UCF is that EAFs are now available in PRIS and UCFs are not presently available (well, the author could not find them).
Read the rest of this entry »


1,000 day breaker-to-breaker run is possible with CANDU

June 23, 2015

By: Donald Jones, P.Eng., retired nuclear industry engineer – 2015 June 22

How far can we extend the continuous on-line power operation (breaker-to-breaker runs) of the world’s commercial Generation II and Generation III nuclear power plants. Is 1,000 days possible?

To date the world record for PWR (Pressurized Water Reactor) continuous on-line operation is the 705 day run by Three Mile Island unit 1 an 819 MWe (net) unit in the U.S. that went into commercial operation in 1974 September. The run ended in 2009 October when the unit went into a planned refuelling outage. This run broke the previous world record of 692 days of another PWR, Calvert Cliffs unit 2, an 850 MWe (net) unit in the U.S. that was put into commercial operation in 1977 April. This run ended in 2009 February with a refuelling outage.

LaSalle unit 1, a 1137 MWe (net) unit in the U.S., that was put into commercial operation 1984 January, holds the world record for a BWR (Boiling Water Reactor) with 739 days when it came off-line in 2006 February. As it happens its twin, LaSalle unit 2, became the second place world record holder when it completed a run of 711 days on 2007 February. LaSalle unit 2 went into commercial operation in 1984 October. LaSalle units now hold first and second places in the world for a continuous run of any LWR (Light Water Reactor).

The world record for any type of reactor is held by a CANDU. This is Pickering unit 7, a 516 MWe (net) unit in Ontario, Canada, with a continuous run of 894 days when it came off-line for maintenance in 1994 October. This unit was put into commercial operation in 1985 January. CANDU is a PHWR (Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor). Rajasthan unit 5, a 202 MWe (net) PHWR in India, put into commercial operation in 2010 February, holds second place to Pickering unit 7 in world ranking after completing a 765 day continuous run and going into its planned biennial maintenance outage in 2014 September. Besides these record breaking runs there have been many runs of over 400 days by the different types of reactors.

These long runs are terminated when it is time for the planned maintenance outage and are not extended until safety targets can no longer be met, which would mean shutting down the unit at an inopportune time. The practical limit of continuous operation of PWRs and BWRs is set by the need to replace about a third of the nuclear fuel and do maintenance after about two years (720 days) or less. In the U.S. most light water reactors units operate on a 18 month fuel cycle and have maintenance outages scheduled for the spring and autumn months when electricity demand is low. Since a pressure tube PHWR like CANDU can refuel on-line at power the length of continuous operation is indeterminate but in practice there is a need to come off-line for certain tests, maintenance and inspections and upgrades that cannot be done at power. For a PHWR the run could be terminated by initiating one of the two reactor safety shutdown systems with the other reactor safety shutdown system being tested during the maintenance outage. The Enhanced CANDU 6 (EC6) is designed to operate for about three years (1080 days) before coming off line for a month for maintenance and inspections. Having some testing and maintenance done on-line reduces the inspection load during unit maintenance outage. Read the rest of this entry »


CANDU cousins in India – Performance in 2014

March 29, 2015

By: Donald Jones, P.Eng., retired nuclear industry engineer

Most of India’s nuclear reactors are of the pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR) type with horizontal pressure tubes, just like the Canadian designed CANDU. In fact the first PHWR in India was the Rajasthan Atomic Power Project (RAPP) unit and was a CANDU designed by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) that used the Douglas Point unit in Ontario as reference design but modified to aid localization. RAPP-1 entered commercial operation 1973 December. While RAPP-1 was being constructed the design of RAPP-2 was started (Author’s note: I know because I was part of design team). However the detonation of a nuclear device by India in 1974 curtailed completion of the design by AECL and India was on its own as far as nuclear technology was concerned. The design was completed by India and RAPP-2 eventually entered commercial operation in 1981 April. Since those early days India has developed its own indigenous designs of PHWRs with net electrical outputs of 202 MW, 490 MW, and 630 MW. They bear little to no relation to Douglas Point. All 18 PHWR units operating in 2014 (including RAPP-1 which has been shutdown since 2004) were 202 MW (220 MW gross) except for two 490 MW (540 MW gross) units. There were four 630 MW (700 MW gross) units under construction with none in operation. All nuclear power units, except for RAPP-1, are designed, owned, and operated by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. Several of the country’s PHWRs have been refurbished for extended life operation. For more detailed information on the Indian nuclear program see, Nuclear Power in India (reference 1). Read the rest of this entry »