1. When the reactors that comprise the current fleet of nuclear plants in the US were being designed, it was assumed that they would be operated like the coal plants of the day: run a little while and shut down; clean whatever needs to be cleaned, fix whatever needs to be fixed; then start up again. This is how the plants were operated several decades ago, which is why the early capacity factors of the older plants are dismal by today’s standards.

    Why would anyone put the effort into designing the plant to operate during a hurricane if the plant was going to be shut down every now and then anyway? That would be just another outage.

    Experience has taught us better.

    1. @Brian:

      Some CANDU plants can lower power quicklly to “self sustaining” values.
      Here’s how that helps.
      When the grid becomes unstable, which can be from a wide area external event such as a hurricane, or something as transient as a solar storm – many plants suffer load rejection trips / scrams. That removes the plant as a generator for the grid AND it removes its own Aux Transformers as a source of power for the plant itself. This can quickly become a Loss of Offsite Power – only a few Emergency Diesel start failures away from a Station Blackout.

      By now, no explanation of the safety significance of Station Blackouts should be needed.

      Plants that can quickly follow load can reduce their power to provide their own internal loads – thus avoiding the first domino in the sequence of a rather risky transient.

      Everyone’s favorite Navy reactors can provide self sustaining “hotel loads” with a good deal of stability – it’s a good idea for the big plants too.

  2. Nice post Rod.

    By the way: you don’t need to call Busby “professor” any more. Univ. of Ulster seems to have excised him.

    1. I am just shocked that a person of such integrity as Busby would be let go!!!

      (If that didn’t set off your sarcasm meter, you better go get it re-calibrated.)

  3. It would be interesting to read how coal and natural gas plants fared. Were any windmills in the hurricane’s path?

    1. There were definitely windmills in the path of Sandy.


      What you won’t hear is AWEA coming out and telling what happened to their preferred generation source. The NEI however has been providing regular updates on the status of nuclear power plants in the path of Sandy.

      It appears the EIA is also not talking or at least not recording what is happening to wind, solar, natural gas or coal. But they do have nuclear as page 2 of their updated situation report.


      But then the EIA does not cover wind or solar as part of their Energy Assurance Daily reports as I learned today:


      So it that because the EIA does not consider wind and solar critical parts of the eletrical generation and distribution system? Or is that because wind and solar are at the whim of the weather patterns and the EIA is not in the weather forecasting business so there is no way the EIA can provide “assurance” reports and therefore the reports are silent?

  4. @Rob
    I note that the wiki page on “Load following power plants” points out that the French PWRs use something called “grey” control rods to adjust their power output. Is there some licensing restriction that prevents US plants using the same technology or is there some technical reason why older plants like Oyster Creek can’t be upgraded?

    I find it a curious engineering mindset that these plants weren’t originally designed to follow there own electrical load if and when it became necessary.
    Why did the designers want to be so dependent upon the grid? It seems to me to be a design flaw and It is simply more fodder to feed critics like Busby.

    1. Actually the French PWR today mostly use bore injection for load following.
      The bore guarantees a better, more even regulation of power inside the vessel.

      The EPR will make more use of grey control rods, as it’s being conceived from start to solve the difficulties it can involves.

  5. Rod, On SSBN 631 we had a “battleshort” switch in the alley(like you did), I pulled 9 DPM on a fast scram recovey in 1972. 1,000MWe plants don’t have battleshort, they pull rods at 0.25 DPM, they are on a different mission and the plants are built with cost involved, not like Navy. Navy plant always has a load T/Gs or shaft, A sub plant could load follow and their fuel would not fail. Quad Cites and I think Dresden tried the load following in early 70’s, not good, fuel failures. (talk to old GE nuke about “PCIOMR”) If you lose grid, where does the 1,000MWe go? nowhere, so trip your plant. I wanted to keep the boat power going to save boat/crew, if civilian plant goes down, no one dies.

  6. A freebie PSA seed for Ben Heard to try:

    Scene; a lovely meadow in the Outback where cute frilly little girls are plucking flowers. After a long pause, voice-over; “In this fresh natural meadow, these girls are being exposed to (X) times more radiation than exists in the towns around the freak rare zero-causality incident at Fukushima, but there are many who don’t want you to hear that…” As scene fades the camera pulls back to a soot-belching coal/oil plant on the horizon.

    Sweet and simple and non-techie and heart-tugger to boot.

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

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