British Energy; lamentable tale of management incompetence and national decline in engineering and reliance on the nation's critical energy supplies
STOP PRESS British Energy's 595-megawatt Hunterston B7 nuclear power reactor in Scotland had an unscheduled shutdown this afternoon at approx 14.45 BST. A spokeswoman said "It was an unplanned trip and at the moment they are investigating the cause," adding that it was too early to say how long the plant might be closed for.10 of the company's 16 nuclear generation units were not working on Wednesday afternoon.
British Energy operates the remaining commercial nuclear power plants in the UK and supply something like 16% of the nation's electricity. Remarkably their accounts for the Financial Year ending March 31st 2008 published today, show dire financial and production performance with dismal future prospects.
Adjusted net profit attributable to shareholders has declined 40% year on year from £770 Mn to £470 Mn representing a reduction in earnings per share from 48.2 pence to 29.6 pence.
This is explained by the fact that the realised price for electricity was cut from £44.2 per (£/MHh) by 9.2 % to £40.7 per (£/MHh) - this in a year when retail prices rose some 20%. On top of this Unit operating costs expressed as £/MWh rose 9% from £27.1 to £30.(See chart for historical prices)
The future is fairly bleak on income as Future fixed price contracts show prices committed for nearly 50% of production for this year of 39TWh @ £43/MWh and for next year 32TWh @ £41/ MWh.
Total output from nuclear plants remained static after a lengthy period of decline from 03/04 of 64 teraWatt Hours progressively each year - 59.8 TWh , 60.4 TWh, 51.2 TWh, to 50.3 Twh last year. (See chart of declining total output)
Output from Eggborough, the only coal fired plant rose marginally from 7.2 TWh to 8.1 TWh so Total output remained static at 58.4 TWh although the cost of coal rose 75% year on year
Bill Coley says on Page 15 ...BE owns sites suitable for an early build of new plants - which provides potential bidders for the company , EDF, Ibedrola, E.On some major attractions if they want to opursue the Government backed drive for installing new UK capacity ;
1 Site assessment fully known
2 Active dialogue with local stakeholders - ie employees won't object - they want to keep their jobs
3 Experienced and dedicated employees - experienced of course in running out of date unique ageing plant.
4 Culture of nuclear professionalism - with a lengthy history of unplanned outages which have reached a current maximum
5 Regulatory experience - regulator without teeth who have extended plant lifetimes despite histories of unplanned outages see chart...
6 Grid connection agreements in place for ~10GW capacity from 2016 at our four southern sites - major cost savings over siting plants in new sites
7 Design assessment underway – three designs taken forward - it was 4 until a couple of weeks ago when the Canadians pulled out because they were too busy building their own plants.
Note that only Torness, Heysham 2 and Sizewell (Total 26 TWh see page 42) would be the only plants operating today on the basis of original lifetime design. Hunterston (54% load), Heysham 1 (36% load ) and Hartlepool (44% load)last year produced only 12.4 TWh compared with 19.7TWh 2 years ago with little realistic prospect that they achieve those historical levels of output.
Paradoxically CEO Bill Coley said in the first paragraph of his "Highlights F/Y 07/08 "
Sizewell B operating to world class standards
> 516 day record continuous reactor run completed
> Smooth return to service in April 2008 following statutory / refuelling outage of 25 days
Yesterday Sizewell shut down for reasons which remain unclear (unconnected it is said with the nuclear power generating area) and will not be re-opening for "a few days". This with the coincident going offline of Longannett power station (powered by human shit) precipitated a cascade of power cuts throughout the UK which left over 200,000 users without power for periods of hours.
Here is a schematic explaining the effect of unplanned power outages at BE plants for 07/08 resulting in a loss of 33% of planned output. (Click to enlarge)
So we also have a picture of rising UCLF , rising costs, falling output and plants with lifetimes lengthened against a history of unplanned power outages.
Here at Forth Coming UK Energy Deficit (FCUKED) proud possessors of shares in British Energy purchased (to the horror of stockbroker friends and family) @ 5p in 2003 we firmly believe it essential that UK build nuclear plants .. and quickly. If nothing else we did at least flush out Tony Blair over 3 years ago, to talk about Labour plans for Nuclear power publicly for the first time ever, preciptating the debate within Nu Labour to take a realistic view over UK energy security.
There is no pleasure in reciting this dismal catalogue of failed production , unplanned failures, unjustified sunny optimism, and the nervousness that one views the cavalier lengthening of plant lifetimes (of which criticism is curiously muted).
Perhaps a much needed injection of Gallic experience, Teutonic efficiency or Iberian industry may turn around this failing , but critical and essential corner of our energy infrastructure . (BE are currently the largest supplier of electricity in the UK)
That is, however the legacy of years of delay, dither, indifference, obfuscation and a desire to refuse to face up to the chronic loss of endemic energy resource and a wilingness to rely not only on foreign sources of energy, but control and ownership by overseas organisations.