Unprecedented storm wreaks havoc on Romania’s energy sector – yet another sign of changing global weather patterns?
Ever since an earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011 effectively destroyed Japan’s six reactor Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex, and more recently, Hurricane Sandy forced the shutdown of NPPs along the eastern seaboard of the U.S., increasingly violent weather patterns have become a matter of rising concern to operators of NPPs worldwide.
The latest nation to be tormented by violent weather patterns is Romania, where on 3 December Ministry of Economy State Secretary Rodin Traicu told the media that the No. 1 reactor of the Cernavoda NPP was affected when a high intensity storm in the area caused disruptions in electricity transmission lines, causing a transformer there to activate automatically, disconnecting the unit from the National Energy System.
Cernavoda, operated by the Nuclearelectrica National Nuclear Power Corp., is in Constanta province, 100 miles east of the capital Bucharest. Planning for the Cernavoda NPP began during the dictatorial reign of former Communist Party boss Nicolae Ceausescu. The NPP was unusual for eastern European nations in that, instead of utilizing Soviet reactors, Cernavoda’s two reactors were designed in Canada in the 1980s, coming online in 1996 and 2007. The Cernavoda NPP currently provides nearly 18 percent of Romania’s domestic electrical demand.
During January-August 2012 Cernavoda NPP generated 7.433 million megawatt hours of electricity, of which 6.848 million MWh were delivered to the National Power Grid, according to data published on the Nuclearelectrica website.
On 3 December Romania’s The National Meteorology Administration (ANM) issued three advisories of strong wind within the Code Yellow and Code Orange categories for southern and eastern Muntenia, Dobrogea and Moldova, estimating sustained wind gusts in excess of 65 mph.
Nor was the Cernavoda NPP the only Romanian energy facility damaged by the high winds. Several wind farm turbines in Dobruja were also damaged, a situation made worse by the fact that the Brazi power plant is offline and undergoing maintenance. The storm left the national grid with an electrical shortfall of 1,100 megawatts, as wind farms operating at half capacity provided 400 MW, forcing authorities to make up the shortfall with increased electricity imports from Iernut and Turceni, along with increased hydroelectric imports.
But the latest scram at Cernavoda NPP mask deeper problems, as the incident marks the fifth time this year when one of the two reactors at Cernavoda has been offline.
1. Last month on 9 November Cernavoda NPP’s reactor no. 2 unexpectedly shut down. Not to worry, Ministry of Economy, Trade and the Business Milieu (MECMA) state secretary Rodin Traicu told reporters. Commenting about the incident Traicu said, “The report will be ready late next week; so far, there is a supposition that a measurement element failed and gave an erroneous reading for the automatics of unit 2. This would have led to the shutdown and consequently to a drop in the energy supplied by the Cernavoda nuclear-power plant to 720 MW. Procedures to restart unit 2 begin this evening after the automatic sequencing is verified. The restart will pose no risk whatsoever, to either the safety and security of energy equipment, the protection against radiation or the safety of the national energy grid. Tomorrow morning, the unit will operate at full capacity.”
And, in a final note for a perfect year for the Romanian power industry, on 3 December, as winds were battering the Cernavoda NPP, an explosion at the elderlycTermoelectrica CET Bucuresti Sud 550 MW natural gas and coke-fired thermal power plant, built in 1965, in southern Bucharest injured four people.
So, what way forward for Romania’s power industry?
The Romanian government intends to build two more reactors at the Cernavoda NPP, last month approving extending an investment agreement to construct the new reactors until January 2013, in an effort to draw fresh investors, according to government spokesman Andrei Zaharescu.
But perhaps renewables still have a future in Romania as well, as according to government data solar power will exceed nuclear electrical output in Romania by 2016, by 1,500 MW to 1,400 MW of nuclear power if current investment rates continue. While little is clear at this point, the recent Black Sea storm may well be seen in the future as an important element in promoting renewable power in Romania, though probably not more wind power in the short term.
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