US to investigate cold weather operations: Corporate


February 18, 2021

The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) are to conduct a joint investigation into bulk power system operations during the extreme winter weather conditions currently experiencing parts of the United States. The intense cold has contributed to power outages affecting millions of electricity consumers.

The two-unit nuclear power plant at the South Texas Project (Image: NRC / STP)

A mass of arctic air brought snow, ice and extremely cold temperatures from the Canadian border to Texas, causing record winter demand for electricity and affecting electricity production, the department said. American Energy (DOE). Austin, Texas had its heaviest snowfall in 72 years.

“As temperatures plummeted in Texas over the weekend, demand for electricity skyrocketed,” said Patricia Hoffman, acting assistant secretary of the Bureau of Electrical and Cyber ​​Security, of DOE energy security and emergency response. “At the same time, extreme weather conditions have reduced the state’s ability to generate electricity. Almost 40% of Texas’ power generation capacity has been shut down, largely due to the effects of cold weather on natural gas, coal, and even nuclear facilities. There had also been “limited impacts” from frozen wind power plants, she added. In addition to blackouts that left more than 4.5 million homes and businesses in Texas without power, states like Louisiana and Oklahoma have also experienced power outages.

Three of Texas’ four nuclear reactors continued to operate at 100% power despite the extreme weather conditions. One reactor – Unit 1 of the South Texas Project’s two-unit plant near Bay City, 90 miles southwest of Houston – tripped automatically due to the low level of the steam generator. According to operator STP Nuclear Operating Company, the loss of feedwater was attributed to a cold-related failure of the pressure sensing lines to the feedwater pumps, which occurred on the secondary side. (non-nuclear) of the plant. The 1,280 MWe (net) unit has since restarted and had reached 14% power by the afternoon of February 17, the NRC announced via social media.

According to the US Nuclear Energy Institute, Texas produces 53.4% ​​of its electricity from natural gas, 19.1% from coal, 17.5% from wind energy and 8.6% from nuclear energy (South Texas project units 1 and 2 and Comanche Peak units 1 and 2), with 1.5% from other sources.

Independent system operators, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the flow of about 90% of Texas’ electrical load, the Southwest Power Pool and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, have asked utilities to implement controlled power outages to manage the load.

FERC closely monitors extreme weather conditions and their impact on electrical reliability and their staff have been tasked with closely coordinating FERC staff with RTO / ISO, utilities, NERC and regional reliability entities to assist to protect the reliability of the bulk feed system, said regulator chairman Richard Glick.

“Our thoughts are with the millions of people in Texas and across the country this morning who remain without power, as well as those served by MISO and SPP utilities who have experienced blackouts this week amid conditions. extreme winter weather, ”he said. said today. “We all know that power outages are always a challenge. But losing power for days in a historic and prolonged cold spell constitutes a humanitarian crisis. People are, literally, dying. “

“It is simply unacceptable,” said Glick. “The short-term goal must be to restore electricity to the grid. But we also have a responsibility to ensure that this does not happen again.

The joint FERC and NERC investigation will see the two organizations working with federal, state, regional and utility agencies to identify bulk feed system performance issues and, if applicable, solutions to solve these problems.

Research and writing by World Nuclear News

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