A new unanticipated failure in a nuclear reactor has once again left this source running at less than 60% of its capacity, which adds even more pressure to the prices of the wholesale electricity market.
The Government will approve this Thursday the reduction of VAT on electricity to 10%
After midnight from Monday to Tuesday, the Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) reported that the Ascó I nuclear power plant (Tarragona) had notified a new automatic shutdown due to the “unforeseen” closure of a main feed water control valve to one of the steam generators, due to failure of the valve actuator diaphragm.
This new unavailability of Ascó I is in addition to those of the Trillo and Vandellòs II plants, which this Tuesday had not yet connected to the grid after refueling in recent weeks.
With this, the nuclear power plant is operating at 57% of its capacity and its production, according to data from Red Eléctrica, was around 4,000 megawatts (MW) on the afternoon of June 22, less than 14% of the generation pie and well below the 21.3% of the electricity they contributed until May. The seven reactors in operation, which in 2020 were the first source of generation, add up to almost 7,400 MW of power.
The incidence in Ascó I, without risk to workers, the public or the environment, is the second unanticipated stop at this plant since the rise in the wholesale price of electricity began, which has skyrocketed from 52 euros MWh of the last April 1 until the current close to 90 MWh.
Ascó I, belonging to Endesa, was already in the dry dock between April 24 and 29, after notifying the failure of an electronic card that caused the immediate closure of the water control valves of the main supply system.
The other Ascó group (85% owned by Endesa and 15% by Iberdrola) also reported an unscheduled shutdown that forced its disconnection on June 10 and 11 due to “a malfunction in the alternator voltage regulator.”
This incident was also superimposed on the scheduled shutdowns for recharging Trillo and Vandellós II. With this, nuclear production also remained at 60% of its capacity in those days, with the consequent inflationary effect on electricity prices, as highlighted in a recent report by Grupo ASE analysts.
The one that Ascó I has just notified is the sixth technical stop of the Spanish nuclear power plants since April, including the three that were scheduled in as many reactors for their mandatory refueling.
Trillo stopped supplying energy on May 16 and, according to the CSN website, it was available again on June 20, although this Tuesday it had not yet started up. For its part, Vandellòs II was disconnected on May 15 and this Tuesday it was still in the start-up phase after recharging. This last plant also suffered an unanticipated shutdown on April 29 and 30 due to the activation of the electrical protections of the main generator. Before, between March 14 and April 22, Almaraz II was stopped for recharging.
“Enter another more expensive one”
A reactor disconnecting from the system is bad news for wholesale market prices. “They stop injecting energy at zero price into the market, and if we go out, a more expensive one enters,” as the president of the Nuclear Forum, Ignacio Araluce, explained in an interview with elDiario.es, alluding to the fact that the gap left by these plants Natural gas combined cycles, which are much more expensive, have to cover this.
In that interview, Araluce assured that the government’s project to cut the so-called “benefits fallen from the sky” of hydroelectric and nuclear power will be “the ruin of the sector” and may cause the power companies not to request the extension of the licenses of the reactors that have pending renewal. The president of the Nuclear Forum asked for a “reasonable” fixed price to remove these plants from daily matching and allow them to “cover expenses” to fulfill their role of supporting renewables in the energy transition.
The escalation of the so-called pool, caused by the increase in the cost of CO2 and natural gas emission rights, has worsened after the Government presented the aforementioned draft bill to tackle the so-called windfall profits.
The rebound led the fourth vice president, Teresa Ribera, to ask the National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC) at the beginning of June to “analyze any possible irregular behavior or market malpractice by electricity operators coinciding with the entry into force of the new rate structure “that was launched on June 1. The escalation has forced the Executive to force a reduction in the VAT on electricity to 10% and to suspend the 7% tax on electricity generation for one quarter as extraordinary measures until the structural reforms that it has proposed come into force.
The drop, which in principle will be temporary, will be approved in the extraordinary Council of Ministers this Thursday. According to the Independent Authority for Fiscal Responsibility (AiRef), it will have an impact of about 1,000 million in public coffers this year.