Nuclear power plants are very reliable generation sources.
Nuclear power plants are large, reliable generation sources that can operate continuously to ensure the stability of the power system.
Nuclear power plants ensure the security of supply in all weathers, day and night.
Unlike other technologies, they generate energy from a very small amount of fuel. New fuel has to be added only every 18 or even 24 months (depending on the characteristics of the plant and operational and fuel cycle plans). New fuel for nuclear power plants can easily be stored for up to several years.
Potential for flexibility and ancillary services
Nuclear power plants generally supply baseload power. This is mainly:
- to maximise output: nuclear power has a very low electricity production cost,
- to maximise security of supply: nuclear power plants are a very reliable generation source,
- possible if the power system requires no supply-side response from nuclear to daily fluctuations (i.e. to meet peak load demand).
As the share of variable renewable energy in the generation mix grows, giving rise to advanced grid solutions, nuclear power plants are increasingly faced with the flexible operation challenge.
In some power systems, nuclear power plants are expected to provide additional ancillary services such as frequency control by adjusting their output to respond to variations in demand.
In France and Germany, for example, most nuclear power plants contribute substantially to the provision of ancillary services by operating flexibly and meeting peak load demand. The existing 2nd generation nuclear reactors are technically capable of implementing flexible operation modes.
Meanwhile, the design of 3rd generation nuclear reactors is even better suited to flexible load following and frequency control, allowing for very quick changes in output with ramp rates of 5% of full power per minute. For a 1000 MW power plant, this means as much as 50 MW per minute. This development makes nuclear power one of the sources that can deliver a relatively quick response in providing ancillary services.