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Germany forced to tap into electricity reserves
by Staff Writers
Berlin (AFP) Feb 9, 2012

Sarkozy vows to keep oldest nuclear plant running
Paris (AFP) Feb 9, 2012 - French President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed on Thursday to keep France's oldest nuclear power plant at Fessenheim running and slammed his Socialist opponent for promising to close it.

"We will not close this station, it's out of the question," Sarkozy told cheering workers during a visit to the plant, in Alsace in northeastern France.

Ahead of a two-round presidential election in April and May, Socialist frontrunner Francois Hollande has promised to reduce France's reliance on nuclear energy from 75 percent to 50 percent by shutting down 24 reactors by 2025.

The Socialist plan includes shutting down the two reactors at the Fessenheim plant, which dates from 1977.

Without mentioning Hollande by name, Sarkozy said the closure of the plant would come "at the cost of jobs in the nuclear industry, the cost of our industrial competitiveness and the cost of our energy independence.

"I will never accept the closing of the Fessenheim station for political reasons," Sarkozy said. "Wanting to close Fessenheim is a scandal, because it would mean sacrificing your jobs for backward political thinking."

About 30 anti-nuclear protesters demonstrated outside the plant during the visit and an aide to Sarkozy met with anti-nuclear activists.

France, the world's most nuclear-dependent country, operates 58 reactors and has been a leading international proponent of atomic energy.

But the country's reliance on nuclear power has been called into question since the Fukushima disaster in Japan, which prompted Germany to announce plans to shut all of its reactors by the end of 2022.

Germany has been forced to call upon its reserves for producing electricity for the second time this winter as Europe is gripped by a severe cold snap, officials said Thursday.

The country's four main power operators requested the reserve generator at a coal-powered plant in southern Germany and two plants in Austria be activated, the regional environment ministry in the southern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg said.

The power station in Germany, in the southern city of Mannheim, would continue to be used Thursday, a spokesman said.

"We do not have a problem of supply, of quantity, it's principally a question of stabilising the network," a spokeswoman for the Germany electricity market regulator said.

Germany also had to tap its reserves in early December. The system was set up in August to avoid shortages and stabilise the network for the country's winter power production.

Under the reserve plan, five generators in Germany have been designated, which are powered by coal or gas and normally not in operation, as well as several in neighbouring Austria.

They can only be used at the request of the electricity network operators in case of need or as a preventive step.

In the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan last March, which prompted radiation to leak at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Germany decided to phase out nuclear power by 2022.

Eight of Germany's 17 reactors have already been switched off and the nine reactors currently on line are due to be turned off between 2015 and 2022.

Concerns were raised after the decision that Germany, Europe's top economy, could suffer power shortages during the winter.

This week, temperatures that have fallen as low as minus 20 Celsius (minus 4 Fahrrenheit) have combined with supply difficulties of Russian gas to squeeze capacity, said the state ministry of Baden-Wuerttemberg, a highly populated and industrial region.

Germany as a whole produces enough electricity for its needs, but much of its production capacity, especially offshore, is located in the north while much of the demand is in the south.

This means operators occasionally have to step in to stabilise the network.

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Bulgaria halts electricity exports amid cold snap
Sofia (AFP) Feb 9, 2012 - Bulgaria is to halt electricity exports over its inability to guarantee local consumption in the cold spell gripping the country this week, the economy and energy ministry said Thursday.

"Due to persisting heavy winter conditions in the country we will stop electricity exports as of 1:00 am Friday (2300 GMT Thursday)," the ministry said in a statement.

"The decision is necessitated by the shortage of about 400 megawatts per hour for the local market," it added.

Bulgaria exports an average 1,000 megawatts of electricity per hour to neighbouring Greece, Serbia, Macedonia and Turkey.

But the ministry said it had already switched on all its reserve capacities to cover increased domestic demand as temperatures dipped to minus 28.6 degrees Celsius (-19.5 Fahrenheit) in the northwestern town of Vidin early Thursday.

The situation was aggraveted by problems with production at the US-owned AES Galabovo coal-fired plant in southern Bulgaria, it added without elaborating.

Severe flooding had disrupted coal supplies to all four plants in the Maritza East complex near Galabovo this week as miners could not get down to work in the three open pit mines in the region.

"Electricity exports will resume when we recover the reserves necessary to guarantee safe and uninterrupted home supply," the ministry said Thursday.

Bulgaria is a key electricity exporter on the Balkans sending abroad 10.5 billion kilowatt hours last year.


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China to face electricity shortages?
Beijing (UPI) Feb 7, 2012
China could face power supply outages this year due to a shortage of coal, China's Electricity Council warned. CEC, an association representing power firms, estimates the country's power shortages to reach 40 million kilowatts in 2012, compared with a 30 million kilowatt shortage in 2011, it said on its Web site. China relies on coal for more than 70 percent of its energy needs. ... read more

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