Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Blackouts hit thousands as generators fail

Barely reported in the mainstream media 6 MAJOR power stations here in the UK all shut down within minutes of each other on Tuesday. Despite millions of people being without any power for hours it was hardly mentioned on the BBC or Sky News.

Operations had to be cancelled, people were stuck in lifts, yet the mainstream media remained silent....why? Does anyone know anything about this incident on Tuesday just after midday? It seems very suspicious that 6 power stations, including nuclear and coal spread right across the UK all shut down within minutes of each other and hardly a word from the government or the mainstream media.

Hundreds of thousands of people were hit by electricity blackouts yesterday when seven power stations shut down. The unscheduled stoppages were regarded as an unprecedented sign of the fragility of Britain’s power infrastructure.

Operations were cancelled, people were stuck in lifts, traffic lights failed and fire engines were sent out on false alarms. Householders were unable to use any appliances or make phonecalls as the blackouts hit areas including Cleveland, Cheshire, Lincolnshire and London.

It was unclear last night why the power stations had failed. As the cuts escalated, the National Grid was forced to issue the most serious possible warning — “demand control imminent” — and urged suppliers to provide lower-voltage electricity to meet demand.

Energy suppliers affected by the shutdown, including British Energy and EON, said that they could not reveal the reasons for the cuts, nor would they say when some disrupted stations might resume service, because disclosure could affect the wholesale price of electricity.

A National Grid spokesman admitted that the the number of shutdowns was highly unusual. One power company insider said that such an incident had not happened in the past ten years.

After two power stations suddenly shut down within minutes of one another at midday, nine “generating units” also shut, and at least four other power stations suffered failures throughout the day. Wholesale electricity prices soared 35 per cent to £95 per megawatt hour, a new record, immediately after the cuts.

Operations had to be cancelled at Wycombe Hospital in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. When the cut struck, emergency generators kicked in, but one was affected by a fire. Surgery was abandoned in the catheterisation department. Elsewhere in the town, lights went off in the Eden shopping centre.

In and around the Lincolnshire towns of Market Rasen and Louth, 23,000 homes were affected. Thousands of households had no electricity in Wallasey, Birkenhead, Ellesmere Port and Runcorn on The Wirral.

Eight people were rescued from a lift in a library in Middlesbrough where, along with neighbouring Stockton and other parts of Cleveland, 30,000 premises were hit.

Thousands of people in South London were without electricity as the power shut some businesses. The cut lasted less than an hour but it affected stations, such as Clapham Junction, and caused road problems as traffic lights went out. North of London, Watford was also hit.

At midday the Sizewell B nuclear power station, run by British Energy in Suffolk, and the Longanett coal-fired power station, run by Scottish Energy in Fife, went offline within two minutes of each other. Later, “generating units” in power stations in Grain, Kent, and Ratcliffe, Nottinghamshire, and at EDF in Cottam, Nottinghamshire, Centrica in South Humber and International Power in Deeside each suffered cuts.

A National Grid spokesman said: “Nine generating units have become unavailable throughout Tuesday.”

David Porter, chief executive of the Association of Electricity Producers, said that the National Grid’s actions showed that the market was working well. However, he added that more investment was required urgently to prevent more regular problems.

Mr Porter said: “A lot of plant is getting old and is scheduled to close. More plant will be forced to close because of environmental pressure. The more clarity we can get from Government to help build new power stations, the better.”

The largest independent energy consultancy, McKinnon & Clarke, called on the Government to build new power stations to reinforce the crumbling infrastructure. David Hunter, energy analyst at the company, said: “The Government’s inability to make long-term energy security decisions over the last decade is coming home to roost. Since the ‘dash for gas’ in the 1990s, the lack of political will to make tough decisions has left Britain short of power.”

Some power stations remained shut last night. A British Energy spokesman said that the Sizewell B reactor was offline late yesterday, although a restart plan was under way. It is the first time the Sizewell B reactor has suffered a cut in three and a half years.


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