Skip to main content

Power Stations: Influenza

Volume 496: debated on Wednesday 15 July 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what arrangements his Department has made regarding the continuity of fuel supplies to power stations in the event of an influenza pandemic. (283254)

DECC has been working closely with the energy sector through the Energy Emergencies Executive Committee (E3C) for over two years in order to identify and mitigate energy supply risks specific to an influenza pandemic.

Within the power generation industry, work has focused on a number of risks to the continuity of generation including; a severe shortage of manpower, unavailability of primary fuels for generation and disruption of the supply chain for essential chemicals and other goods.

On the particular question of fuel supplies, these are mainly coal, gas and nuclear.

In the case of coal, fuel stocks currently stand at about three months supply, and this figure would usually rise as we approach the winter. These stock levels are thought to be sufficient to cope with any disruptions caused by a flu pandemic, where the peak impact might be intense but would be of a relatively short duration.

For gas fired power stations the supply route is robust, with gas being transported by pipeline via the main national gas transmission network. We are working with gas network owners via E3C to ensure appropriate business continuity plans are in place to minimise the likelihood of disruption to gas supplies.

The UK's nuclear power station need to replenish their nuclear reactor fuel on a regular basis, however the impact of a delay in the replenishment programmes would be a gradual reduction in output rather than complete loss. The risk of a disruption to supply arrangements is deemed to be very low, however British Energy and Magnox are working with the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate to understand what flexibility exists within current regulations to help extend the life of fuel cells and thus reduce the frequency of the refuelling process if necessary.