* Nuclear supply gap in Germany, Belgium tightens
* French supplies should remain secure this winter-RTE
* Severe cold could trigger 5,400 MW in power imports-RTE
By Muriel Boselli
PARIS, Nov 8 The outlook for European power
supplies appear tighter this winter due to hitches in Belgian
nuclear reactors and after Germany stopped some reactors in
2011, according to preliminary findings of a European study
cited by French power grid RTE.
The full European report, carried out by ENTSO-E, the
European lobby for grid operators, is due to be released at the
end of the month, RTE said in its own winter report released on
Industry observers last month expressed concern over a
potential electricity supply crisis this winter because of a
tighter nuclear supply scenario in Belgium, Germany and
After Germany closed some of its oldest nuclear reactors
following the 2011 Fukushima disaster, another big blow to
supply were cracks at Belgian nuclear reactors Tihange 2 and
Doel 3, which have grounded 2,000 MW when Belgium would
typically be a net exporter to France.
Cross-border flows in Europe are meant to even out problems
in individual countries. Electricity flows between France and
Germany represent capacity equivalent to five nuclear reactors.
RTE, a fully-owned EDF subsidiary, did not
elaborate on what could be the consequences of this supply
tightness at the European level and instead said French supplies
should remain secure this winter under normal weather
A severe cold patch, with temperatures 6 to 8 degrees
Celsius below seasonal averages, would trigger a big jump in
consumption and lead to imports of some 5,400 megawatts (MW), a
capacity equal to five nuclear reactors but below the country's
maximum import capacity.
Central Europe was hit by a cold snap in February when
French consumption peaked at 102,100 megawatts (MW), pushing the
network to its limits and obliging it to import a record 9,000
MW from its neighbours, including Germany.
On the production side, the grid predicts that between
January and March, availability of production tools should be at
a similar level than at the same period of 2012.
While France generally has steady power supplies thanks to
its 58 nuclear reactors, it lacks flexible capacity - usually
generated by gas, coal or oil-fired plants - to meet peak
evening-time demand during cold snaps when workers return home
and switch on heating and appliances.
France relies heavily on electric heating developed by
successive governments to absorb supplies generated by its
nuclear reactors. Germany uses mainly gas and fuel oil heaters.
(Editing by William Hardy)