UK nuclear power generation giant British Energy has reported adjusted net profit of GBP91 million for the first quarter of 2007, a significant drop compared to the GBP146 million posted by the firm in the same period of 2006. In addition, the company booked operating profit of GBP168 million, which, according to The Guardian, represents a 22% drop over the comparable period of 2006.

The company attributed its poor performance to boiler shutdowns at its Hinkley Point B and Hunterston B nuclear power stations. Although the company has since returned these facilities to operation, they were both closed in late 2006 due to safety concerns.

In a press release regarding its quarterly results, British Energy said: Overall, the performance of stations in the year to date has been encouraging. We have returned the four units at Hinkley Point B and Hunterston B to service. However, boiler inspection outages and load restrictions at these stations have impacted financial performance for the period compared to the corresponding period last year.

Indeed, the company revealed that, as a result of the boiler issues, total output for the period was 13.8TWh (nuclear 13TWh, coal 0.8TWh), down from 17TWh for the comparable period of 2006 (nuclear 15.3TWh, coal 1.7TWh). Total output was also impacted upon by tighter dark spreads on output for the Eggborough power station.

The firm said that to meet temperature specifications at all points in the boilers, the four units at Hinkley Point B and Hunterston B are currently operating in a range around 60% load. Further boiler balancing work will be directed at delivering reliable 70% load, in a phased process during planned outages over the next year.

However, British Energy revealed that it will not make the capital investment needed to increase the plants’ load beyond 70% this year, and will review the matter as part of its ongoing life extension assessment for these stations. A decision on life extension will be made by March 31, 2008.

Bill Coley, CEO of British Energy, said: I am encouraged by the performance of the fleet and improvement in the level of unplanned losses. We continue to work hard to deliver reliable output from Hinkley Point B and Hunterston B, while seeking to maintain the performance seen across the fleet for the rest of the year.

According to The Guardian, British Energy’s stock had dropped by almost 8% at the close of trading on August 16, 2007, as a result of its reported performance, down GBP36.25 to GBP417.75.