Nuclear power plants need the continuous cooling of the reactors, which usually takes place through water drawn from rivers, lakes or seas that are close to the power plants themselves. The record temperatures we are witnessing these days, among other things, are also posing serious obstacles to the cooling process of nuclear power plants, especially in France.
According to Bloomberg, France’s nuclear reactors were brought to 46% of their capacity on Friday, after another contraction in operating regimes was introduced earlier in the week. Not without repercussions for the French economy, which usually benefits from the export of energy abroad and which in this case, for the first time, is forced to import.
Bloomberg prices in France
The reduction of the energy output of the French plants is wanted by the local authorities. Normally, in fact, the water used to cool the reactors, which has now risen to considerable temperatures, is sent back to the rivers or streams from which it was originally drawn. This can create a further rise in temperatures, and unpleasant consequences for the fauna and flora.
The rise in temperatures on the Garonne will force to further reduce the output of two power plants on the Rhone River in the coming days, when a further increase in temperatures is expected, or in any case a maintenance compared to the levels of the last few days. EDF, the largest French energy company, has in fact announced further cuts for the next few weeks.
The rise in temperatures is only one of the factors that is leading to the increase in the cost of energy, already high due to the war in Ukraine and the blocking of supplies from Russia. In the last week alone, the cost of energy has increased by 18% to around 500 € / MWh (in 2021 the cost was less than 100 € per MWh). We are at an all-time high while, according to the EDF style, 2022 will be the worst year in terms of energy produced compared to the last 30 years.
The French reactors already had corrosion problems in the first part of the year, which led to the temporary closure of a large number of them, and the consequent reduction in electricity production. Corrosion problems are increasing and increasingly require a large-scale plan lasting several years to ensure normal nuclear power generation schemes in France.
In addition, local authorities are also taking similar decisions in Switzerland. In particular, the Beznau plant uses the Aare river as it is done in France on the Garonne and, for the same reasons, it was decided to limit the production capacity of the two reactors, which normally produce around 6000 gigawatt hours of electricity per year. Production at the Beznau plant was “adjusted throughout the day to the current Aare temperature so that the requirements are always met,” a plant spokesperson said according to CNBC.
France and Switzerland are not the only countries that have suffered consequences for energy production due to temperatures: something very similar is happening in Texas.