Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper) Some nuclear plants in France could be forced to throttle down or completely shut down their electricity output as high water temperatures in rivers used for cooling the reactors could pass the regulatory threshold.
The warning came from Refinitiv Eikon analysts, who presented the data on Wednesday, showing that France could face even more energy shortages at a time of historically high unavailability.
Nuclear reactors often use river water for secondary cooling in a closed-cycle loop. The water which serves as primary reactor coolant is retained within the facility, while an outside water source is used for cooling the closed-loop coolant. This water is then returned back to the river from which it was taken at a slightly higher temperature, with no radioactivity or contamination.
But that doesn’t mean that it cannot pose a threat to wildlife in cases when the rise in water temperature could affect their natural habitat. France has set regulations that require nuclear plants to limit their production during periods of high heat to avoid the danger of damaging local wildlife.
The data by Refinitiv Eikon shows that an unusually warm May has already led to higher than average water temperatures in several rivers throughout France, which could lead to a number of nuclear power plants being forced to reduce their output.
The exposed plants are the Bugey plant (1.8 GW plant), the Saint-Alban plant (2.6 GW), the Tricastin plant (3.6 GW) and the Blayais plant (3.6 GW). The first three plants are all located on the Rhone river in the south east of France, while the Blayais facility is in the south west, situated on the Gironde river.
The threat to the output, while still potentially weeks away, comes at a moment when nuclear electricity supply is at about 50% of its peak capacity, with a number of reactors taken offline in recent months, facing corrosion problems in the welding of reactor safety circuits.