During this summer’s heatwave, nuclear reactors in five European countries had to be shut down or put on reduced power, writes Paul Brown.
An argument of the nuclear lobby is that renewables, particularly wind and solar, are unreliable because of changing weather. Only nuclear power can guarantee to keep the lights on or the air conditioners running.
This summer’s heatwave has shown that prolonged high pressure does reduce the output of the wind industry but it has also had serious consequences for nuclear power. In five European countries, Finland, France, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland, nuclear reactors have had to be put on reduced power or shut down completely because their cooling water got too hot.
Nuclear stations use an enormous amount of cooling water, dumping it back into rivers, lakes or the sea, when it has done its work – much warmer than when it was extracted. Problems occurred this summer when the water intake was too warm to cool the plant, and the hot water being returned to the river or sea was killing fish and other wildlife. This problem has occurred in French rivers before, but this year the Baltic Sea was too warm to cool stations in Finland and Sweden.
Fortunately the UK’s operating nuclear stations are on colder seas where the threat is more from winter storm damage and rising sea levels.
This article first appeared in The Guardian.