Australian news, and some related international items

Nuclear Power Plants Are Struggling to Stay Cool

Wired, 22 July 22”……………………………. Amidst a slow-burning heat wave that has killed hundreds and sparked intense wildfires across Western Europe, and combined with already low water levels due to drought, the Rhône’s water has gotten too hot for the job. It’s no longer possible to cool reactors without expelling water downstream that’s so hot as to extinguish aquatic life. So a few weeks ago, Électricité de France (EDF) began powering down some reactors along the Rhône and a second major river in the south, the Garonne. That’s by now a familiar story: Similar shutdowns due to drought and heat occurred in 2018 and 2019. This summer’s cuts, combined with malfunctions and maintenance on other reactors, have helped reduce France’s nuclear power output by nearly 50 percent…………………

Nuclear technicians are known to refer to their craft as a very complicated way of boiling water, producing steam that spins turbines. But much more is usually required to keep the reactor cool. That’s why so many facilities are located by the sea and along big rivers like the Rhône.

Plenty of other industries are affected by hotter rivers, including big factories and power plants that run on coal and gas. But nuclear plants are unique because of their immense size and the central role they play in keeping energy grids online in places like France. And warming and dwindling rivers are not the only climate challenges they face. On the coasts, a combination of sea level rise and more frequent and intense storms means heightened flooding risks. Scientists have also pointed to other, more unusual challenges, like more frequent algal blooms and exploding jellyfish populations, which can clog up the water pipes.

……………………… The nuclear industry and environmental groups continue to disagree on whether existing regulations capture the latest science, particularly on the topic of sea level rise. 

……………….. . In 2019, the NRC began approving 20-year extensions to some reactors—starting with the Turkey Point power plant in South Florida. Environmental groups filed interventions to halt the plan, arguing that a combination of more intense hurricanes and sea level rise would threaten the low-lying plant in ways that regulators had not adequately considered. In February, the NRC reversed the extension for Turkey Point and other plants pending a more extensive environmental review.

So far, most production cuts are due to warming waters—not just in the Rhône and Garonne, but in places like the Tennessee River in the US, and in the coastal seas where many more plants are sited. In recent years, nuclear plants across Northern Europe have been forced to shut down or reduce output because seawater became too warm to safely cool the reactor cores. Over the past decade, the Millstone power plant in Connecticut saw a series of shutdowns on hot summer days until regulators raised the temperature limit of its cooling waters by 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

……………………….  the impact is growing as temperatures continue to rise. In an analysis published in Nature Energy last summer, a Stanford researcher found that there had been eight times the number of heat-related outages in the 2010s compared with the 1990s. In a 2011 study on the impact of warming on nuclear cooling systems, EDF scientists projected a 3 degree Celsius increase in the Rhône’s temperature by 2050, spelling more potential for shutdowns during heat waves.

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, “The key issue is when we start building new plants, how can we take into account the impact of climate change for the full lifespan of the plant to 2080 or 2100,” Laconde says, noting that France’s new generation of reactors, recently announced by President Emmanuel Macron, are mostly being built by the coasts.

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, in France, regulators are expecting a long summer ahead. While the heat may pass, low water levels can persist, resulting in cutbacks that last for weeks or months. EDF recently told reporters that it expects more cuts in the coming months as water levels continue to fall—leaving the country hoping for the relief of cold, hard rains.


July 23, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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