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Hot Rivers To Limit French Nuclear Power Output Amid Energy Crisis

Electricite de France SA, France’s state-owned utility, announced on Tuesday that it is highly likely it will be forced to extend cuts to nuclear generation as scorching weather pushes up river temperatures, making the water too hot to cool reactors. 

The French utility says that power stations along the Rhone and Garonne rivers will likely produce less electricity in the coming days, but has promised there will be a minimum level of output to keep the grid stable, Bloomberg reports.  

As Europe’s energy crisis deepens, most of the world’s attention is focused on Germany and gas flows from Russia. However, France is facing an even bigger crisis with Europe’s biggest energy exporter turning into a net importer thanks to the country’s imploding nuclear sector.

A deadly heat wave in Western Europe has triggered massive wildfires, displaced thousands of people  and disrupted transportation as the continent grapples with the impact of climate change. According to the national weather forecaster, several areas in France have experienced record-breaking temperatures surpassing 100 degrees Fahrenheit with at least five countries in Europe declaring a state of emergency or red warnings. And now the extreme heat is having an unusual effect: it’s making France’s rivers too hot to be used in nuclear reactors.

Currently, Electricite de France SA is running just 26 of its 57 reactors, with more than half of its chain undergoing emergency maintenance after the discovery of cracked pipes. 

Experts are now saying that France faces an electricity ‘Waterloo’ with atomic reactors generating the lowest share of the country’s power in 30 years, according to Bloomberg

The slump in nuclear availability is forcing France to rely on gas-fired plants more than ever, hydro, intermittent wind and imports. That’s in turn pushing up the cost of electricity in the wholesale market for the entire continent, with French forward prices surging to almost 1,000% above their 10-year average through 2020.

The crisis could get even worse in winter, with high consumption in the winter season likely to make electricity costs catastrophically expensive.

By Alex Kimani for Oilprice.com

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