United Kingdom

Why Macron is easing safety rules to flood rivers with hot water from nuclear plants

In normal times, maximum river temperature before restrictions kick in at the Bugey plant is 26C; 28C at the Golfech, Tricastin and St. Alban plants; and 30C at Blayais.

The regulator first started lifting restrictions on these plants in mid-July, to make sure they could carry on generating electricity despite the high temperatures.

At the request of the government, it has now extended the waivers until September 11. 

It comes as air temperatures are expected to climb to the high 30s in France this week.

ASN said: “The government considers that it is a public necessity to… maintain the production of these five power stations until Sept. 11 despite the exceptional weather conditions.”

Several countries have had to shut down or cut back on nuclear energy output during heatwaves in previous years.

The UK’s nuclear fleet faces different risks to those in France.

All but one of the current fleet of nuclear reactors in the UK is cooled using carbon dioxide gas, rather than water. 

While they are therefore less exposed to heatwaves, they are not immune to the current problems in the European energy system.

The UK’s carbon dioxide supplies were threatened last year when a key fertiliser plant, which produces carbon dioxide as a by-product, shut down owing to high gas prices.

Sizewell B, the UK’s only pressurised water reactor, takes its cooling waters from the North Sea on the Norfolk coast.

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