France imports UK electricity as summer heatwave puts a third of its nukes out of action
To avoid maxxing out on my July quota of irony in the first week of the month, I will simply report this as a straight news story. The UK Times reports:
With temperatures across much of France surging above 30C this week, EDF’s reactors are generating the lowest level of electricity in six years, forcing the state-owned utility to turn to Britain for additional capacity.
Fourteen of France’s 19 nuclear power stations are located inland and use river water rather than seawater for cooling. When water temperatures rise, EDF is forced to shut down the reactors to prevent their casings from exceeding 50C.
Now everybody who is anybody knows that no single weather event can be attributed to human-caused global warming. And those same people know that nuclear power is the one and only possible solution to human-caused global warming. So, to all those non-cognoscenti inclined to use this one-time, freak occurrence to diss nukes, let me say as loudly as I can, “NOTHING TO SEE HERE! MOVE ON!”
Also, the image above is presented solely as an example of the kind of inappropriate humor one should eschew in these troubled times. Any resemblance between the nuclear power plant employee depicted above and advocates of nuclear power living or mortified is purely coincidental.
The story explains:
EDF warned last month that France might need to import up to 8,000MW of electricity from other countries by mid-July – enough to power Paris – because of the combined impact of hot weather, a ten-week strike by power workers and ongoing repairs.
EDF must also observe strict rules governing the heat of the water it discharges into waterways so that wildlife is not harmed. The maximum permitted temperature is 24C. Lower electricity output from riverside reactors during hot weather usually coincides with surging demand as French consumers turn up their air conditioners.
One power industry insider said yesterday that about 20GW (gigawatts) of France’s total nuclear generating capacity of 63GW was out of service.
Much of the shortfall this summer is likely to be met by Britain, which, since 1986, has been linked to the French power grid by a 45km sub-sea power cable that runs from Sellindge in Kent to Les Mandarins.
A statement from EDF played down the heat problems, saying that the French system continued to meet customer demands – but similar heatwaves have caused serious problems in France in the past.
In 2003, the situation grew so severe that the French nuclear safety regulator granted special exemptions to three plants, allowing them temporarily to discharge water into rivers at temperatures as high as 30C. France has five plants located by the sea and EDF tries to avoid carrying out any repairs to them during the summer because they do not suffer from cooling problems.
Okay, so maybe this wasn’t a one-time event. But it’s not as if the planet is entering a prolonged period of ever hotter and hotter conditions, leading to longer and stronger heat waves where the 2003 heat wave will be an every other year occurrence by the 2040s, and ultimately leading to average temperatures rising 5°C or more by century’s end, is it?
And this is certainly no reason for people to all of a sudden start questioning nuclear power as a primary solution to global warming – at least not if you’ve already decided to swallow the exorbitant cost, lengthy delays, safety, terrorism, proliferation, and waste problems.