High Water Temperatures Compound Problems for France’s Nuclear Power Operator

“High water temperatures threaten to reduce France’s already unusually low nuclear output,” Reuters reported last week, “piling more pressure on operator EDF at a time when half its reactors are offline due to maintenance and corrosion issues.”

Because river water is used to cool the plants, “reactor production is limited during times of high heat to prevent the hot water re-entering rivers from damaging wildlife.”

“Given the relative rarity of intense heat waves and outages due to storms, the climate-related hiccups have a small impact on energy production overall — affecting less than 1 percent of annual output for EDF on average…” reports Wired. (Though EDF “recently told reporters that it expects more cuts in the coming months as water levels continue to fall.”) But Reuters points out this all comes at a bad time:
EDF has already been forced to cut planned output several times this year because of a host of problems at its reactors — and expects an 18.5 billion euros ($18.6 billion) hit to its 2022 core earnings because of production losses.

Now EDF’s debt “is projected to reach 60 billion euros by the end of the year,” reported Agence France-Presse on Tuesday, adding that the “highly indebted” utility saw announcements of a take-over bid by France’s national government to shareholders (at a cost of 9.7 billion euros ($9.9 billion):
EDF’s finances have been weighed down by declining output from France’s ageing nuclear power stations, which it manages, and the state-imposed policy to sell energy at below cost to consumers in an effort to help them pay their energy bills…. The public tender offer is the simplest way to take back full control of EDF, analysts said, without the need for full legal nationalisation — of which there has been none in France since 1981….

Currently over half of France’s 56 nuclear reactors are idle, either for maintenance or corrosion problems linked to ageing…. Nuclear energy currently covers some 70 percent of France’s electricity needs.