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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.

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‘I Oversaw America’s Nuclear Power Industry. Now I Think It Should Be Banned.’

Friday the Washington Post published an essay by Gregory Jaczko, who served on America’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 2005 to 2009 and was its chairman from 2009 to 2012. He says he’d believed nuclear power was worth the reduction they produced in greenhouse emissions — until Japan’s 2011 nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima power plant.

“Despite working in the industry for more than a decade, I now believe that nuclear power’s benefits are no longer enough to risk the welfare of people living near these plants…”

The current and potential costs — personal and economic — are just too high…. The technology and the safety needs are just too complex and demanding to translate into a facility that is simple to design and build. No matter your views on nuclear power in principle, no one can afford to pay this much for two electricity plants. New nuclear is simply off the table in the United States….

Fewer than 10 of Japan’s 50 reactors have resumed operations, yet the country’s carbon emissions have dropped below their levels before the accident. How? Japan has made significant gains in energy efficiency and solar power…. What about the United States? Nuclear accounts for about 19 percent of U.S. electricity production and most of our carbon-free electricity. Could reactors be phased out here without increasing carbon emissions? If it were completely up to the free market, the answer would be yes, because nuclear is more expensive than almost any other source of electricity today. Renewables such as solar, wind and hydroelectric power generate electricity for less than the nuclear plants under construction in Georgia, and in most places, they produce cheaper electricity than existing nuclear plants that have paid off all their construction costs…

This tech is no longer a viable strategy for dealing with climate change, nor is it a competitive source of power. It is hazardous, expensive and unreliable, and abandoning it wouldn’t bring on climate doom. The real choice now is between saving the planet or saving the dying nuclear industry. I vote for the planet.

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