Heat wave: French nuclear plants temporarily allowed to discharge overheated water

Heat wave: French nuclear plants temporarily allowed to discharge overheated water
Credit: Belga

Three French nuclear plants have been temporarily exempted from heat regulations to allow them to run “at minimum power” during the current heat wave.

This was announced by the EDF energy utility, the RTE power grid operator, nuclear watchdog ASN and the French Ministry of Energy and Ecology.

Nuclear plants pump in water from waterways to cool their reactors, then discharge it again. Since 2006, limits have been set to the maximum temperature the water given off by each nuclear plant in France may have. This is aimed at preventing flora and fauna from being damaged by excessively hot water.

France’s Golfech, Blayais and Saint-Alban nuclear plants are now allowed to discharge hot water without heat limitations, at least until 24 July.

The heat wave currently plaguing France had prompted network operator RTE to apply on Tuesday for the exemptions from the ASN and from the Energy Ministry, which granted the application on Friday.

This is only the second time that an exception has been made to the heat standard. The first time was in 2018, when the water discharged from the Golfech power station was allowed to exceed the maximum temperature for 36 hours.

According to the ASN, Friday’s decision was necessary to maintain the three plants “at minimum power” and “guarantee the safety of the electricity grid.”

Grid operator RTE stressed that there was “no risk to the French people’s power supply”. However, nothing was said about possible consequences for biodiversity.

France has no fewer than 56 nuclear reactors, of which more than half (29) have been shut down.

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