The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

France’s riverside reactor build plans “irresponsible” – expert.

MURIEL BOSELLI, Paris, 07 Apr 2023,–expert

(Montel) France’s plan to build two riverside reactors is “irresponsible”, given the acceleration of global warming-related water strain, nuclear expert and critic Yves Marignac told Montel.

Climate change has raised fears of extreme temperatures and droughts that will cause more outages at EDF’s 44 nuclear reactors – out of 56 – that are located along rivers and use water for cooling.

The average summer flow of the Rhone, on which 22% of France’s nuclear capacity is installed, could fall by 20% within 30 years, according to a recent study by the Rhone-Mediterranean-Corsica Water Agency.

However, EDF plans to build two additional reactors along the Rhone.

“We can always adapt the reactors to cool themselves by reducing their water withdrawal, as some reactors do in the desert,” said Marignac, but added that these costly developments “remove the interest of placing installations along rivers”.

Higher water use
He said he also feared a “considerable increase” in competition between water-intensive sectors such as agriculture, industry, energy and tourism.

EDF plans to build three pairs of European pressurised reactors (EPRs) by 2042-43 – one at Penly, a second at Gravelines (both on the coast), and a third at Bugey or Tricastin, on the Rhone.

The decision would be made by the end of the year, Joel Barre, inter-ministerial delegate for new nuclear power plants, told Montel.

Last week, president Emmanuel Macron announced a vast investment plan to adapt nuclear power plants to climate change, notably by equipping riverside units with air-cooling towers to make them less dependent on the temperature of waterways.

Although this system allows reactors to continue producing power during hot periods, it consumes much more water as a significant part of the volume withdrawn evaporates through the towers during cooling.

French energy minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said earlier this week that scenarios established by the international group of climate experts Giec had shown “very limited losses [of production]”.

“Critical” risk
However, a recent report by France’s auditors’ court warned the impact of global warming on the French nuclear fleet could become “critical” by 2050, with three to four times more unavailability than today.

Last summer, France’s nuclear safety authority ASN authorised EDF to exceed temperature limits for some riverside plants to enable units to continue producing power during the drought.

Thibault Laconde, founder of climate risk assessment start-up Callendar, said EDF’s Tricastin site in southeastern France was a better choice than Bugey for cooling because it was near a section of the Rhone that had cool water inflow from the Isere river.

Melting ice caps
Building reactors by the sea also raised questions, experts said, because of uncertainties about the rising sea levels during the EPRs’ lifespan, which EDF has set at a minimum of 60 years.

The auditors’ court has called on EDF to anticipate “the low probability” of an acceleration in ice cap melting, which would lead to a rise in the average sea level of nearly 2 metres by 2100 and 5m by 2150.

However, EDF has only incorporated a sea level rise of around 1.2m into the design of its EPR reactors, said Barre.

EDF did not respond to Montel’s requests to comment.


April 9, 2023 - Posted by | climate change, France

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: