State owned French energy major EDF is reducing output at nuclear power stations on the Rhône and Garonne rivers as heatwaves push up river temperatures, restricting its ability to use river water to cool the plants.
EDF, which is Europe’s biggest producer of nuclear energy, has said it would extend output cuts at several NPPs on the two rivers as the hot spell continues, but that a minimum level of output, 400 MW, would be maintained.
Further cuts in output are likely in the near future at nuclear power plants Tricastin (3.6 GW), St Alban (2.6 GW, but now at 700 MW) and Golfech (2.7 GW) owing to high temperatures in the Rhône and Garonne rivers. EDF started imposing production restrictions in mid-July at Tricastin, St Alban and Bugey on the Rhône and Blayais at the mouth of the Garonne as temperature rose to unusually high levels.
Since 2000, production losses due to high river temperatures and low river flows have represented an average of only 0.3% of annual production, but the present situation is unusual – half of EDF’s 56 nuclear reactors are offline owing to planned maintenance, and work to repair corrosion, that was delayed by the pandemic. As a result EDF estimates its power output this year will be the lowest in more than three decades.
The production cuts mean that France, traditionally an energy exporter, is relying on imports from Spain, Switzerland, Germany and the UK. The latest power cuts threaten to push energy prices even higher, on top of the steep rises caused by the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February.