Nuclear power’s always-on advantage over wind, wave, and solar energy might not be quite so big an advantage after all. France is being forced to import UK electricity to cope with a summer heat wave that reportedly has nuclear power plants under the gun. Fourteen of France’s 19 nuclear plants — and nuclear supplies 87% of the country’s electricity — are located inland, and must rely on river water to cool their nuclear reactions. With European temperatures soaring from a prolonged heat wave, and rivers warming dr amatically, EDF has often been unable to keep nuclear casings cool enough for day-to-day operations. The result is that France may have to import 8,000 MW of electricity from European neighbors, and the UK in particular, just to make it through July. One power industry insider suggests that almost one-third of France’s nuclear facilities have been down and out at different times in recent weeks.
The problem has some European agencies worried, and many are calling for industry and government to create backup plans to cope with expected energy shortages in the coming years, especially as prolonged heat waves from global warming affect the continent. (Source: The Times, July 3, 2009).