France Needs to Study Impact of Global Warming on Nuclear Plants, Watchdog Says
(Bloomberg) — Electricite de France SA and French authorities must get a better understanding of the impact of global warming on the country’s nuclear-reactor fleet, an industry watchdog said.
President Emmanuel Macron last year asked state-controlled EDF to prepare to construct at least six new atomic plants and to extend the lifespan of 56 existing units as part of a plan to become carbon neutral by 2050. However, rising temperatures, droughts and sea level changes could affect both safety and security of supply, Bernard Doroszczuk, chairman of Autorite de Surete Nucleaire, said in Montrouge just outside of Paris Monday.
The utility has occasionally been forced to reduce nuclear output when river temperatures rose to ensure water used to cool plants didn’t harm the environment when put back into the waterways. EDF was forced to request waivers for several reactors last summer, when a heat wave coincided with an unusually large number of maintenance shutdowns.
“Consequences of climate evolutions on existing or yet-to-come nuclear facilities must be anticipated more, with a long-term view,” Doroszczuk said. “We have make projections one way or another that go to the end of the century.”
The utility is also studying whether its policy of reducing reactor output when there’s too much wind or solar power on the grid could take a toll on equipment at its atomic plants, Cedric Lewandowski, EDF’s senior executive vice-president for nuclear and thermal production, said at a Parliamentary hearing last week.
As France’s Parliament is due to debate the country’s energy roadmap later this year, the nuclear safety authority urged EDF to accelerate studies on the feasibility of extending the life of plants for a longer period. It also asked public authorities to determine within a few years whether the country wants to continue recycling nuclear fuel beyond 2040.
“ASN wishes that the hypothesis of keeping existing reactors in operations until, or beyond 60 years be studied and justified by EDF in anticipation by the end of 2024,” Doroszczuk said. That would allow the regulator to take a stance by the end of 2026, and prevent decisions on lifetime extensions being constrained by a “badly adjusted” energy policy, he said.
The nuclear regulator is exchanging views on lifetime extensions with its US counterpart, which has already provided licenses to six reactors to operate for 80 years, he said.
The French atomic watchdog has so far allowed EDF to carry out upgrades to prolong the lifespan of its 32 oldest, 900-megawatt units by 10 years to 50 years. It’s now looking at a similar extension for 1,300-megawatt reactors.
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