Heat waves also affect nuclear power plants. And by extension, the production of EDF. The French electrician may be forced to temporarily reduce the production of nuclear electricity, he explained this Wednesday in a message addressed to the markets. To make matters worse, a reactor at the Tricastin plant could still be shut down.
“Due to forecasts of high temperatures in the Rhône, production restrictions are likely to affect the Tricastin nuclear production site from August 6, 2022, possibly until the closure of a unit”, wrote EDF. The electrician determined, however, that a minimum production of 400 megawatts (MW) will be maintained “with the continuity of two interconnected sections” to ensure the stability of the network. As a reminder, the Drôme nuclear power plant has 4 reactors of 900 MW.
Some plants are concerned
Electricité de France has warned, since the end of last week, that the production of the plant may be affected due to the heating of the rivers used to cool the reactors. French regulations provide for reducing or shutting down the reactors when the temperature of the rivers reaches certain thresholds to ensure that the water used does not harm the environment when it is poured into the rivers.
“At the moment, only the Tricastin reactor No. 2 is modulating its power to fulfill its discharge order (twice within a few hours on July 29 and July 31),” a spokesperson told AFP. But the Drôme power plant is not the only concern. EDF also warned of possible “production restrictions” at the Saint-Alban (Isère) power station, also on the banks of the Rhône. Again, a minimum production is also planned.
Such restrictions are also being considered at the Golfech (Tarn-et-Garonne) power plant due to high temperature forecasts for another river, the Garonne. Each plant has its own regulatory water discharge temperature limits that must not be exceeded, so as not to heat up the surrounding waterways and protect fauna and flora. Power plants pump to cool the reactors, before turning them off.
The regulations provide for possible temporary exemptions at certain sites. Such derogations were recently granted to four power stations so that they can operate during high temperatures. Electricity transmission network operator RTE asked EDF in mid-July to resume operations at the Golfech, Blayais and Saint-Alban nuclear plants.
RTE fears network upheaval. Especially given the ongoing maintenance of EDF’s nuclear fleet and the number of reactors still shut down due to corrosion problems, half of the reactors are still not in use. France’s nuclear electricity production should actually be at its lowest in 30 years by 2022, according to the company’s latest estimates.
The possible closure of a Tricastin reactor and other production cuts should once again weigh heavily on the electricity market, at a time when Europe is going through one of the worst energy crises in its history. Prices rose again in the French and German markets. At 1 pm on Wednesday, the spot price of electrons in France exceeded 500 euros per megawatt hour (€/MWh). By way of comparison, at the same time on the same day last year, it stood at €89/MWh.
These new production cuts have forced EDF, Europe’s largest nuclear electricity producer, which is traditionally an exporter, to import more electrons. As a result, Germany may need to burn more gas to maintain grid stability despite promising to reduce its dependence on Moscow.
To avoid a blackout, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz gave way for the extension of the operating life of the last three nuclear power plants operating in the country on Wednesday. As a reminder, Berlin has set itself the goal of not returning to the atom by the end of the year.