If it is now common to see EDF reduce the power of its nuclear reactors during scorching summers – to limit the heating of waterways -, it is much more unusual to see the energy company carry out this type of operations in the spring. However, this is what has just happened in the Blayais power plant (New Aquitaine) on the night of Monday to Tuesday.
Given the excessively high temperature in the Gironde estuary, the energy company had to reduce the power mobilized by its plant by 100 megawatts. However, given the level of temperatures expected in the coming days, the situation could recur.
“Due to forecasts of high temperatures in certain rivers, production restrictions are likely to affect EDF’s nuclear production fleet from Monday May 9, 2022 until Sunday May 15, 2022, and more particularly the site of the Blayais”, warns the energy company on the platform which lists its reactors available to produce.
Nuclear power plants use water from rivers (or the sea) to cool their production units, and must respect maximum temperature thresholds so as not to harm the reproduction of fish and prevent the proliferation of algae.
It is this phenomenon that played at Blayais. But the energy company also suffered from a threshold effect. “Before May 15, winter regulations apply with a maximum authorized Gironde temperature level of 30 degrees. Afterwards, on May 15, this threshold rises to 36.5 degrees. However, with global warming, temperatures sometimes rise well before May 15, ”explains Fabrice Guillon, at the CGT of EDF. Also, at EDF, discussions have been initiated in recent years with the public authorities to try to change these standards.
The price hike is likely to get worse
Given the drought warnings and these environmental constraints, a further drop in nuclear production cannot be ruled out for EDF this summer. This would take place in an extremely tense context for the security of electricity supply to the French. EDF already has an availability rate of its power plants close to 50%, with 27 reactors shut down out of a total of 56. Unheard of in the history of the group.
However, since consumption peaks are traditionally higher in winter, when the heating is running at full speed, summer could pass without a hitch. This context nevertheless risks increasing the pressure on the European electricity markets, which have panicked since the start of the war in Ukraine. In France, in particular, electricity has become more expensive than in certain neighboring countries given the problems of nuclear availability and fears about gas supply.
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