August 20, 2007

Nuclear Power in the face of Global Warming

In 2005, RMI reported that when France experienced the greatest demand for power because of the extreme heat wave, the nuclear power plants had to be brought off-line because the river flows were too low to cool the plants.

Well, now we are seeing a similar problem in the United States. A nuclear power plant at Brown's Ferry in Alabama had to be shutdown because the river was too warm to cool it, again, right when the demand was highest.

One reactor at a north Alabama nuclear plant was idle yesterday and two others operated at reduced power because of the record-breaking heat wave, an outage that an industry watchdog said could be a sign of trouble for nuclear energy in a warming climate.

The Tennessee Valley Authority said it shut down the Unit 2 reactor at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant and scaled back operations 25 percent at the plant’s other two reactors because of overheated water in the Tennessee River, which is used to cool the plant.

“This all comes down to the drought and the hot weather,” said plant spokesman Jason Huffine.

Industry watchdog David Lochbaum said that the shutdown highlights a problem for nuclear power.

“This is an unforeseen impact of global warming. These plants don’t do very well in extremely hot weather,” said Lochbaum, a former Browns Ferry engineer now with the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington.

Perhaps those who think nuclear energy is the answer will start to consider what happens when water is a scarce resource.

Posted by Mary at August 20, 2007 12:43 AM | Energy | Technorati links |

ooops. another thing we didn't think of. homer simpson runs the country.

Posted by: Jim DeRosa at August 20, 2007 08:33 AM

Hi, a little voice in the wilderness crying out. There is another reactor technology, one that has the potential to be much safer and relieve us of the "Homer Simpson" problem (although not the nuclear waste problem). It's a Pebble bed reactor and the link is to a good article at the wikipedia.

Posted by: darms at August 21, 2007 06:08 PM