The extreme hot summer in Europe is restricting nuclear energy generation and showing up the limits of nuclear power, leading environmental activists and scientists say. The heat wave since mid-June has led authorities in France, Germany, Spain and elsewhere in Europe to override their own environmental norms on the maximum temperature of water drained from the plants’ cooling systems. The French government announced Jul. 24 that nuclear power plants situated along rivers will be allowed to drain hot water into rivers at higher temperature. The measure is intended "to guarantee the provision of electricity for the country," , French authorities had allowed nuclear power plants to drain excessively hot water into rivers, leading to considerable damage to flora and fauna.
According to the minutes of the National Surveillance Committee on water drained from reactors , "hot water temperatures might have led to high concentrations of ammoniac, which is potentially toxic for the rivers’ fauna."
Meanwhile France is importing some 2000 megawatts of power per day from neighbouring countries to compensate for shortages in production at nuclear power plants.
While the French authorities have overridden their own environmental norms, in Germany energy providers have slowed down some nuclear reactors to limit waste water temperature and to protect flora and fauna. Reactors situated along the river Elbe which flows through Eastern and Northern Germany have all been slowed down. So have traditional fossil fuel power plants situated along the river Rhine. The nuclear reactors have being authorised to drain hotter water into the nearby rivers than normally allowed.
In Spain, the nuclear power plant at Santa Maria de Garoña, one of eight Spanish reactors, shut down due to the high temperatures recorded in the river Ebro, into which the reactor drains the water used in its cooling system. The power plant, Spain’s oldest, provides 20 percent of the electricity generated in the country.
In France, nuclear scientist Hubert Reeves urged the government to "invest massively" in renewable energy resources. "We are behind many of our European partners such as Germany, Denmark and Spain in this matter, and cannot wait until the energy crisis reaches its climax to find an alternative to our present model," " A crisis", he said, "is round the corner." Fossil energy sources are about to be exhausted, and "nuclear technology will not solve present problems within a reasonable period of time. We should abandon nuclear power and invest in alternative sources."
Data released last month by the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, illustrates a variety of reasons why nuclear power cannot be the solution for global warming. Reasons include:
- 1,500-2,000 new large reactors would have to be built for nuclear to make a large dent in greenhouse emissions.
- Construction of 1,500 new reactors means opening a new reactor once every two weeks for the next 60 years.
- Operation of 1,500 new reactors would require the need for a new Yucca Mt. sized radioactive waste dump somewhere in the world every 3-4 years. [Nb: Mount Yucca,Nevada, is the United States repository for 70,000 tons of uranium contained in spent nuclear fuel and high level radioactive waste resulting from nuclear power generation]
- Odds of a major nuclear accident are approximately 1 in 10,000 reactor-years. Operation of 1,500 new reactors (plus 440 existing) would result in a Chernobyl scale accident as frequently as once every five years.
- Significant greenhouse gas emissions are emitted in uranium mining, milling, processing, enrichment, fuel fabrication and waste storage. Nuclear fuel chain greenhouse gas emissions approach those of natural gas, and are far higher than from renewable energy sources.
- It is not possible or affordable to build that many reactors, but it is possible to build that much capacity through energy efficiency improvements, and through sustainable energy sources such as solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal. We can choose nuclear power, or we can address global warming, but we can’t do both.
[ from data on http://nylawline.typepad.com/greencounsel/2006/07/index.html ]