Nucléaire : EDF pourrait abaisser à nouveau sa production à cause de la canicule

EDF avait déjà prévenu, dès la fin de la semaine dernière, que la production de la centrale du Tricastin (Drôme) pourrait être affectée en raison de l'échauffement des cours d'eau, utilisés pour refroidir les réacteurs.

The heat wave also affects nuclear power plants. And by extension, the production of EDF. Indeed, the French electrician could be forced to temporarily reduce its production of nuclear electricity, he explains this Wednesday in a message addressed to the markets. Worse yet, a reactor at the Tricastin plant could even be shut down.

“Due to high temperature forecasts in the Rhône, production restrictions are likely to affect the Tricastin nuclear production site from August 6, 2022, possibly leading to the closure of a unit,” writes EDF. The electrician specifies, however, that a minimum production of 400 megawatts (MW) will be maintained “with the maintenance of two coupled sections” in order to ensure the stability of the network. As a reminder, the Drôme nuclear power plant has 4 900 MW reactors.

Several plants affected

Electricité de France had already warned, since the end of last week, that the plant’s production could be affected by the heating of the rivers used to cool the reactors. French regulations provide for the reduction or closure of 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 discharged into the rivers.

“To date, only the Tricastin No. 2 reactor has modulated its power to meet its discharge order (twice for a few hours on July 29 and July 31),” a spokesman told AFP. But the Drôme power plant is not the only one affected. Indeed, EDF also warned of possible “production restrictions” at the Saint-Alban (Isère) power plant, also on the banks of the Rhône. Again, a minimum production is also expected.

Possible exceptions

Restrictions of this kind are also being considered at the Golfech power plant (Tarn-et-Garonne) due to forecasts of high temperatures for another river, the Garonne. Each plant has its own regulatory limits for water discharge temperature that must not be exceeded, so as not to heat the surrounding watercourses and protect the fauna and flora. Plants pump to cool the reactors, before rejecting it.

The regulations provide for possible temporary exemptions at certain sites. These exceptions were recently granted to four power plants so that they can operate at high temperatures. Thus, the electricity transmission network operator RTE asked EDF in mid-July to keep the Golfech, Blayais and Saint-Alban nuclear power plants in operation.

RTE feared network turbulence. Especially given that given the ongoing maintenance of EDF’s nuclear fleet and the number of reactors that are still shut down due to corrosion issues, half of the reactors are still unavailable. In fact, French nuclear electricity production should be the lowest in 30 years in 2022, according to the company’s latest estimates.

price spike

The possible closure of a Tricastin reactor and other production cuts should, therefore, once again weigh on the electricity market, at a time when Europe is going through one of the worst energy crises in its history. Prices shot up again in the French and German markets. At 1:00 p.m. this Wednesday, the spot price of electrons in France exceeded 500 euros per megawatt hour (€/MWh). For comparison, at the same time on the same day last year it stood at €89/MWh.

These new reductions in production are forcing EDF, Europe’s largest producer of nuclear electricity, traditionally an exporter, to import even more electrons. As a result, Germany may have to burn more gas to maintain grid stability despite promising to reduce its reliance on Moscow.

To prevent blackout, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz even paved the way for a life extension of the last three operating nuclear power plants in the country on Wednesday. As a reminder, Berlin has set itself the goal of no longer using the atom by the end of the year.

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