Extreme Heat, Drought Show Vulnerability of Nuclear Power Plants

Reactor shutdown in Connecticut is latest sign that nuclear energy would face challenges from climate change.

Will 2012 go down as the year that left the idea of nuclear energy expansion in the hot, dry dust?

Nuclear energy might be an important weapon in the battle against climate change, some scientists have argued, because it doesn’t emit greenhouse gases. But separate of all the other issues with nuclear, that big plus would be moot if the plants couldn’t operate, or became too inefficient, because of global warming.

In June, InsideClimate News reported on the findings of Dennis Lettenmaier, a researcher at the University of Washington. His study found that nuclear and other power plants will see a 4 to 16 percent drop in production between 2031 and 2060 due to climate change-induced drought and heat.

The U.S. is getting plenty of both this year. Just Sunday, the Millstone nuclear plant in Waterford, Conn., had to shut down one of its two reactors because seawater was too warm to cool it. It was the first time in the plant’s 37-year history that the water pulled from the Long Island Sound was too warm to use.

So the question becomes, is the future already here?

InsideClimate News

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One response to “Extreme Heat, Drought Show Vulnerability of Nuclear Power Plants

  1. I worked in the computer industry and have a good memory. Years ago when mainframe computers were water cooled a company in Connecticut had to place a warning tent with heaters in it over the computer cooling tower to warm it during a really cold snap. Engineers designing systems and build the system to handle normal events. No one builds systems for black swan events. A safe shutdown during abnormal events should be expected.

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