Electricite de France (EDF), the largest French energy generating company, has shut down several of its nuclear power units due to record heat and shallow rivers, Wired magazine reported . Andrey Ozharovsky, an engineer-physicist and an expert of the Radioactive Waste Safety program of the Russian Social and Ecological Union, told The Insider that Russia also has similar problems: for example, the Rostov nuclear power plant had to build twelve small towers in addition to the main one in order to make heat exchange more intense.
According to him, French nuclear power plants, like Russian ones, cannot operate at a high temperature of the “ultimate heat sink” (water). At the same time, most of the heat generated in a nuclear reactor, due to the imperfection of technologies, has to be thrown into the environment using evaporative cooling towers. Ozharovsky explains that cooling towers are towers with the help of which hot water is cooled by air currents to a certain temperature, for example, using cooling ponds, as in the USSR. If the ultimate sink is a body of water, there are cases at Russian nuclear power plants that turn off stations at water temperatures above 30–31 degrees.
“Nuclear plants cannot operate at air or coolant temperatures above the limits set by the developer and simply turn off. If no one tries to violate the instructions, then the nuclear power plants will turn off, and in this or that region there will be less electricity, and there will be no environmental problems. But, it is quite possible that they will try to force the power units to operate in non-design modes, and this is already quite bad. Knowing the habits of nuclear scientists, both Russian and French, they can try to cheat.”
Ozharovsky adds that the French plants were built according to "the willful decision of General Charles de Gaulle, who by the end of his reign became a dictator and decided that nuclear power plants meant progress." According to the expert, "someone lied" about this to de Gaulle, and he decided to provide the country with a free, endless and reliable source. However, the source turned out to be not free, but even extremely ruinous and unreliable, because it is turned off not only because of the weather, the physicist emphasizes.
He cited the example of the fourth unit of the Rostov NPP, located in Volgodonsk, Rostov Region, which was completed in 2018. Russia built an evaporative cooling tower, which then ceased to be enough, and now, in addition to this huge tower, twelve small ones have been built to make the heat exchange more intensive. Therefore, not only the French have such a problem, Ozharovsky notes. According to the physicist, if in the 60s and 70s the designers did not understand that there is such a phenomenon as global climate change, then in the case of the Rostov station it is a “mega-fuckup”, because everyone knew and understood everything, however anyway, they decided that they would build it that way.
In his opinion, all these situations will most likely lead to the fact that more people will understand that nuclear energy is the last century. The industry's problem is that it produces radioactive waste with which it is not clear what to do, and the risk of accidents remains. But the situation with the French nuclear power plant should push those countries in which they see climate change to gradually phase out nuclear energy and use renewable sources. The expert notes that, on the contrary, bright sunny days are useful for solar energy. For example, Germany was able to close almost all nuclear plants and, despite the political crisis, will continue to close: “There are three reactors left, and they will either close this year, or postpone until next year and increase the share of renewable sources, they are now more than 40% ".