Nuclear, coal power face climate risk

2012-06-04 11:01
Warmer water and reduced river flows will cause more power disruptions for nuclear and coal-fired power plants. (AP)

Warmer water and reduced river flows will cause more power disruptions for nuclear and coal-fired power plants. (AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Singapore - Warmer water and reduced river flows will cause more power disruptions for nuclear and coal-fired power plants in the US and Europe in future, scientists say, and lead to a rethink on how best to cool power stations in a hotter world.

In a study published on Monday, a team of European and US scientists focused on projections of rising temperatures and lower river levels in summer and how these impacts would affect power plants dependent on river water for cooling.

The authors predict that coal and nuclear power generating capacity between 2031 and 2060 will decrease by between 4% and 16% in the US and a 6% to 19% decline in Europe due to lack of cooling water.

The likelihood of extreme drops in power generation, either complete or almost-total shutdowns, was projected to almost triple.

"This study suggests that our reliance on thermal cooling is something that we're going to have to revisit," co-author Dennis Lettenmaier, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle, said in a statement.

Disruptions

Thermoelectric power plants supply more than 90% of electricity in the US and account for 40% of the nation's freshwater usage, says the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

In Europe, such plants supply three-quarters of the electricity and account for about half of the freshwater use.

Coal, nuclear and gas plants turn large amounts of water into steam to spin a turbine. They also rely on water at consistent temperatures to cool the turbines and any spike in river water temperatures can affect a plant's operation.

Disruptions to power supplies were already occurring, the authors noted.

During warm, dry summers in 2003, 2006 and 2009 several power plants in Europe cut production because of restricted availability of cooling water, driving up power prices.

A similar event in 2007 - 2008 in the US caused several power plants to reduce production, or shut down for several days because of a lack of water for cooling and environmental restrictions on warm water discharges back into rivers, the study said.

In the past few months, large parts of the US have suffered record heat, with March being the warmest on record for the contiguous 48 states, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The study projects the most significant US impacts at power plants inland along major rivers in the Southeast.

"Considering the increase in future electricity demand, there is a strong need for improved climate adaptation strategies in the thermoelectric power sector to assure future energy security," the authors say in the study.

They also point to US and European laws enshrining strict environmental standards for the volume of water withdrawn by plants and the temperature of the water discharged.

Adaptation strategies include placing new plants near the sea or building more gas-fired power plants, which are more efficient and use less water.
Read more on:    environment  |  climate change

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

linking and moving

2015-04-22 07:36

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
2 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.