Nuclear Reliability and Climate Change

Posted: 26th July 2021

Nuclear power’s reliability is dropping as extreme weather increases. A

comprehensive analysis shows that warmer temperatures aren’t the only
threat. With extreme weather causing power failures in California and
Texas, it’s increasingly clear that the existing power infrastructure isn’t
designed for these new conditions. Past research has shown that nuclear
power plants are no exception, with rising temperatures creating cooling
problems for them. Now, a comprehensive analysis looking at a broader range
of climate events shows that it’s not just hot weather that puts these
plants at risk—it’s the full range of climate disturbances. Heat has been
one of the most direct threats, as higher temperatures mean that the
natural cooling sources (rivers, oceans, lakes) are becoming less efficient
heat sinks. However, this new analysis shows that hurricanes and typhoons
have become the leading causes of nuclear outages, at least in North
America and South and East Asia. Precautionary shutdowns for storms are
routine, and so this finding is perhaps not so surprising. But other
factors—like the clogging of cooling intake pipes by unusually abundant
jellyfish populations—are a bit less obvious. Overall, this latest
analysis calculates that the frequency of climate-related nuclear plant
outages is almost eight times higher than it was in the 1990s. The analysis
also estimates that the global nuclear fleet will lose up to 1.4
percent—about 36 TWh—of its energy production in the next 40 years and
up to 2.4 percent, or 61 TWh, by 2081-2100.

 Ars Technica 24th July 2021

Find out more – call Caroline on 01722 321865 or email us.