Global Warming Fallout: Nuclear Reactor Shutdown

An Associated Press story, courtesy the Houston Chronicle’s website, tells us that an Alabama nuclear reactor had to be shut down because the river whose water was used as coolant was too hot:

The Tennessee Valley Authority shut down one of three units at the Browns Ferry nuclear plant Thursday because water drawn from a river to cool the reactor was too hot, a spokesman said.

The nation’s largest public utility shut down Unit 2 about 5:42 p.m. CDT because water drawn from the Tennessee River was exceeding a 90-degree average over 24 hours, amid a blistering heat wave across the Southeast.

“We don’t believe we’ve ever shut down a nuclear unit because of river temperature,” said John Moulton, spokesman for the Knoxville, Tenn.-based utility.

He said TVA would compensate for the loss of power by buying power elsewhere. The utility announced earlier Thursday that it was imposing a fuel surcharge on customers because of lower hydroelectric power production caused by drought conditions.

Two other units at the plant were operating, as well as towers to cool the water. But searing temperatures and a lack of cooler water in the upper part of the Tennessee River system made it too difficult to provide cool water for all three reactors. There was no safety threat posed by the shutdown….

TVA gets about 60 percent of its electricity from coal-fired power plants, 30 percent from nuclear plants and 10 percent from its 29 hydroelectric dams. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar account for less than 1 percent.

While hydroelectric power is technically a renewable power source, perhaps it is looking less so now that the South is also in the grip of a severe drought.

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  1. Anonymous

    All these pesky little problems; drought, extreme heat, and now the friggin’ river is too hot. “No problem, we’ll just buy the juice from somewhere else” – what with the energy markets becoming ever tighter, one wonders how much longer that will be an option.


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