Nuclear power plant cuts production to protect fish as Europe grapples with heatwave

Switzerland’s Bejnau nuclear power plant photographed in July 2019. This facility uses the Aarey River for cooling.

Fabrice Kofrini | AFP | Getty Images

A nuclear power plant in Switzerland is reducing its output to stop a river that could prevent it from hitting temperature levels dangerous to marine life, the latest example of how Europe’s current heatwave is having wide-ranging effects. Huh.

On Monday, the international arm of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, citing the country’s public broadcaster SRF, said, stated that the Beznau Nuclear Power Plant had “temporarily reduced operations”. To prevent the temperature of the Aare River from rising to “hazardous levels for fish”.

The Beznau plant is made up of two light water reactors that collectively produce approximately 6,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity annually. This, says plant operator Expo, “corresponds to almost twice the electricity consumption of the city of Zurich.”

Instead of using cooling towers to regulate the temperature, the Beznau facility uses the Aare River. Through its operation, the plant heats this water, which is eventually channeled back into the river.

According to Expo, the plant heats water by 0.7 to 1 degree Celsius when it is in “full load operation”, adding that it is dependent on water conditions. Due to the high temperatures currently experiencing in Switzerland, it has been decided to reduce production.

Read more about Energy from CNBC Pro

In a statement sent to CNBC via email, a spokesperson for the expo said that “there were regulations regarding water conservation, which prohibit the operation of the Beznau Nuclear Power Plant at high water temperatures in Aarey.”

The spokesperson said the expo complied with these requirements. “We are currently continuously monitoring the situation and have already taken preliminary measures,” he added.

The production of the Beznau plant was, the spokesman said, “regulated during the day based on the current temperature of Aarey, so that the requirements are met at all times.”

“It is a routine procedure that becomes necessary from time to time on hot summer days,” he said. “Due to the heat, we believe that further power cuts will be required in the next few days.”

News from Switzerland comes as parts of Europe scramble with a significant heatwave Due to which there has been a forest fire, delay in travel and death. Last Friday, UK released “Red Extreme” Heat Warning for this week.