« Ithe wanted to be clever by showing that he knew about it, and he got his feet in the carpet, “laughs a nuclear specialist, still stunned by the blunder committed by the president by presenting its “water” plane, on March 30, from the Serre-Ponçon lake. In the middle of a controversy on pensionsthe Head of State wanted to regain control by presenting this plan himself, which the ministries concerned had been preparing for months, under the supervision of Matignon, in order to “set a course for the nation” by carrying an ambitious objective: “To achieve 10% water savings in all sectors by 2030.”

It was then that, visibly departing from his text, the president embarked on a short digression, when he mentioned the electricity production sector, recalling that the cooling of nuclear power plants represents 12% of consumption of the country’s annual water supply. “On nuclear power, we must adapt our nuclear power plants to climate change by undertaking a vast investment program to save water and allow us to operate much more in a closed circuit,” promised the president. Stupor in the ranks of specialists.

READ ALSODrought and nuclear power: an outbreak of fantasies “An open-circuit power plant rejects all the water it takes into the environment, so it does not consume any,” notes the general delegate of the French Nuclear Energy Company, Valérie Faucon. “Conversely, in a closed circuit, part of the water evaporates from the cooling towers and is removed in the middle. Closed circuit power plants therefore consume much more water than others…”

No “investment plan”

Favoring nuclear power plants operating in a closed circuit is therefore not intended to save water, but to adapt the park to an estimated drop of 10 to 40% in the flow of rivers and rivers, for ecological reasons: the water withdrawn returns to the middle, warmed by 4 to 8 degrees before diluting, threatening to impact ecosystems if the overall temperature of the river exceeds a certain threshold.

Each summer, EDF must therefore reduce the power of a handful of reactors, resulting in production losses which “remain well below 1% of annual production, except in 2003, a year marked by an episode of historic heat wave when it reached 1.4%”, noted in March the Court of Auditors in a report devoted, precisely, to “the adaptation of the fleet of nuclear reactors to climate change”. A recent study, published in Nature Energyestimates that global production losses linked to climatic unavailability could reach nearly 2% in 2100.

READ ALSOOn nuclear power, everyone lies… This is the reason why… no investment plan is planned, for the moment, to “adapt” the existing fleet. On the one hand, because many adaptations have already been made, documents the Court of Auditors. “EDF has gradually developed since the 1990s a detailed knowledge of climate issues and their impacts on temperatures, water resources or sea level, and has set up governance, an internal organization and research projects and development to respond to them”, emphasizes the institution.

Since 2014, the electrician has had a “climate service”. 960 million euros have been invested to adapt the park to the climate, in particular to heat waves, over the period 2006-2021, and “the expenditure programmed in connection with adaptation to climate change over the period 2022-2038 would amount to approximately 612 million euros”, specifies the Court of Auditors.

The unthought of future reactors

“The president’s remarks are in line with the continuity of the Nuclear Policy Council” of February 3, which validated the launch of new studies, with a view to extending the life of power plants to 60 years, specifies in Point, the Ministry of Energy Transition. No “investment plan” is yet planned. “Improvements are possible, but there is no question of transforming an open-circuit power station into a closed-circuit power station! It’s complex, and the cost would be exorbitant for a low benefit, ”says a source familiar with the matter.

READ ALSOHow Macron’s progressive water pricing worksThis is confirmed, moreover, by the report of the Court of Auditors, reporting exploratory studies conducted by EDF on the possibility of providing certain sites with air-cooling towers on the power stations of Saint-Alban, Bugey and Tricastin. “The technical and land feasibility is very complex and difficult to implement. The costs are very high: an installation cost of around 500 million euros and significant maintenance costs still to be assessed”, estimates EDF, which “also emphasizes that the construction of an air cooler would only meet imperfectly to climate issues by limiting the increase in temperature of the river and the quantity of water withdrawn, but by generating other environmental disadvantages (consumption of water from the river by evaporation and discharges). »

Today, no budget is planned, and none of the 53 measures of the water plan, unveiled on March 30, concerns nuclear power. Still, the electrician will have, for the future, to provide answers to the questions of the Court of Auditors concerning future EPR reactors, which do not include “no marked technological development” in terms of a “low water” cooling system. . An unthought – even a failure – that will have to be filled.


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