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Published on June 23rd, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan


Nuclear Power & Flooding (Nuclear Power Getting Less Reliable)

June 23rd, 2011 by  

Flooding around Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant in Nebraska.

I can hear the nuclear power lovers coming my way now. They’ll be in the comments soon after I publish this. But publish it I think I should.

We hear all the time, “we need nuclear because it provides reliable, baseload power.” We saw last week how this wasn’t the case in Fukushima, even before the disasters that started in March (which are ongoing). Now, it’s also clearly not the case in Nebraska, where two nuclear power plants have been threatened by extreme flooding, one (at Fort Calhoun) is currently shutdown (was shutdown beforehand for refueling and must remain shut down until flood waters recede, which could mean until late Fall) and the other (in Cooper, Nebraska) may be shut down soon because of rising flood waters.

Useful comments from readers: “You might point out that solar thermal provides baseload capabilities…” and “we don’t need baseload.  We need the ability to provide power when it’s needed.  ‘Baseload’ is old skool thinking. A mix of renewables along with storage and dispatchable would work just fine.  That said, geothermal, biomass and run of the river hydro are the sorts of power the old folks call ‘baseload’.”

This is a video from June 17 on the Nebraska flooding and lack of nuclear reliability:

Now, as anyone who knows anything about climate science can tell you, flooding is expected to increase in the years to come (and we are already seeing it increase). With more and more flooding and extreme weather, nuclear power plants are not nearly as stable or reliable as they are claimed to be. Wind turbines and rooftop solar panels, on the other hand, are unaffected by this flooding from what I gather.

Some useful US Global Change Research Program excerpts from Peter Sinclair over on Climate Denial Crock of the Week:

US Global Change Research Program – Great Plains:

Projected changes in long-term climate and more frequent extreme events such as heat waves, droughts, and heavy rainfall will affect many aspects of life in the Great Plains. These include the region’s already threatened water resources, essential agricultural and ranching activities, unique natural and protected areas, and the health and prosperity of its inhabitants.

US Global Change Research Program – Midwest:

Heavy downpours are now twice as frequent as they were a century ago. Both summer and winter precipitation have been above average for the last three decades, the wettest period in a century. The Midwest has experienced two record-breaking floods in the past 15 years.

Another useful reader comment along these same lines:

Too much nuclear has been built on faulty assumptions.  In Japan it was assumed that a tsunami would never reach their reactors (even though at least one had gotten that high in the past. In France and the US  a lot of nuclear was built with the assumption that massive heat waves wouldn’t hit and cooling water would be available. “On July 8, 2010, as the temperature in downtown Decatur, Alabama climbed to a sweltering 98°F, operators at the Browns Ferry nuclear power plant a few miles outside of town realized they had only one option to avoid violating their environmental permit: turn down the reactors. For days, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which owns the nuclear plant, had kept a watchful eye on the rising mercury, knowing that more heat outside could spell trouble inside the facility. When the Tennessee River, whose adjacent waters are used to cool the reactors, finally hit 90°F and forced Browns Ferry to run at only half of their regular power output, the TVA hoped the hot spell would last just a few days. Eight weeks of unrelenting heat later, the plant was still running at half its capacity” http://www.climatecentral.org/news/in-tennessee-heat-waves-frustrate-nuclear-power/ “France is expecting to have an epic heat wave this summer, which, due to a combination of political and environmental factors, will have some serious repercussions for the political scene in Paris. Spring 2011 has been exceptionally hot in France. In fact, has been the hottest in 100 years. Furthermore, it has been the driest spring in the last 50 years and therefore this summer is expected to be one of the hottest on record and that includes the 2005 and 2003 heat waves which were quite serious for France. In 2003 heat wave in France was exceptionally severe, with the French minister of health issuing a report that said that about 15,000 people may have died as result of increased temperatures…. particularly important for France during a drought is because 24 of its 58 nuclear reactors do not have cooling towers and purely depend on the flow of river water to cool the reactor cores. What this means is that if the level of water in rivers drops, it means that some of the reactors may have to be shut down especially those on the Rhone River in southwest France, where temperatures are expected to be particularly high due to its geographical location.”

Any more input on this topic?

More Nuclear Stories on CleanTechnica:

  1. My Thoughts on Nuclear
  2. Wind Power Beats Nuclear Power in Texas
  3. Wind Power in Europe MORE Reliable than Nuclear Power in Japan
  4. Renewable Energy Passed Up Nuclear in 2010
  5. Some Good News From Japan



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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in NIO [NIO], Tesla [TSLA], and Xpeng [XPEV]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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