News
26 Jul 2019, 13:40
Benjamin Wehrmann

Nuclear power plant in Germany on verge of getting switched off due to heat wave

Clean Energy Wire / NDR / Bloomberg

A nuclear power plant in northern Germany has come to the verge of being taken off the grid on Friday, a Lower Saxony state environment ministry spokesperson told Clean Energy Wire. The ministry on Thursday had said the Grohnde nuclear plant near Hannover would likely be taken offline, as high temperatures were excessively warming a river used for the plant’s cooling system, and should be started up again once the heat wave that has hit Germany and other European countries with unprecedented temperatures has abated. On Friday, the plant's operator, Preussen Elektra had informed the ministry that water temperatures were not rising as quickly as expected. However, precautions for a possible shutdown were taken nonetheless, the operator said. The river Weser, into which the plant’s cooling water is discharged, is suffering low water levels and has warmed to above 26 degrees Celsius. Additional heat from the nuclear reactor could damage the river’s ecosystem, the ministry said. 

According to preliminary figures from meteorological service DWD, 25 June set another temperature record for Germany. Lingen in Lower Saxony recorded a high of 42.6 degrees, breaking the previous day’s all-time German high of 40.5 degrees. 

Lingen is also home to a nuclear power plant, but operator RWE told public broadcaster NDR it would not have to be switched off. Lingen’s Ems plant uses a different cooling system that does not discharge used water directly into the river, RWE said. 

Low water levels are also causing concern on the Rhine, Germany’s most important waterway, Bloomberg reports. It’s feared that shipping could be called to a halt on the river, as it was for the first time in recent history during the 2018 drought. Many companies in Switzerland, France, Germany and the Netherlands depend on the Rhine to transport heavy goods.

Several power plants had to be throttled down or taken off the grid in Germany last year due to cooling issues and other weather-related problems. Federal government insisted this did not endanger electricity supply security. Last summer’s high temperatures heightened public concern over climate change in Germany, making it the biggest political issue for many, surveys indicate.

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