Drought could force nuclear plants to close
By MITCH WEISS
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS____________
LAKE NORMAN, N.C. –Nuclear reactors across the Southeast could be forced to throttle back or temporarily shut down later this year because drought is drying up the rivers and lakes that supply power plants with the awesome amounts of cooling water they need to operate.
Utility officials say such shutdowns probably wouldn’t result in blackouts. But they could lead to shockingly higher electric bills for millions of Southerners because the region’s utilities may be forced to buy expensive replacement power from other companies.
Already, there has been one brief, drought-related shutdown at a reactor in Alabama.
“You need a lot of water to operate nuclear plants,” said Jim Warren, executive director of N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, an environmental group critical of nuclear power. “This is becoming a crisis.”
An Associated Press analysis of the nation’s 104 nuclear reactors found that 24 are in areas experiencing the most severe levels of drought.
All but two are built on the shores of lakes and rivers and rely on intake pipes to draw billions of gallons of water to cool and condense steam after it has turned the plants’ turbines.
Over the next several months, the water could drop below the intake pipes altogether. Or the shallow water could become too hot under the sun to use as coolant.