By Christine Legere
PLYMOUTH — A stretch of hot weather has again affected operations at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, marking the third summer out of the last four that the plant has been forced by excessive water temperatures to power down.
Temperatures of the Cape Cod Bay seawater used to cool the reactor and turbine exceeded the maximum allowed under federal standards Monday afternoon.
This is only the third summer in the plant’s 44-year history that excessively hot bay water has caused a slowdown at Pilgrim. Previous occurrences were in July 2013 and August 2015.
Pilgrim draws 500 million gallons from the bay every day to cool its systems through a network of thousands of tubes.
Its license caps the water intake temperature at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It can be up to 30 degrees hotter when it is returned to the bay.
Mary Lampert, director of the citizens group Pilgrim Watch, sees irony in the effect climate change is having on nuclear reactors.
“The nuclear industry incorrectly claims that nuclear power is the answer to climate change, but climate change brings warmer sea water temperature and this means that the reactor must shut down when the bay heats up,” Lampert wrote in an email. “On the other hand, when water temperatures get hot, truly clean sources of electricity — wind, solar, hydro, tide — operate just fine.”
Some plant owners have successfully applied to raise the federal 75-degree limit for intake water.
Millstone Nuclear Power Plant in Connecticut, which draws water from Long Island Sound, was the first in the Northeast to shut down because of rising water temperatures. Millstone has since successfully applied for an increase to 80 degrees for its intake water.