That’s bad news right now. Europe’s heatwave—which led to wildfires in Greece and Sweden, droughts in central and northern parts, and made the normally green UK look brown from space—is forcing nuclear plants to shut down or curtail the amount of power they produce. French utility EDF shut four reactors at three power plants on Saturday, Swedish utility Vattenfall shut one of two reactors at a power plant earlier last week, and nuclear plants in Finland, Germany, and Switzerland have cut back the amount of power they produce.
Europe’s heatwave, however, hasn’t just increased air temperatures but also water temperatures. The upshot is that the usual water sources drawn on by nuclear plants cannot be used as effectively for cooling, leading to shutdowns. It’s not the first time this has happened: Heatwaves forced nuclear shutdowns or curtailments across Europe in 2003, 2006, and 2015.
Worse still, scientists warn that thermal power interruptions will worsen because of climate change—not just because of heatwaves but also droughts. It’s ironic that human-induced climate change is threatening a climate-friendly source of electricity.