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Heat causes concern for French plants

Paris, Aug. 11 (Reuters): France called emergency talks today on overheating at nuclear power plants as Europe’s heat wave entered its second week, with officials torn between output cuts and allowing hotter water to pour into rivers.

After Paris sweltered through its hottest night since records began, a doctor in the city said more elderly people were dying from the heat and accused health authorities doing little about the crisis.

Temperatures have hit around 40 degrees celsius in the past few days, spelling trouble for France’s nuclear reactors, many of which are cooled by river water. The plants pour water back into the rivers but only once it has been cooled to a certain temperature to protect the environment.

With river levels falling and the mercury rising, authorities face the choice of spewing out hotter water, risking ecological damage, or cutting output, potentially leading to blackouts.

About 80 per cent of France’s electricity needs are met by 19 nuclear power stations and 58 reactors. \Industry minister Nicole Fontaine chaired talks with officials of several ministries, the state-owned power utility Electricite de France and the power distribution grid operator RTE.

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