Low water flow may cut output at France's Saint-Alban nuclear plant

PARIS, Sept 8 (Reuters) - A low flow rate on the Rhone River will likely restrict output from Thursday to Sunday at EDF’s Saint-Alban nuclear plant in southeastern France, French grid operator RTE said on Tuesday.

The two Saint-Alban reactors produce 1.3 gigawatts (GW) of power each and RTE said the reduction in output could be equivalent to the production of one unit.

The Saint-Alban 2 reactor is scheduled to go offline for routine maintenance on Sept. 19.

EDF’s use of water is regulated by law to protect plant and animal life. The company is obliged to reduce output during hot weather when water temperatures rise, or when river levels and the flow rate are low.

Low flow rates have been a recurring concern at the Saint-Alban plant in the past month. RTE has posted similar warnings each week going back to Aug. 20 that the equivalent of one reactor could be taken offline for that reason.

The lack of rainfall over the year has had a low impact on nuclear production, decreasing it by 0.35% at the end of August or 0.75 TWh out of 219 TWh produced, an EDF spokesperson said.

French utility EDF said on Monday that nuclear power generation at its reactors in France dropped 17.6% to 22.9 terawatt hours (TWh) year-on-year in August due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and reactor outages.

Nuclear availability is currently at 50.3%, with 31 GW offline. (Reporting by Forrest Crellin, additional reporting by Benjamin Mallet; Editing by Louise Heavens)