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

PARIS, Sept 3 (Reuters) - A low flow rate on the Rhone River will likely restrict output from Saturday to Monday at EDF’s Saint-Alban nuclear plant in southeastern France, French grid operator RTE said on Thursday.

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 currently 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.

August was the third hottest in France on records going back to 1900, with the summer months between June and August entering the top 10 hottest summers on record, Meteo France data showed.

Low flow rates were already an issue at the Saint-Alban plant last month, as RTE warned on Aug. 20 that the equivalent of one reactor could be taken offline for that reason.

French nuclear availability is currently at 52.4% of total capacity, with 29.7 GW offline. (Reporting by Forrest Crellin; Editing by Susan Fenton)