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Increase in frequency of nuclear power outages due to changing climate

Abstract

Climate-related changes have already affected operating conditions for different types of energy system, in particular power plants. With more than three decades of data on changing climate, we are now in a position to empirically assess the impact of climate change on power plant operations. Such empirical assessments can provide an additional measure of the resilience of power plants going forward. Here I analyse climate-linked outages in nuclear power plants over the past three decades. My assessment shows that the average frequency of climate-induced disruptions has dramatically increased from 0.2 outage per reactor-year in the 1990s to 1.5 in the past decade. Based on the projections for adopted climate scenarios, the average annual energy loss of the global nuclear fleet is estimated to range between 0.8% and 1.4% in the mid-term (2046–2065) and 1.4% and 2.4% in the long term (2081–2100).

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Fig. 1: Pathways of climate-induced disruptions in nuclear power plants.
Fig. 2: Variation of the average frequency of NPP outages per decade.
Fig. 3: Characteristics of climate-induced full outages in NPPs between 2010 and 2019.
Fig. 4: Linear regressions of the variations of energy loss and frequency of outages per reactor-year.
Fig. 5: Characteristics of full outages induced by climate-linked events.
Fig. 6: Projected variation of the annual loss of energy due to climate-linked outages.

Data availability

The datasets generated and/or analysed during the current study are not publicly available due to third-party restrictions, but anonymized datasets are available from the author on reasonable request. The publicly available data that was used in this paper can be found on the IAEA Power Reactor Information System (PRIS) database (https://pris.iaea.org/pris/home.aspx), and the IAEA Operating Experience with Nuclear Power Stations in Member States (2020 version can be accessed on this link: https://www.iaea.org/publications/14782/operating-experience-with-nuclear-power-stations-in-member-states). Source data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

The Python codes that enable the reproduction of the main analysis is available upon reasonable request from the author.

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Acknowledgements

I thank M. Bunn of the Harvard Kennedy School for his insightful comments on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Ali Ahmad.

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The author declares no competing interests.

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Peer review information Nature Energy thanks Sarah Jordaan, Peter Larsen and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Source Data Fig. 4

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Source Data Fig. 5

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Ahmad, A. Increase in frequency of nuclear power outages due to changing climate. Nat Energy 6, 755–762 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-021-00849-y

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