August 19, 2020 Read More →

Moody’s: Climate change poses rising risk to significant portion of U.S. nuclear fleet

S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):

Nuclear operators should expect to face growing credit risk associated with climate change over the next 10 to 20 years, Moody’s said in an Aug. 18 report, suggesting operators should install upgrades to protect their facilities from looming threats.

Reactors that are exposed to increased flood risk can make incremental investments to “bolster their flood barrier or redirect runoff to protect critical structures,” Moody’s analysts wrote, noting that the rating agency incorporates such actions into its credit analysis as a form of risk mitigation.

Flooding represents a primary concern for nuclear projects, as plants located near large bodies of water are vulnerable to flooding and storm surges, increasing the risk that equipment could be damaged. Approximately 37,000 MW of nuclear capacity in the U.S. has elevated exposure to flood risk, according to the report.

“Nuclear power reactors are some of the most hardened industrial assets in the [U.S.], but they still face rising climate risks, especially if they look to extend their operating licenses for another 20 years,” Moody’s analyst David Kamran, an author of the report, said in an email.

Increased heat and a depleted water supply are also expected to be factors, with parts of the Midwest and southern Florida facing the highest levels of heat stress and Western states, primarily California and those in the Rocky Mountain region, likely to face the greatest reduction in water availability. Some 48,000 MW of nuclear capacity will be impacted by the increased exposure to combined rising heat and water stress, according to the report.

“Growing heat stress across parts of the Midwest and southern Florida can have an adverse impact on nuclear plant operations by reducing a plant’s cooling capacity,” Moody’s said in the report. “The power generation process creates steam, which is cooled, condensed into liquid water and reused.” Should the temperature of the water that will be cooled or the discharge water be too high, a nuclear plant can be “forced to curtail production or shut down temporarily,” Moody’s added.

[Fotios Tsarouhis]

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