Extended heat and low rainfall across Europe are causing major rivers to dry up. This is having serious consequences for wildlife, the economy and the people living near the Rhine, Po, Thames and other affected rivers.
Europe's great rivers are important economic routes and ecosystems, as well as emblems of the cities through which they pass. Now, countries all across the continent are struggling once more with high temperatures and prolonged drought — and, as a result, the rivers are running low or are simply too hot. People associate the Loire with France's picturesque river landscapes and fairy-tale castles — but its banks are also home to the Belleville nuclear power plant. This is no coincidence: Nuclear power plants are always situated near water because they need it for cooling. The Belleville plant discharges the water that it has used as coolant into the Loire, and refills its cooling towers with fresh water from the river. To protect the flora and fauna in and around the river, strict rules govern the degree to which power plants are allowed to raise the temperature of the river water. Once the maximum permitted temperature is reached, the nuclear power plants have to reduce their output — meaning they produce less electricity. To top it off, this is occurring in a hot summer when the French are likely to have their fans and air conditioners on at full blast and Russia has stopped supplying France with gas via pipelines.
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