Original Article

Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 327-338

First online:

Modeling thermoelectric power generation in view of climate change

  • Hannah FörsterAffiliated withPotsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research Email author 
  • , Johan LilliestamAffiliated withPotsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

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In this study we investigate how thermal power plants with once-through cooling could be affected by future climate change impacts on river water temperatures and stream flow. We introduce a model of a steam turbine power plant with once-through cooling at a river site and simulate how its production could be constrained in scenarios ranging from a one degree to a five degree increase of river temperature and a 10–50% decrease of stream flow. We apply the model to simulate a large nuclear power plant in Central Europe. We calculate annual average load reductions, which can be up to 11.8%, assuming unchanged stream flow, which leads to average annual income losses of up to 80 million €. Considering simultaneous changes in stream flow will exacerbate the problem and may increase average annual costs to 111 million € in a worst-case scenario. The model demonstrates that power generation could be severely constrained by typical climate impacts, such as increasing river temperatures and decreasing stream flow.


Climate change Nuclear power Water demand Cooling Thermoelectric power