Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 327–338 | Cite as

Modeling thermoelectric power generation in view of climate change

  • Hannah FörsterEmail author
  • Johan Lilliestam
Original Article


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 



This work was supported by the Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Agriculture and Consumer Protection of the state of North Rhine Westphalia [grant number 08/32-V-4-Wi-] and the European Commission FP6 Framework Program [CIRCE project, contract GOCE03696]. We are indebted to Christian Pape who helped to improve the program code siginficantly. We are also indebted to two anonymous referees for invaluable comments that significantly helped to improve the manuscript. The authors would also like to thank Arjuna Nebel, Fabian Link and Marinka Spiess for their help in obtaining various data. Further we would like to thank Ulrike Müller and Jürgen Kropp for their useful inputs.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact ResearchPotsdamGermany

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