Swiss nuclear power plant forced to reduce production due to warmer waters in river Aare

The Mühleberg Nuclear Power Plant in the canton of Bern has announced it is reducing its output due to the rising temperature in the river Aare, which cools the plant's reactor.

Swiss nuclear power plant forced to reduce production due to warmer waters in river Aare
The Mühleberg Nuclear Power Plant. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP.

The plant this week announced it has reduced its energy production by more than 10 per cent because of the record temperatures in Switzerland. The hottest summer since 1864 has seen water temperatures in many water bodies rise above 23 degrees Celsius, threatening aquatic fauna, and now energy supplies.

“We have reduced the reactors' power to 89 per cent,” Tobias Habegger, a spokesman for the BKW Group, the energy company that manages the plant, told Swiss news portal 20 Minutes.

The Mühleberg Nuclear Power Plant is obliged by law to reduce production once temperatures in the Aare river exceed 20.5 degrees Celsius. This is the second reduction – already on July 5th the power plant was ordered to reduce production as a safety precaution, according to the same report. 

The nuclear power station in Mühleberg is the first to have had to curtail production because of the current heatwave. The nearby power plant in Beznau is functioning normally. That plant only has to take similar safety precautions once temperatures in the Aare river exceed 32 Celsius. 

The Mühleberg Nuclear Power Plant, which has been active since 1972, will be the first in Switzerland to be disconnected as of December 2019, according to a statement by the BKW Group. 

READ MORE: Sizzling temperatures leading to 'catastrophe' for fish in Swiss lakes and rivers 

Correction, July 31st: This article originally stated that the reactor was struggling to cool the plant and has since been amended. The article has also been updated to reflect that The Mühleberg Nuclear Power Plant only has one reactor. The reduction in production is simply in order to comply with the authority‘s requirement to protect the rivers flora and fauna and not further increase the river’s temperature.

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Petrol prices fall in Switzerland — but will they continue to drop?

Switzerland’s consumers have not had any good news in months, as the cost of living has been increasing practically across all categories. But there is a positive development nevertheless.

Petrol prices fall in Switzerland — but will they continue to drop?

Swiss motorists might have noticed that the price of fuel at the pump has fallen slightly, from more than 2 francs per litre of unleaded 95 throughout the summer and at the beginning of September.

Market analysis carried out by Touring Club Suisse (TCS) motoring organisation confirms this trend.

Currently, a litre of unleaded 95 in Swiss filling stations costs on average 1.92 francs — around 15 cents less than at the beginning of September and 39 cents less than during the historic record in June.

Will this downward trend last?

For the moment, industry experts are not making any predictions, either way.

That’s because the price at the pump depends not only on the price of crude oil, but also on other factors, according to TCS.

They include — aside from geopolitical evolution in eastern Europe — transport costs, production rate, and the rate of the dollar.

Is it still cheaper to fuel up your car in neighbouring countries?

When the price of petrol exceeded 2 francs per litre in Switzerland, it made sense to buy gasoline across the border, especially when the franc gained strength against the euro in August. 

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What the weakening euro means for Switzerland’s residents

It may still be worthwhile, depending on the country.

In Germany, for instance, a litre of unleaded 95 costs on average 1.992, which is equivalent to the new price in Switzerland, according to TCS.

On the other hand, prices are lower in Italy (1.757), Austria (1.764), and, above all, France (1.57).

This TCS chart indicates per-litre prices in all European countries, which may help you decide were to buy petrol.

As for the cost of other energy sources, it is not expected to decrease any time  soon: on the contrary, forecasts call for higher prices.

READ MORE: Swiss government confirms ‘sharp increase’ in electricity prices