Turn off the switch:
Nuclear reactors across the Southeast could be forced to throttle back or temporarily shut down later this year because drought is drying up the rivers and lakes that supply power plants with the awesome amounts of cooling water they need to operate.
Utility officials say such shutdowns probably wouldnâ€™t result in blackouts. But they could lead to shockingly higher electric bills for millions of Southerners, because the regionâ€™s utilities could be forced to buy expensive replacement power from other energy companies.
Already, there has been one brief, drought-related shutdown, at a reactor in Alabama over the summer.
â€œWater is the nuclear industryâ€™s Achillesâ€™ heel,â€ said Jim Warren, executive director of N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, an environmental group critical of nuclear power. â€œYou need a lot of water to operate nuclear plants.â€ He added: â€œThis is becoming a crisis.â€