Nuclear plants facing closure as heatwave grips Europe
Drought and high temperatures of river water may force France to temporarily shut down some of the nuclear power plants that supply two-thirds of the county's electricity in the wake of the European heatwave.
The extreme temperatures of the past week are beginning to abate, but shortages and excessive temperatures of river water needed to cool reactors are worrying EDF, the largely state-owned electricity company.
If the hot weather continues, households, offices and factories will require large quantities of electricity for air conditioning and ventilation.
River levels have fallen in eastern, central and southern France, the 'Journal du Dimanche' newspaper reported.
The Civaux nuclear plant is cooled by water from the River Vienne, and its level is now close to a historic low.
EDF uses two dams to boost the river water, but the local authority has complained that the company uses the river almost exclusively for its power station, jeopardising farming, drinking water supplies, leisure activities and tourism.
Residents of areas near the River Loire have made similar criticisms. The Loire has four nuclear plants on its banks, but the local authority has reported water levels close to the historic lows registered during France's terrible heatwave in 2003, blamed for 15,000 deaths, mostly of elderly people affected by dehydration.
A record high of 45.9C was reached in the southern village of Gallargues-le-Montueux, near Montpellier, on Friday.
At least seven people died at the weekend as Europe blistered in record temperatures - two of them in France.
One man died while competing on Saturday in a cycling race in the Ariege region, in the foothills of the Pyrenees.
The 53-year-old crashed after feeling unwell and police were investigating the precise cause of his death.
Another cyclist died in the southern region of Vaucluse, with authorities attributing his collapse to the heat.
Two people died in Spain and three in Italy.
In Spain, 40 out of 50 regions were put under weather alert, with seven of them considered to be an extreme risk, the national weather agency said.
Temperatures in Girona, in north-eastern Spain, reached 43.9C on Friday - the highest ever in the Catalan city.
Most of the wildfires that hit Spain in recent days were stabilised over the weekend but firefighters were struggling to control blazes in the central provinces of Toledo and Madrid that have burned more than 20 sq km since Friday.
Germany's weather service warned of "extreme" heat yesterday, forecasting peak temperatures of up to 39C. (© Daily Telegraph, London)