One of Europe’s most severe droughts in a century is threatening crop production, shrinking some rivers to near-record low levels, and raising the specter that France may experience blackouts as some river-cooled
nuclear power plants may be forced to shut down. In France, the warmest and driest spring in half a century may significantly slash wheat yields. In addition, with 44 of France’s 58 nuclear reactors cooled by river water, officials are closely monitoring whether power production may have to be reduced, since sending overheated water from the plants back into low, warm rivers could cause major ecological problems. In Germany, where spring water levels in many rivers are the lowest they’ve been in a century, yields of crops such as rapeseed oil are expected to drop by 20 percent. And England’s southeast, the country’s breadbasket, is experiencing a severe drought, while many other parts of the UK are on the brink of drought. Overall, rainfall across Europe this year is only 40 to 80 percent of the average precipitation from 1951 to 2000.