Cattenom caused heavy snowfall in a region otherwise spared by storm Darcy (Photo : Amandine M. / Météo Grand-Est)
While Luxembourg and the greater region were mostly spared by storm Darcy, the area around the Cattenom power plant saw up to 30 centimentres of snow because of the station’s cooling towers.
Much of Europe has been gripped by a cold snap, with motorways in regions such as Normandy and Brittany closed for lack of snow-clearing equipment. Snow caused severe traffic disruptions in northern Germany and the Czech Republic, while the Netherlands issued a code red warning for the entire country.
Luxembourg has so far seen only a few flakes although temperatures have dropped well below zero.
But just a few kilometres away in nearby Cattenom, up to 30 centimetres of snow fell on Tuesday in a 10-kilometres radius around the town’s nuclear power plant.
“This phenomenon is linked to the plant’s cooling system,” said Florian Pasiecznik, a meteorologist who lives in Valleroy, around 40 kilometres from Esch-sur-Alzette.
Water droplets--constituting the steam you can see rising from the cooling towers--form crystals when they collide with cold air. When they get too heavy, they fall, as rain or, in this case, snow.
The isolated weather phenomenon was picked up by weather stations, but it isn’t that rare. “It’s even fairly frequent when it’s cold and the atmosphere is calm. However, what’s less common is the quantity of snow that fell this time around,” Pasiecznik said.
The cold is prompting people to turn up their heating and use more electricity, the meteorologist said. Increased activity at the plant also means more cooling, resulting in more steam. “And since there wasn’t really any wind, even in higher altitudes, everything fell within a restricted zone, rather than dispersing across a wider perimeter.”