Those thirsty nuke plants

They may be relatively clean, but are they sustainable?

In addition to the high cost and risks, new reactors create another problem, one that is rarely mentioned: they put enormous pressure on water resources. Nuclear reactors require huge amounts of cooling water to operate; without adequate water, they cannot produce electricity.

Scientists say that warmer temperatures from climate change will mean a less dependable supply of water. This should be of special concern to residents of the southeastern United States, which is seeing its energy demand grow - and its water resources become increasingly stressed.

While I have (somewhat) softened my stance on nuclear energy, giving credit where credit is due on emissions, this technology still runs up against another of my deeply-held concerns for the future: our reckless approach to the management of our water resources.

Neither our individual habits nor our public policy efforts have come close to addressing this looming crisis, and adding this level of usage:

According to the industry's Electric Power Research Institute, nuclear reactors can consume between 400 and 720 gallons per megawatt hour, while coal consumes about 300 gallons and natural gas less than 250 gallons.

to this:

In the Southeast, electric power production accounts for nearly two-thirds of all freshwater withdrawals, or nearly 40 billion gallons daily. (That's as much as all public-water supply customers use in the U.S. each day.)

in the absence of an aggressive policy to assess, reserve and conserve water resources, could prove to be dangerously short-sighted in the years to come.


by all means, then

let's burn more coal.

"Man is free at the moment he wishes to be." -Voltaire

Is that what I get?

After all I've written here about the dangers of coal mining and burning, and the need for alternatives to such, in one sentence you reduce me to being a cheerleader for coal.


Oil Spill Vs Nuclear Meltdown

Nuclear power worries me. If the oil spill in the gulf is a disaster what would we call a nuclear meltdown?


Good point

We'd better plan the use of our resources better than ever.

The Water is not "consumed" by a power plant

Come on, the water is not consumed or contaminated by either a carbon fueled or a nuclear power fueled plant. If water is the coolant, it goes into a heat exchanger and comes out a little warmer. There are strict EPA controls on how much warmer it can be. Thermodynamics dictates that there will be waste heat in converting high temp to electricity. Let's not go overboard here. We are still an advanced industrial economy.

More than a little warmer

Those once-through cooling systems expel water that's between 20-30 degrees warmer, which not only disrupts the ecosystem greatly, it also triggers an increase in evaporation.

But aside from that, they must have a huge volume of relatively cool water available (set aside) to operate, which also means that's a huge volume of water thirsty people can't touch. If the water gets too warm, you have to shut down. If the water volume gets too low, you have to shut down. Ergo, they're unsustainable.

Coolant Water not set aside

In every water cooled power plant that I am familiar with, the water comes out of the river or lake, flows through the condenser heat exchanger and flows right back into the river or lake.

You do know why

a lot of those lakes were created, right?

Very interesting, Justin

Did you notice the map that shows how many waste-to-energy plants they have in Europe? And those are just the ones with this specific cooling system. I didn't know they were so prolific over there.

They are pretty prolific over here, too

We just call them "incinerators".

Also, they didn't give a lot of detail on the size of those units either: not all plants are created equally. I wouldn't imagine too many of those were as big as the one mentioned in the article in New York - given the surface area it takes to make one of those work.

The takeaway here is this: there are a lot of technological options without having to upend the world when it comes to this stuff.

What If ?

I know that there is a lot of interest here in developing alternative energy sources. That is a nobel thing. Nuclear is an alternative energy source against coal and petroleum.

When I say things here against the most people that put messages here I generally get rebutted but I would like to respond to this link persondem put.

What if because the prevailing winds changed a wind farm lost its effectiveness? What if there was a particularly cloud covered set of winters when solar is the primary source of energy in the U.S.?

We have a lot of great minds in our country. A lack of water would be a devastating thing for a nuclear facility. But, we have had nuclear energy plants for decades and over that time compared to the people killed or mamed, how many people have lost their lives in plane crashes or train crashes or automobile crashes? We don't do away with planes or trains or cars because of that. We deal with it and do what we can to improve the safety there.

I know that wind and solar and those kinds of energy sources is what our nation would love to see proliferate. But these sources today are not viable for massive contributors to that. We still must rely on coal sadly and we must still rely on petroleum and we must rely on nuclear. Turning that around quickly is not something we can do. We have to make sure we have our current sources of energy in place while working on alternatives. Making the alternatives out to be so wrong for our lives is ridiculous. Not realizing their positive implications could be devastating.

I didn't pay much attention

to this until the TVA shut down some reactors a few summers ago because the river water was too warm. Then I did some digging and found out France had this (recurring) problem as well.

And that is a problem

But there are problems with coal and there are problems with petroleum and there are problems with just about every source of energy in our world. Like I said before we have some great minds and we can work to make these problems minimal regardless of our source of energy. I really hope that someday we see a world with windmills and solar panels providing us with the energy we use as humans. I think that will come far beyond any of our lifetimes even though a lot of the environmentalists want it to come so much sooner. Being a realist I see it as a very long down the road thing for us.

I see some people here trying to show how Europe is having a lot of success in these alternatives but it really is a very small percentage on an overall scale. I know I will be taken wrong here but I do hope we do eventually get to the point where we don't have to rely on anything but wind and compost and sun and forgive me cow farts. This is a long way away. In the mean time we have to rely on what we have to generate energy for industry and our daily lives and for national defense.

I wait for arguments.

Water, water everywhere

but not a drop to drink.

It's the one thing that we really, really cannot do without. Ok, that and air. Oh, and baseball.

Oh and if you haven't tried/seen it, check out WolframAlpha. Fairly cool stuff from Stephen Wolfram.

Try typing in something like "USA debt GDP"
or "Raleigh NYC"
or "oil usage USA China"


There cannot fail to be more kinds of things, as nature grows further disclosed. - Sir Francis Bacon

Did anyone else see the Daily Show last night?

The guest talked about his documentary Gasland and his experience of getting an offer from the Natural Gas Co. of $100,000 to drill on his property in upstate NY. Investigating the practice he travels to places where they've been doing this drilling:

He hears the same story in town after town: contaminated water; fouled air; mysterious illnesses; a deceived citizenry; regulators who aren't regulating.


The boom has hit here, too

I read a more recent article on this the other day (can't find it now), But this one covers it better:

Right now, Perkins said, the state is in "the wildcat phase" of exploration.

WhitMar Exploration Co. in Denver and Magnum Land Services of Michigan have requested core samples from the state geological archives, and have checked county land records.

If the companies decide to drill in North Carolina, landowners could reap a windfall in land-lease bonuses and royalty payments - ranging from less than $100 a month to thousands of dollars, depending on property size - for natural gas extracted below their farms and homes.

"Obviously it's a win for the property owner, and he's buying new cars and adding wings to his house," said Whitney Marvin, president of WhitMar. "If it's the kind of play that we'd be interested in exploring, it would be at least a couple [of] thousand dollars a month to the property owner."