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Conservation and “renting” water September 29, 2008

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in AEHI, Agriculture, economic benefits, reactor types, Water policy.
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I have been in preliminary discussions with landowners in Colorado about the possibility of building nuclear reactors in that state (yes, I’m pretty busy for someone who just turned 65). Like Idaho, Colorado is chronically dry Western state.

Unlike Idaho, in Colorado, water rights are separate from the land. Land is relatively cheap, but water rights are expensive. In discussions with these landowners, we hit upon the idea of “renting” their water.

A traditional nuclear reactor uses about 30 million gallons a day for cooling (those giant waisted towers you see in pictures with steam coming out the top). That’s a huge amount of water, more than Idaho has to spare. These reactors are typically built back East, where water is more plentiful. Their cooling method is akin to pouring water directly on your auto engine. Effective, but wasteful.

We will be using low-water reactors, optimized for dry environments, with cooling systems that will function much like very large automobile radiators. Hot water from the reactor will be pumped through a large system of heat sinks and fans, dissipating heat. Instead of 30 million gallons a day of water consumed, we will wind up consuming no more than 100,000 gallons a day, about as much as a small farm and a fairly small water right. While we have not finalized our reactor choice, examples of suitable reactors include GE’s Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR), Westinghouse’s Advanced Passive 1000 (AP1000), GE-Hitachi’s Economic Simplified Boiling-Water Reactor (ESBWR), Areva’s U.S. Evolutionary Power Reactor (U.S. EPR) and Mitsubishi’s U.S. Advanced Pressurized-Water Reactor (US-APWR)

Nevertheless, we will need to move several millions of gallons of water through the reactors daily to cool them. But we won’t actually consume this water – we just need it temporarily, for cooling. After that, it could go back to productive use.

“Thermal pollution,” or dumping hot water into lakes and streams, is a legitimate concern, one faced by any power plant that boils water to drive turbines, whether it’s coal, natural gas or thermal solar. Often, this water is held in cooling ponds before being returned to a lake or waterway, but we propose returning it to productive use. We could return the water to the farms that “rent” the water to us. This water is destined for these farms with or without our plant; we simply propose the water take a detour to us before going to the farmers, and we would pay the farmers for allowing us to make use of this resource.

We also propose a biofuels complex and we will invite local entrepreneurs to build greenhouses. These uses will absorb some of the reactor heat, generate jobs and business and put the water to other agricultural uses.

Under this scenario, all the water we “rent” would eventually wind up back in the Snake River in about the same quantity as if we had never existed (less our 100,000 gallons consumption and any additional agricultural uses the hot water may be put to). In the process of running through agricultural fields, the heat in the water will be thoroughly dissipated and will wind up in the Snake River will minimal extra heat. In any case, we will be required to abide by strict Environmental Protection Agency limits on what we put back into rivers and streams. Specifically, plants are not allowed to put water into rivers and lakes that is above the average natural temperature of the waterway and violators face heavy fines and shutdown.

I don’t think we’re the first ones to have ever thought of “renting” water like this and we will need to research the concept more thoroughly. But we have an idea that we will be able to refine as our application moves forward.

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Comments»

1. Nuke lover - September 30, 2008

The Snake River Alliance and other opponents are constantly saying this plant will suck up all the water in Idaho. I for one am happy to know they are using a dry-type cooling system and I hope the SRA gets its facts right when they talk about the plant.


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