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Clearing the water October 30, 2008

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in AEHI, approval process, Elmore County, Energy policy, Greenfield nuclear development, nuclear industry, Politics and nuclear, reactor types, Snake River Alliance, Water policy.
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There are several misconceptions about the water usage for the Idaho Energy Complex –  misconceptions actively promoted by our opposition. Stuck in out-of-the-mainstream environmentalist thought, their knowledge about nuclear energy technology is just as outdated.

Here are several of the myths eagerly promoted by our opposition

  • The Idaho Energy Complex will completely drain the Snake River and deny existing farms their water.
  • All nuclear plans necessarily must consume tens of millions of gallons of water a day.
  • Hybrid cooling technology doesn’t exist, can’t exist, or is untested.
  • Our plant will need new water rights for cooling water and of course no new water rights exist.
  • We will put radioactive water in the river.

I’d like to deal with the fourth point first. It is intentionally misleading to say our plant can’t work because new water rights are unobtainable. It is true the Snake River is over-allocated and new water rights are hard to get. But any water our plant uses will have to come from existing water rights; the water is out there and it will be our responsibility to negotiate water rights transfers from willing parties. The land we are proposing to build upon already has existing water rights. We will keep water in a reservoir on our land for agricultural re-use as well (see Oct. 22 and Sept. 29 blog entries).

Unlike a solar plant or wind farm, a nuclear plant has a relatively small geographic footprint and doesn’t need to displace much farm land. In fact, we will help agriculture by providing low-cost power. There are many acres of prime farmland that cannot be farmed due to power costs.

Also, not all water rights are seasonal and there are winter water rights. True, winter water levels are much lower, but in cold weather, power plant cooling works more efficiently and we will need less water.

Another myth is that nuclear plants necessarily must consume tens of millions of gallons a day for cooling and that hybrid cooling that can’t and won’t work. True, the old-style plants consume that much (those giant waisted cooling towers with steam coming out the top), because they put out enormous amounts of power and are situated in water-rich areas. But any kind of power plant that creates steam to turn turbines (“thermal” plants) need water. In fact, 90 percent of the non-hydro power plants worldwide produce power in this way and most of them consume large amounts of water for cooling.

The Idaho Energy Complex will use a hybrid cooling system, described here. While traditional wet plants consume huge amounts of water, hybrid plants use water very conservatively, using what amounts to a very large radiator to blow away heat. When water is scarce, a hybrid plant can throttle back its consumption greatly. Dominion Generation has applied to build a third reactor North Anna plant in Virginia with a hybrid system.

A hybrid nuclear plant may spend an extra one-half to 1.5 percent of its power output to cool itself, making it less efficient than a wet-cooled plant, but using only 10 percent or less of the water of a wet-cooled plant. Not only do dry-type plants conserve water, they are also more benign to aquatic life.

Arid environments force new approaches and the few nuclear plants in dry places sometimes use innovative solutions. The Palo Verde nuclear plant in Arizona is the country’s largest, located a state that’s even more parched than Idaho. As the only nuclear power plant in the world not next to a lake, river or ocean, its cooling method is highly unusual – it is cooled with municipal wastewater.

So, when our opposition says hybrid-type cooling is unproven, they are very wrong. Even more radical cooling methods are used successfully (i.e., municipal wastewater), hybrid cooling is used on fossil plants and a hybrid wet/dry system is in the process in Virginia.

Another misconception is that we’ll consume all the water we use. We are looking to acquire rights up to 10 million gallons a day for cooling, but with a hybrid cooling system, we will keep our net consumption of water to around 100,000 gallons a day (see Sept. 29 entry). This is fully in line with Areva’s third-generation European Production Reactor that we are considering using; depending on the cooling system, these reactors use anywhere from under one million gallons per day to 41 million gallons a day.

As for putting radioactive water in the river, that claim is either mindless or mendacious or both. The river water that goes through the plant for cooling has no contact with anything radioactive. It is the same cooling process used for fossil steam plant cycles. The Snake River naturally has high levels of tritium, a radioactive gas, but we won’t be contributing to it.

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Comments»

1. Chris - October 31, 2008

There are alternatives to treat open water circuit with environmentally friendly solutions, against fouling, scaling, mud, corrosion, … with efficiency improvement of the condenser, see: http://www.mexel.fr
Contact me for more info.
Chris


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