Australian news, and some related international items

Water scarcity an increasing problem for nuclear industry

what, in particular, does this mean for the nation’s fleet of nuclear power plants?

Drought and heat waves in the United States and other countries have highlighted one of nuclear power’s most intractable vulnerabilities: water scarcity.

(USA) Water Scarcity: Nuclear Power’s Achilles’ Heel, THE HUFFINGTON POST Kyle Rabin:  June 28, 2010, Scientists, researchers and other experts warn that the United States is entering an era of water scarcity.

Back in 2003, the US General Accounting Office (now known as the US Government Accountability Office or GAO) projected that 36 states, under normal conditions, could face water shortages by 2013. However, those shortages were realized in 2008 — five years sooner than predicted. Current forecasts suggest that climate change will only exacerbate the challenges of managing and protecting water resources.

Water scarcity has widespread implications for our nation. As a recent New York Times (Global Edition) article notes, water scarcity is increasingly a major constraint for the production of electricity. But what, in particular, does this mean for the nation’s fleet of nuclear power plants?

Generating electricity with nuclear power is extremely water intensive, which is why nuclear plants are typically built on the shores of rivers, lakes and oceans. Many plants rely on submerged intake pipes to draw water — hundreds of millions to a few billion gallons per day — for use in cooling and condensing steam after it has turned the plants’ turbines.

In the wake of a severe drought that rocked the Southeast United States in 2007, the Associated Press conducted an investigation of the nation’s 104 nuclear reactors and found 24 located in areas experiencing the most severe levels of drought. Of those 24, all but two are situated on the shores of rivers and lakes. Because of the dry spell, water levels in those rivers and lakes were dangerously close to the minimums set by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The concern at the time was that those water levels could drop below the intake pipes, or that the shallow water could become too warm to use for cooling purposes.

Kyle Rabin: Water Scarcity: Nuclear Power’s Achilles’ Heel

June 29, 2010 - Posted by | climate change - global warming, energy, uranium, water | , , , , , ,

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