Australian news, and some related international items

Nuclear power: its thermal pollution of water

thermal water pollution is itself a very big problem……

The proposed Blue Castle Project will also face water-quality challenges

In hot water: The “other” global warming, BULLETIN OF THE ATOMIC SCIENTISTS, BY DAWN STOVER | 15 FEBRUARY 2012 On January 20, a state engineer with the Utah Division of Water Rights approved two applications that would allow Blue Castle Holdings to take a total of 53,600 acre-feet of water from the Green River annually for a proposed nuclear power plant. That’s more than 17 billion gallons a year, enough for a city of 100,000 households.

The Blue Castle Project would be the first new nuclear power plant to go online in the American West since the late 1980s. So you might think it would be a model of modern water-conservation technologies. But you’d be wrong.

Blue Castle proposes to cool its two-unit plant by circulating river water through a closed-cycle system. In such systems, up to 5 percent of the water is typically lost to evaporation on each pass through a cooling tower, and the other 95 percent is recycled. Once the concentration of dissolved solids in the water reaches an unacceptable level, the dirty water — dubbed “blowdown” — is discharged to an onsite evaporation basin and replaced with fresh water piped in from the river.

A closed-cycle system has some advantages over the “once-through” cooling systems still used at many older power plants, which dump hot water directly into nearby rivers, lakes, or oceans — killing fish and altering local ecosystems. Both types of cooling systems will also kill fish by sucking them into equipment or trapping them against intake screens, but the once-through method is more deadly because it diverts more water than does a closed-cycle system. For example, in New York state, Indian Point’s once-through nuclear-generating units, which consume about 2.5 billion gallons of water from the Hudson Riverdaily, kill more than one billion aquatic organisms annually.

To be sure, a closed-cycle system such as that proposed by Blue Castle uses less water than a once-through system — but it’s a consumptive use. None of the water withdrawn from the Green River will ever be returned to the river. That means there will be less water for fish. And less water means hotter water.

Meanwhile, climate change is already raising water temperatures….. what most people don’t realize is that global warming is much more complex and that thermal water pollution is itself a very big problem……

The proposed Blue Castle Project will also face water-quality challenges. Kent Jones, the Utah state engineer who approved the water allocation, called it PDF ”a significant new diversion from the Green River where efforts are underway to provide habitat for recovery of endangered fish.” And regardless of the needs of fish, rivers in the desert have a tendency to dry up now and then. Utah’s Department of Natural Resources noted that water-rights approval for Blue Castle “does not guarantee sufficient water will always be available from the river to operate the plant.”…

Blue Castle’s proponents say that their project would use a relatively small volume of water compared with the total amount in the Green River or with the amount withdrawn statewide for agricultural irrigation. That’s a little like saying, compared with the national debt, Bernie Madoff didn’t take that much money. Blue Castle also argues that this water was already approved for use in coal-fired power plants — plants that were not constructed, but never mind. In any case, none of those arguments really address the question of water quality – an issue that will only get hotter in the future.

February 17, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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