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Water Worries

With new plants pending, cooling requires serious thought.

Fortnightly Magazine - December 2008

not like this siting strategy, but it may end up being necessary if the alternative cooling technologies don’t get licensed.”

Policy Time

Would a national policy on water help the situation? No one knows for sure. The only thing experts agree on is that such a policy is not currently on the drawing board.

Doug Houseman, vice president of global energy, utilities and chemicals for Capgemini, has yet to see any policy trends in this direction. “Everyone continues to deal with this issue on a state-by-state, case-by-case basis,” he says. “We don’t have a national water policy, and I don’t think we ever will.”

Unistar’s Turnage is a bit more optimistic. “In terms of policy issues, I think this is just starting to emerge,” he says. “Water is an issue not only for new generation build, but also for existing operating plants. I think this is an idea whose time has come.”

While coordinated legislation on water policy doesn’t seem to be occurring today, Hightower says he’s seeing some activity. “For example, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is beginning to look at the issue of water availability for power plants and is beginning to understand some of the concerns in their pre-licensing and licensing applications,” he says.

In addition, EPRI realizes the significance of water availability, and has conducted a few workshops on the topic. “EPRI is developing a research program to address some of these concerns,” adds Hightower. In his July 2008 paper, Energy and Water: Issues, Trends and Challenges , Hightower summarizes some of action items being discussed in workshops around the country:

Better resource planning and management—including integrated regional energy and water-resource planning and decision support tools; infrastructure and regulatory policy changes for improved energy and water efficiency; and improved water supply and demand characterization, monitoring, and modeling;

Improved water- and energy-use efficiency—including improved water efficiency in thermoelectric power generation, and reduced water intensity for emerging energy resources;

Development of alternative water resources and supplies—including oil- and gas-produced water treatment for use, and energy efficiency and assessment of impaired water treatment and use;

Accelerated water resources forecasting and management; and

New system analysis approaches for co-location of energy and water facilities.

Even though there are a number of new nuclear plants on the drawing board, none of them are being built yet. “This means we have the time now to think about how we are going to deal with water issues,” says Capgemini’s Houseman. “There’s a lot of thinking that needs to be done, and if we start now, we can probably solve this before it becomes a problem.”