With new plants pending, cooling requires serious thought.
William Atkinson is a freelance journalist based in Carterville, Ill.
Thanks to “Blinky,” the three-eyed fish in The Simpsons, nuclear cooling has gotten a bad rap. And these days, as people begin discussing the pros and cons of the nuclear renaissance more frequently, cooling-water issues are emerging as a significant concern—whether enough of it will be available for cooling, and what the environmental consequences might be if new plants are built.
As the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) notes, “Growing demand for electric power, coupled with growing water demand in agricultural, municipal, residential, commercial, and industrial sectors, could strain water supplies in the future. … Pressures and associated operating challenges are expected to grow significantly as utilities seek to permit and build new generation facilities to meet growing electricity demand.”
Another organization watching the issue is the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI). In 2007, for example, NEI noted that, because rainfall in some areas of the country was 15 to 20 inches below normal, energy companies took steps to reduce water consumption and otherwise conserve water supplies.
“Water is a serious issue,” cautions Robert Goldstein, a senior scientist with EPRI. “Every region of the country is vulnerable to shortages. As such, any sector of the economy that uses water is vulnerable to having their activities disrupted.”