Report for VOICE meeting on
Energy Conservation —Also published in July/August 2008 VOTER
Nuclear power and water scarcity
Some problems associated with nuclear power have been discussed for years. The first thought in some people's minds is the connection to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Another thought is the problem of the waste generated from the plants and its disposal. Less well known is the fact that nuclear power is the most water-hungry of all energy sources, with a single reactor consuming 36-65 million liters of water each day. A December 2006 report notes that the water requirements for a nuclear power station are 20- 83 percent higher than for other power stations. Those calculations do not include water consumption by uranium mines.
Water outflows from nuclear power plants can damage the local environment. The U.S. Environmental Protections Agency states:
“When nuclear power plants remove water from a lake or river for steam production and cooling, fish and other aquatic life can be affected. Water pollutants, such as heavy metals and salts, build up in the water used in the nuclear power plant systems. These water pollutants, as well as the higher temperature of the water discharged from the power plant, and negatively affect water quality and aquatic life.” A report by the U.S. Nuclear Information and Resource Service details the destruction of delicate marine ecosystems and large numbers of animals, including endangered species, by nuclear power plants. Most of the damage is done by water inflow pipes, while expulsion of warm water causes further damage.
The Salem Nuclear Generating Station alone takes 3 billion gallons a day from the Delaware Bay. Studies of the environmental consequences of this water demand indicated that Salem is responsible for an annual 11 percent reduction in weakfish and 31 percent reduction in bay anchovy. At the Indian Point 2 and 3 reactors on the Hudson River, the number of fish impinged totaled over 1.5 million fish in 1987.
Source – Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, Oct. 2007
Comparison of water consumption by energy source
- Nuclear energy consumes 400 gal/mWh with once-through cooling, 400 to 720 gal/mWh with pond cooling and about 720 gal/mWh with cooling towers.
- Coal consumes somewhat less, ranging from 300 to 480 gal/mWh for wet colling systems
- Natural gas consumes even less, at 100 gal/mWh for once-through, 180 gal/mWh for cooling towers and none for dry cooling
- Hydroelectricity's typical water consumption is 1,430 gal/mWh, due in large part to evaporation from reservoirs.
- Solar thermal consumes 1,060 gal/mWh, and geothermal ranges from 1,800 to 4,000 gal/mWh.
- Biomass is similar to coal, ranging from 300 to 400 gal/mWh for wet cooling systems.
- Solar photovoltaic is lower at 30 gal/mWh.
- Wind is lowest at 1 gal/mWh.
Source – Nuclear Energy Institute, Nov. 2007
Three Sentences on Nucelear Energy & Water
Nuclear power is the most water-hungry of all energy sources, with a single reactor consuming 35-65 million liters of water each day. The water requirements for a nuclear plower station are 20-83 percent higher than for other power stations, not counting the water consumption by uranium mines. The temperature of the water and pollutants from nuclear plants also negatively affect water quality and aquatic life.
Also: Link to Common Myths About Undocumented Immigrants (PDF file, link shared by Tina DeLaRosa, June speaker)