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In Hot Water: The Effects of Even Modern Nuke Plants On Water

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the fish-hate-people dept.

Earth 303

Harperdog writes "Dawn Stover has a fascinating article on the newest nuclear power plant to get approval: the Blue Castle Project on the Green River in Utah. Stover details the enormous damage done by nuke plants on local water systems, and points out that the 1-2 punch of climate change and cooling systems is already taking a toll on the ability of nuclear power plants to operate, because in summer the water they use to cool systems with is too hot even before they use it (Tennessee Valley Authority is the example). "

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303 comments

Interesting definition of "modern" (5, Insightful)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 2 years ago | (#39046707)

Considering that we're finally seeing liquid fueled molten salt reactors built (in China) based on cutting edge state-of-the-1960s technology can we stop calling pressurized water and boiling water reactors "modern"?

Doesn't matter (4, Insightful)

sycodon (149926) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047147)

The Nuke Haters will always hate.

There will always be something that damages some part of the environment.

There will always be some scenario that could possibly result in the end of us all.

Re:Doesn't matter (5, Insightful)

Anthony Mouse (1927662) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047283)

The ironic thing about this situation is that the entire problem could be solved (especially for newer reactors) by building cooling towers rather than using rivers for cooling. But cooling towers look scary, so nobody likes them.

Re:Doesn't matter (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39047415)

I like them.

Re:Doesn't matter (-1, Offtopic)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047731)

Considering that we're finally seeing liquid fueled molten salt reactors built (in China) based on cutting edge state-of-the-1960s technology can we stop calling pressurized water and boiling water reactors "modern"?

The Nuke Haters will always hate. There will always be something that damages some part of the environment. There will always be some scenario that could possibly result in the end of us all.

What does this have to do with comment you were replying to? Or (more likely) were you simply "replying" to the first comment in order to give your otherwise unrelated $0.02's worth an unfair positional advantage?

Re:Interesting definition of "modern" (3, Insightful)

sl3xd (111641) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047275)

The fact that PWR and BWR have a history that stretches back decades doesn't mean a new water reactor isn't "modern". PWR and BWR reactors are the main operating principle of the reactor - in both cases, water cooling.

Complaining that the new reactors are also water cooled is a lot like saying a car's engine can't possibly be effective or safe because it's based on the century-plus old principle of a piston-driven combustion cycle.

Going with the new for the sake of 'newness' ignores a solid foundation that has withstood the test of time.

There are advantages in using modern evolved PWR and BWR reactors - namely decades of refinements and operational experience with the design, as well as technicians that understand the reactor, and safety issues involved.

Re:Interesting definition of "modern" (0)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047367)

There are advantages in using modern evolved PWR and BWR reactors - namely decades of refinements and operational experience with the design, as well as technicians that understand the reactor, and safety issues involved.

Imagine that today in 2012 we were still using the AT architectures in our PCs and the most exciting thing happening in the field was that a large manufacture had just managed to secure regulatory approval to start building IDE hard drives instead of MFM after spending about a decade applying for permits.

Re:Interesting definition of "modern" (2)

Bengie (1121981) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047551)

I think you have the wrong idea of "modern". There are much much better safer less waste designs.

Using the car analogy, a "modern" water reactor is like using current tools to build a Model T to it's original specification, then dropping an electric starter in it and calling it "modern". It may be "new", but that doesn't mean "modern".

Re:Interesting definition of "modern" (4, Insightful)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047375)

"liquid fueled molten salt reactors"

No, we're seeing *one* built, and it's purely experimental. And they don't expect to have it until 2020 or so.

"There will always be something that damages some part of the environment"

It doesn't make a difference. Nuclear power is *not* a savour even under the best-case scenarios. Lead times are so huge, and fuel lifetimes so short (like 20 years or less) that the overall impact they'll make is basically zero.

We are *far* better off investing in CCAS technology on large coal plants deploying all the wind and solar we can. Those can go in today and have long operational lifetimes. By the time we get even one *really* new plant up and running, we could have converted the vast majority of existing plants and brought on huge amounts of renewables.

Re:Interesting definition of "modern" (1, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047681)

I guess the best idea would be to have many smaller reactors that could be faster to build. The only problem there is that the nuclear fuel would be spread all over the country. If they can fit a nuclear generator on a submarine, I don't see why they couldn't build small reactors and have them easily dispersed all over the country. A standardized design would mean that it would benefit from economies of scale. Also, because each station only contains a small amount of nuclear fuel, meltdowns would be much easier to contain. The grid would become less centralized, and a lot less energy would be lost due to long transmission distances.

Re:Interesting definition of "modern" (2)

Loss_of_Coolant (2445450) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047479)

The AP1000 design that just got its COL approved is a PWR. General Electric's newest Plant is the ESBWR (a BWR). Areva is designing the EPR (a PWR). Molten salt reactors are a pipe dream in commercial power generation. The reason companies are sticking with BWR/PWR designs is due to licensing requirements. The NRC already knows how to license BWR/PWR. It will be quite a while before they have a licensing process from Gen IV/V reactors. Given that; why would a company design a commercial reactor without knowing the licensing requirements? Sounds like a money pit.

Re:Interesting definition of "modern" (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047635)

I don't disagree with you - the regulators are forcing this industry to stay in the stone age. They especially don't want technologies to be developed which are so inherently safe as to make the licensing process appear to be redundant because nobody likes it when their job becomes obsolete.

Cooling Towers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39046723)

Don't these modern plants have their own cooling system? A cooling tower with internal water circulation so as to minimize dependence on natural water sources for cooling?

Re:Cooling Towers (1)

butt-rock camaro (583233) | more than 2 years ago | (#39046991)

Cooling towers cool evapoatively, so they need a supply of water to make up for the losses.

Re:Cooling Towers (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047279)

So they need a better condenser to minimize the loss? Maybe a closed system using radiators.

Re:Cooling Towers (1)

Anthony Mouse (1927662) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047319)

Are you sure they're (inherently) evaporative? There is no obvious reason that you can't create a closed coolant system that works like a larger version of what is used in a car or home radiator.

Re:Cooling Towers (1)

Bengie (1121981) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047609)

Real question

The nuclear reactor runs quite hot relative to water's boiling temp. Is there a reason they can't just let the cooling system run at 101c?

There are other options I guess (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 2 years ago | (#39046753)

i) Use some of the power from the power plant to pre cool the water
ii) Completely turn the worlds power supply to nuclear. Should reduce global warming, and stop this issue

Re:There are other options I guess (4, Informative)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 2 years ago | (#39046795)

Point i) is a thermodynamics fail.

Re:There are other options I guess (4, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39046911)

Point i) is a thermodynamics fail.

Only in the American South. Seriously. Not even a weird anti-science joke.

You blow water thru the air or air thru the water and the water temp, air temp, and dew point of the air all eventually converge to the same number, usually dropping the temp of the water considerably. Works really well in a low dew point area like a desert. Of course low dew point areas usually don't have the spare water to waste evaporating it away. So the cost is a lot of extra water evaporation and quite a bit of electricity to run the pumps. You don't have to get all aquarium tube-y, this can be as simple as an artificial pumped waterfall or a really elaborate water fountain appearing thing. Oxygenates the water too.

Re:There are other options I guess (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39047187)

Not a thermodynamics fail in Utah. The Palo Verde nuke plant in Arizona does OK in a desert climate. The Utah plant would be no different. Desert climate usually equates to low relative humidity, which means the evaporative cooling used in the condensers will still work, even in the peak of summer there.

Contrast that with the southeast US, where high temps *and* high humidity reign in the summer. During the drought, water levels were way lower than they were. Shallower bodies of water tend to be warmer than deeper bodies of water. The condensers there have a much harder time using evaporative cooling, if they do at all, so they try to pull in cool enough water from a big body of water next to the plant, whether it is a significant river or a large lake. Except in this case, due to the drought, high temps and low water levels, the water being pulled in simply wasn't cool enough.

Re:There are other options I guess (1)

ichthus (72442) | more than 2 years ago | (#39046987)

No it isn't. You're assuming that the water is not capable of cooling at all without first being cooled. This is not the case. If the water is even one degree cooler than the reactor, it is capable of cooling. The fact is, the water would not have to be cooled much to be completely effective -- you would not need to use the total of the energy produced to cool the system, because the water already has some cooling capacity.

Re:There are other options I guess (2)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047013)

Any energy you expend to refrigerate the cooling water will exceed the benefit you get.

Re:There are other options I guess (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39047227)

Not with a simple evaporation cooler. That has very low energy cost for you since the evaporation of water powers it.

Re:There are other options I guess (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047251)

Any energy you expend to refrigerate the cooling water will exceed the benefit you get.

Unless your condenser coils hang in air, not back into the same water you're trying to cool.

Lets see... COP of 4 is relatively unambitious for ammonia refrigerant, if I remember correctly. So you dump 1/4 GW into some ammonia compressors, hang the condensers in the air so they dump out around one GW or so, then around a GW or so of heat gets sucked out via the evap coils in the water.

It is technically possible, but it is probably cheaper to move the plant somewhere that is nicer to live and operate, and install some HVDC power lines. Really, there is no point in installing anything other than solar geo and wind anywhere out west... water is to valuable for drinking and growing plants. Out east we have more water than we know what to do with... Ring the great lakes with plants, no problemo, and the Mississippi river too.

Re:There are other options I guess (1)

thomasw_lrd (1203850) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047557)

Do you know the environmental effects of ammonia if it leaks? You'll destroy the whole river and the ocean's it feeds.

That's what people who are afraid of environmental damage will say, at least.

Re:There are other options I guess (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39047265)

Any energy you expend to refrigerate the cooling water will exceed the benefit you get.

You're assuming you'd be using a heat pump, in which case you'd be right. But you're not right. Look up chilled water plants... they don't operate off of a heat pump.

Re:There are other options I guess (4, Insightful)

robot256 (1635039) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047447)

That would be true if you were trying to cool the water with the energy you extracted *from the water*. But a nuclear reactor does not conserve energy, it has input from the nuclear fuel. The only reason you need to cool the water at all is because the fuel is generating more heat than you can extract in your turbines, either because of their design or because of the limited electricity demand. If you have a place to dump the extra heat, using some of that electricity to get it from point A to point B is not thermodynamically implausible.

The reason this is a stupid idea is completely unrelated, though. If the reactor design requires active refrigeration, this is even more likely to fail than simple pumps, and you run a much higher risk of melting down. And if it is not required, no one would want to pay extra for a redundant overly-complicated system unless there are other reasons not to use the passive system in normal operation.

Lol efficiency (1)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047547)

Let's say your reactor runs at 1000K (Your one degree cooler water is 999K)

Thermal efficiency = 1 - (999/1000) = 0.1%

Your reactor is 0.1% efficient. That's not so good.

How much would better cooling cost? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39046763)

There are ways to cool without dumping heat into rivers and oceans or evaporating water. You could drive a bunch of Stirling Engines. You're not interested in the power from the Stirlings, just their use of the excess heat. How much would that cost though?

Carnot efficiency (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39047055)

Know what it is?

It's why that's a dumb idea.

Re:How much would better cooling cost? (3, Informative)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047071)

There are ways to cool without dumping heat into rivers and oceans or evaporating water. You could drive a bunch of Stirling Engines. You're not interested in the power from the Stirlings, just their use of the excess heat. How much would that cost though?

There are ways to cool without dumping heat into rivers and oceans or evaporating water. You could drive a bunch of Stirling Engines. You're not interested in the power from the Stirlings, just their use of the excess heat. How much would that cost though?

The need for "cooling" is a bit of a red herring. It's not strictly about keeping things from getting too hot, but about providing a sufficient temperature (and therefore pressure) differential. Such differentials would also be required to drive a Stirling Engine, and while they will function at a much smaller differential than a steam turbine, they will still have cooling requirements, otherwise they would achieve thermal equilibrium. And since Stirling engines are more useful for performing relatively slow mechanical work (you can gear them up, but gears have parasitic losses), you may well end up using more energy to create the same amount of electrical power as a steam turbine. That's just my armchair analysis, though I trust that the engineers who designed the plant have made optimal decisions in generator selection, so the fact that they're using steam turbines speaks for itself in that regard.

Re:How much would better cooling cost? (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047307)

If there's really *that* much heat left over then they could maybe improve the efficiency of the plant. There has to be some use for a bunch of heat.

Re:How much would better cooling cost? (1)

nxcho (754392) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047353)

Well, the stirling engine requires a large temperature difference between a hot and cold medium. And will essentially need some kind of cooling source to operate. Stirling engines usually has a maximum efficiency of ~40% (number grabbed from the back of my head, don't take it too seriously) wich means that more than 60% of the heat energy will end up heating the cooling medium. Also, the mechanical energy generated by the stirling engine will turn into heat sooner or later due to the grim laws of thermodynamics.

Is "nuclear" really applicable? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39046773)

From what I can see in the article linked, this is a problem with heating the cooling water. All power plants require cooling to work. Does it matter that the proposed plant is nuclear?

Re:Is "nuclear" really applicable? (1)

dak664 (1992350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047603)

Yes, to a large extent. Nuclear plants don't use as high a boiler temperature as fossil-fuel plants, sometimes not even superheating the steam. This makes for poor thermal efficiency and more heat rejected per kWh of electricity produced. Cooling towers give a lower exhaust temperature and raise the thermal efficiency (and profit margin) at the expense of "consumptive" use of water. River or pond cooling is usually considered as non-consumptive water use, as are dams, although there is extra evaporation in all cases.

Re:Is "nuclear" really applicable? (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047775)

Well, there is the fact that when a coal reactor overheats, you simply stop adding coal. When a nuclear reactor overheats, you can get Chernobyl. TFA seems a little... sensationalist, though, like this claim:

None of the water withdrawn from the Green River will ever be returned to the river.

If you mean deliberately, sure, it isn't dumped back into the river. But it isn't like the reactor destroys the water. It evaporates and then falls back as rain, a lot of which ends up back in the river again.

Equivalent in miles? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39046789)

Can someone digest the data and give me a distance equivalent in miles? For example, I live about 30 miles south of a great lakes nuke. I know a lot about nukes. I don't know enough about ecology to figure the distance.

What I'm getting at is obviously the water in lake michigan is warmer in Milwaukee than at the Point Beach nuke. So building the Point Beach plant did the equivalent of picking up that splotch of lake michigan and dropping it further south. How much further south? 100 feet? 100 miles? I'm guessing having boated and sailed in both general areas that its much closer to the 100 feet figure than the 100 miles figure. I guarantee the fishing around Pt Beach does not result in tropical aquarium fish.

Obviously the effect on a little creek of a river is much more pronounced, but I'm sure a figure can be made up, where its just like digging a new river channel X miles south of its current position.

Also in a closely related question, could someone express global warming in miles per hour to the south? I'm guessing this is a scientific notation type of problem, so I'll accept miles per century or whatever.

Dumb article (5, Insightful)

phayes (202222) | more than 2 years ago | (#39046813)

According to TFA: "more than one billion aquatic organisms" are killed annually by NY's Indian Point plant.

No definition of what they mean by "aquatic organism" is given. Blue whales? Minnows? Paramecium?

Re:Dumb article (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047107)

According to TFA: "more than one billion aquatic organisms" are killed annually by NY's Indian Point plant.

No definition of what they mean by "aquatic organism" is given. Blue whales? Minnows? Paramecium?

That means one organism per 2.5 * 365 = about 912 gallons. That can't be distinct algae cells unless its nearly sterile water. Then again my 40 gallon tropical fish freshwater tank has around 10 fish, admittedly that is a pretty high loading but doable, at around 4 gallons per fish. They are probably talking about fish and are probably counting everything from hatched egg on up.

You'd think at those numbers, a nuke would be surrounded by a sea of floating bloated bodies, but when I toured one I didn't see that. Weird. Maybe after a couple decades everything nearby was already long since dead?

Re:Dumb article (1)

Anthony Mouse (1927662) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047535)

That means one organism per 2.5 * 365 = about 912 gallons. That can't be distinct algae cells unless its nearly sterile water.

You're doing the math assuming that every living organism is killed, and so the numbers can't be right for algae because there must be more algae than that. I suspect what is actually going on is that some very small minority of algae (and other organisms) are killed, but there is so much algae that it ends up being a big number. After all, who other than pedant scientists would call a fish an "organism"?

Re:Dumb article (5, Funny)

JazzHarper (745403) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047157)

More than one billion aquatic organisms are killed annually by my town's surface water treatment facility, I hope.

Re:Dumb article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39047297)

Probably using the same calculations that conservatives use to come up with the number of abortions in the US.

Re:Dumb article (1)

Troyusrex (2446430) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047309)

According to TFA: "more than one billion aquatic organisms" are killed annually by NY's Indian Point plant.

No definition of what they mean by "aquatic organism" is given. Blue whales? Minnows? Paramecium?

I stopped reading as soon as I read that. When they throw around terms like "one billion aquatic organisms" without defining the organisms you know it's for effect instead of for truth and thus a hack job instead of real science.

Re:Dumb article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39047471)

Seams like you can get a Idea from the other statistic, when 2.5 billion gallons of water is diverted a year, IE for every 2.5 gallons of water diverted, they kill a aquatic organism, and since many animals are protected by the screen, it seams clear the majority of those organisms will fit in a gallon of water.

Re:Dumb article (1)

ironjaw33 (1645357) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047593)

According to TFA: "more than one billion aquatic organisms" are killed annually by NY's Indian Point plant.

No definition of what they mean by "aquatic organism" is given. Blue whales? Minnows? Paramecium?

I live about 5 miles from the Surry Nuclear Power Plant [wikipedia.org] which draws and discharges its cooling water directly from the James River -- there are no cooling towers at all. You think this would be a worst case scenario for increasing the river water temperature and killing off organisms but I've never heard a thing about that in the 10 years I've lived here. The wiki article says that testing has minimal environmental impact but doesn't cite who performs the testing or how it was done.

Lies, all lies! (-1, Troll)

Benfea (1365845) | more than 2 years ago | (#39046845)

How can global warming affect the efficiency of nuclear power plants when FOX News told me that global warming is a myth created by a vast international conspiracy run from an obscure school in the UK? Who are you going to believe? 90% of the scientists on the planet, or FOX News? Obviously, one of the two groups is engaging in bad science for purely political reasons, and it cannot be FOX News. They would never lie to me!

Also, liberals are just as bad because they believe Obama was born in the USA. How gullible! [/rightwingstrawman]

Re:Lies, all lies! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39047237)

Is there a fucking point to this? Yes, Fox News is biased bullshit, and Birthers exist in this world. You don't need to invoke it every time there's a story that touches on conservative anti-talking points. It's tiresome, trite and not funny.

Great! You can make fun of stupid people. (slow clap) Good job!

It's like every atheist has to invoke the 6000 year old Earth in every freaking conversation about ANYTHING. It's gotten real old. This why a lot of people hate geeks. Aw, offended? Go ahead. Respond with a pithy Monty Python quote for the 300,000,000,000th time.

Re:Lies, all lies! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39047569)

Whoosh!

Re:Lies, all lies! (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047545)

How can global warming affect the efficiency of nuclear power plants when FOX News told me that global warming is a myth created by a vast international conspiracy run from an obscure school in the UK?

More to the point, last I looked at the temperature record America was warmer in the 40s than it is today. So if the water is warmer than it was a few decades ago, it's not because of Global Catastrophic Warming Change or whatever the latest buzz-word is.

Magical water (1, Insightful)

Applekid (993327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39046857)

Pro tip: evaporating water does not make it disappear.

The complaint is that a closed-cycle plant pulls water from the river and never returns it. Well, if they already lose 5% per pass due to evaporation and, when dirty enough, pipe the water to evaporation basins, doesn't that return the water to the environment?

Re:Magical water (5, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047073)

The aren't worried about water being removed from the environment, they're worried about it being removed from the ecosystem (or changing the ecosystem by heating the water around the plant). It's great that the water doesn't disappear and re-enters the water cycle, but that isn't any consolation to the people and creatures who were relying on that water downstream.

Re:Magical water (1)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047533)

The whole article is a complete supposition by someone that is more interested in making a case against the power plants than they are in knowing how their operation really affects the environment. The article is specious, with the intent of fear mongering and has no business being on /. unless it was intended for the purpose of geek sport--picking it apart.

Maybe I missed something... (2)

liquiddark (719647) | more than 2 years ago | (#39046867)

Her suggestion that water is *never* returned to the river seems wrong. Or is the word "evaporation" in "evaporation basin" a misnomer?

"lost" water? (1)

JoeRobe (207552) | more than 2 years ago | (#39046885)

I'm a bit confused by the article. They say it's a consumptive use, where the cooling system evaporates 5% of its water on every pass. Doesn't that water go into the atmosphere and then condense and fall as rain eventually? If so then it's not really "lost" since it will pass back into the water table. Is the issue that the condensation and rainfall may not be a local process? I feel like I'm missing something here...

Re:"lost" water? (2)

leehwtsohg (618675) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047091)

The point is that the river downstream from where you pump the water to the plant has less water.
When a city pumps the water from a river, the water also ends up eventually in the clouds, but that doesn't fill the river downstream from the pump.
Maybe it is because most rain falls in the ocean... but even if all rain ended up back in the same river, downstream of the pump you'd have less water than without any pump.

Re:"lost" water? (1)

Leuf (918654) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047287)

In the same way as if you were diverting the water for irrigation or drinking water, the water doesn't disappear it re-enters the system somewhere else. The people (and ecosystem, but no one really gives a damn) downstream have less of it.

Now if you had a plant that was fed by a river that came down from mountains just to the west of the plant, and the prevailing winds were east to west, then some of the condensate would tend to end up right back into the river.

Rising Sea Level (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39046893)

Are rising sea levels associated with global warming really a function of thermal expansion, or melting ice? I had thought the latter.

Re:Rising Sea Level (1)

rthille (8526) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047737)

Both, but I think right now it's primarily thermal expansion. I don't have the figures handy, and am too lazy to look :-)

Should read "power plants", not "nuclear plants" (5, Insightful)

Burdell (228580) | more than 2 years ago | (#39046897)

All modern power generating plants that use fuel (as opposed to hydro, wind, etc.) work basically the same way. They use a fuel to generate heat (burn coal or gas, create nuclear fission), heat water to steam, and use steam to turn turbines. The water is then cooled and returned to its source, usually a river or lake. All such power plants have problems when the incoming water is too warm or they cannot cool it sufficiently before discharging it.

The only difference between a nuclear plant and a coal/gas plant is that a nuclear plant can concentrate more generating capacity at a single location, which then can require more water.

Re:Should read "power plants", not "nuclear plants (0)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047089)

Exactly right. In the relevant sense, all these plants (nuclear, gas, coal, biomass, solar-thermal, geothermal, etc.) work on the same principle: They heat water, steam turns a turbine, steam is cooled/condensed, cycle restarts. If anything, nuclear plants tend to be better per megawatt generated because many use cooling towers, which dissipate lots of the extra heat into the air rather than into rivers. A summary like this betrays a complete ignorance about the basic functioning of power plants.

Almost right. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39047127)

Water used in steam turbines is distilled water - as few particulates as possible at they will erode the turbine into junk.

The heat source heats water into steam to drive the turbines. That water is then cooled by external water before being returned to the heat source.

The external water may be pass through or recycled, but it never ever gets to the turbines.

And water really doesn't expand during heating (under 1%) until it boils and becomes vapor.

Re:Should read "power plants", not "nuclear plants (2)

inKubus (199753) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047137)

Well, they require a cold-sink to operate. It's the temperature difference (gas laws, etc) that enables them to generate so much electricity. If the conventional wisdom about this is like the conventional wisdom about other electric technologies (e.g. server rooms), it's likely that a reactor could be designed that does not require as much of a cold sink or temperature differential to operate (e.g. air cooling, or converting more heat into power). The issue of course is that even the smallest chain reaction events generate such a huge amount of energy that you have to have the scales we've seen to harness even a percentage. I've always thought some type of sub-critical or even better a semi-critical (pulse modulated) reactor with lower heats and smaller footprints would be the way to go long term. There are a lot of these safe by default reactors that use some of the energy generated to maintain the reaction through an active feedback system rather than passive. So instead of having a giant atom bomb that's kept from exploding with a barrier, you have a non-atom bomb that's made into an atom bomb by a barrier that has to be actively held up. Then you just pulse the barrier to modulate the reaction and achieve whatever power output you want. It won't change needing a cold sink, but it could be a lot smaller since you aren't having as much waste.

Re:Should read "power plants", not "nuclear plants (4, Informative)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047343)

Keep in mind those same laws of thermodynamics dictate that the larger the temperature difference, the higher the efficiency. Now, temperature isn't the same thing as heat, so that doesn't automatically put limits on small-scale operations. However, in practice it tends to do so. Generating high temperatures in a huge furnace is a lot easier than doing it in a small one, which is why a coal plant is more efficient than a car engine.

Re:Should read "power plants", not "nuclear plants (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047329)

The only difference between a nuclear plant and a coal/gas plant is that a nuclear plant can concentrate more generating capacity at a single location, which then can require more water.

And the delta T of a nuke is much lower and the cycles have historically been simpler (less stuff to contaminate or break)... lower thermal efficiency means if you want 1 GWe at the substation, then a nuke needs like 3 GWt but a hot hot hot coal plant might only need to dump 2 GWt (well, to get 50% eff on a coal plant you need something bonkers like a liquid mercury combined cycle, but that's how they rolled a century or so ago...)

So two plants, one nuke one coal/whatever at the same nameplate capacity, the nuke will output about 50% more thermal heat energy to make the identical amount of electricity.

Big Mistake (0)

Sir_Eptishous (873977) | more than 2 years ago | (#39046905)

Aaron Tilton and his gang of LDS Church approved eco-thugs need to be stopped. This plan is a big mistake. The allotments of water from the Green are already being hotly contested by all of the Colorado River Compact states. Colorado wants to run a pipeline from Flaming Gorge to the Front Range... St. George wants their pipeline from Lake Powell. And now comes Tilton to take his cut. This is after warnings from scientists that the flows for the Green and Colorado are going to go down in the foreseeable future.

Re:Big Mistake (1)

Jaqenn (996058) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047389)

... his gang of LDS Church approved eco-thugs...

Citation Needed.

Kill the planet for energy (2)

na1led (1030470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39046969)

Being from Maine, I used to do a lot of fishing with my Dad, and we always used to catch good fish many years ago. Lately we catch nothing, or small yellow perch if we’re lucky. These companies have been telling us for years how they are environmentally friendly, or how they care so much about the environment. They will tell you whatever it takes to shut you up! It’s business as usual, as always!

Re:Kill the planet for energy (3, Insightful)

Sir_Eptishous (873977) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047061)

Why else do you think we're seeing a massive "positive" publicity campaign to warm our hearts towards Hyrdraulic Fracturing? Pennsylvania will be sorry... They'll get a few thousand quick and short-term high paying jobs. Peoples real estate values in some areas will go up drastically. High school kids with no education will be making 6 figures and then spending themselves into a hole. Then the boom will end. Property values will drop, unemployment, local communities will be stuck holding the bag while the energy companies will skip town to the next boom.

Re:Kill the planet for energy (1)

Troyusrex (2446430) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047421)

So PA is making a mistake because the boom from Fracking may only last a decade or two? Isn't that like feeling sorry for someone because their massive lottery payments only run 30 years and then they'll have no income?

Re:Kill the planet for energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39047109)

Do you have some evidence to support your theory that a nuclear power plant in Maine destroyed your local fishing hole?

Re:Kill the planet for energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39047501)

What river are you talking about?

Re:Kill the planet for energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39047599)

Overfishing had nothing to do with that I'm sure. It's not like you guys completely wiped out the Grand Banks, for example.

Re:Kill the planet for energy (1)

na1led (1030470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047803)

Over fishing only plays a small part. Maine has strict regulations on what you are allowed to keep (if you catch anything). There is plenty of data showing that fishes in Maine are not thriving like they used to. The recent fishing tournament price winner was a 4 oz. fish, out of 300 fisherman. Maine lobster species are dying because of increased water tempurates. We used to have Hard Shell lobsters, not anymore.

Reservoirs (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#39046995)

Out here in the west, it makes sense to store water in large reservoirs and then use that for cooling purposes. Utah can do the same.

Nothing is ever good enough (2, Interesting)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047019)

We had a big solar power plant shut down in california because it infringed on the habitat of a local lizard. It was in the middle of the desert... nothing around it for miles.

They always have a reason not to build something or shut something down. I don't care what it is or how you build it. They have a reason for shutting it down.

What they'll say is you can't build it right there. Then you say okay, how about over there? Nope that won't work either. Then you say, okay how about this other place? Nope.

After awhile the only place you can build something is some place where they don't have authority. If they can stop you they'll try.

Call that cynical but that's what we've seen. We can't build anything. Try it. Ask them where you can build something. They'll promise to get back to you with an answer. Twenty years later you'll ask them if they've made progress and they'll respond "what are you talking about?"... the point is to do nothing.

Re:Nothing is ever good enough (1)

JazzHarper (745403) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047255)

The objective is a sustainable, post-industrial, agrarian economy... with one tenth of the present population.

Re:Nothing is ever good enough (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047403)

The objective is a sustainable, post-industrial, agrarian economy... with one tenth of the present population.

And whenever you ask the cowards who the 9/10th are supposed to be, the cowards always dodge the question and imply its gonna be someone else who gets the axe. No, not us of course because we are the elite enlightened ones. No not you guys, we need your support to carry out our genocide. Um, the 9/10th will be, uh, um, someone else.. Probably brown people.

Re:Nothing is ever good enough (1)

JWW (79176) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047497)

Did you just propose killing 6 billion people?

Sorry I'm willing to try almost ANY other option.

Re:Nothing is ever good enough (1)

rthille (8526) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047793)

How about we just plan 100 years out? Or maybe 250? Dropping the birth rate enough would take care of it.

Re:Nothing is ever good enough (2)

Troyusrex (2446430) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047515)

After awhile the only place you can build something is some place where they don't have authority.

China comes to mind as one of those places. It's not just the lower labor costs but the less painful regulation in China that makes jobs move from here to there. It's ironic that we have to go to a country known for authoritarianism and corruption in order to get the freedom needed to build things.

Re:Nothing is ever good enough (1)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047679)

So really what we need to do is develop high-efficiency power transmission that requires neither a conduit nor a receiver. Essentially, have all the power generated in China. With that power, magically store the complete power requirements for the life of the devices they manufacture for us inside.

Only Nuclear? (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047087)

Don't fossil fueled plants also have waste heat they need to dump somewhere? Do Nukes generate a lot more waste heat?

Re:Only Nuclear? (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047153)

Nuclear power plants tend to be much larger so they have a lot more waste heat to dump. In addition, some forms of fossil fuel plants dump their waste heat directly into the air without using water cooling. This works because the combustion temperature inside a fossil-fuel power plant is much higher than the fuel plate temperatures in a water-cooled nuclear power plant so they can still be efficient overall even with using the atmosphere as a heat sink.

Re:Only Nuclear? (2)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047321)

Nuclear power plants tend to be much larger so they have a lot more waste heat to dump. In addition, some forms of fossil fuel plants dump their waste heat directly into the air without using water cooling. This works because the combustion temperature inside a fossil-fuel power plant is much higher than the fuel plate temperatures in a water-cooled nuclear power plant so they can still be efficient overall even with using the atmosphere as a heat sink.

One interesting article I read said that power generation accounts for about half the water usage in the USA:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-saving-energy-means-conserving-water [scientificamerican.com]

Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39047131)

Make. Less. Humans.

Also works for global warming, land depletion, resource depletion, health care, etc.

Coal Plants have same problem (2)

echusarcana (832151) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047163)

There is no difference between a nuclear station and a coal station with respect to limits on outlet temperature: generally about 30C is the upper limit. Coal units squeeze out a little more thermal efficiency because they can operate at higher temperatures, but more or less the issue is the same.

But hydro power *cools* rivers, can't they offset? (2)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047195)

When you dam up a river, the water that flows through tends to be much colder than in the undammed river. For example, the Colorado river in the Grand Canyon is only 47F due to the Hoover Dam/Lake Mead. Maybe the local flora and fauna would actually benefit if we built some powerplants there and in the summer we heated it back up to the pre-dam summer temperatures, which were as high as 80F.

Lake Anna and the Hudson River (1)

kriston (7886) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047257)

At Lake Anna in Virginia, there are two man-made lakes. The north lake, used for hot water discharge from the nuclear plant, is very warm and never freezes. The cold, south lake is also slightly warmer on the portion nearest to the north lake. Local environmental studies are well established but since these lakes did not exist to begin with the local ecosystem is already radically changed, anyway.

On the Hudson River in NY, local environmental studies are just starting to understand the effect that the Indian Point nuclear plant's discharge water is having on the river's ecosystem. It's come to the point that Indian Point may be required to be retrofitted with low-profile cooling towers.

Summary is incorrect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39047379)

The plant has not been approved. Rather (from the article): "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."

It should also be noted that one of the financial backers of the proposed plant was recently discovered to have been a fraud: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/politics/53385458-90/blue-castle-company-decision.html.csp

Mmmm. Warm water (1)

rak-wolf (1589327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39047799)

Isn't it odd that we then use the electricity produced by these plants mostly to heat water...
If only there was a way to transport heated water from power plants to be used directly in homes. Like maybe with insulated pipes [wikipedia.org] . Hrmm...
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