Conventional fossil-fuel and nuclear power plants require water to cool the steam they generate to make electricity. There are a range of issues that arise when water and power collide.
Here are the consequences of the Energy-Water Collision:
- Not Enough Water: Regional droughts cause water levels to drop so low that Power Plants must find alternative water sources to cool their coal-fired plants to keep operating.
- Incoming Water Too Warm: During a heat wave, incoming water may be too hot to cool a nuclear plant, forcing the plant to reduce output.
- Outgoing Water Too Warm: To prevent hot water from doing harm to fish and other wildlife, power plants typically aren’t allowed to discharge cooling water above a certain temperature. When power plants bump up against those limits, they can be forced to dial back power production or shut down.
Cases like these are cropping up across much of the country—and will likely become more frequent in the years ahead as temperatures increase and drought becomes more common.
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Here are a few cases when extreme heat and drought resulted in nearly a dozen new energy-water collisions:
- Illinois: Four coal plants and four nuclear plants each sought and received “thermal variances” from the state to let them discharge hotter water than their permits allow, even amidst extensive heat-related fish kills and tens of millions of dollars in fisheries-related losses.
- Vermont Yankee: In the first such case in northern New England, the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant was forced to reduce its power production over the course of a week by as much as 17 percent due to high water temperatures and low flow in the Connecticut River.
- Millstone nuclear plant, Connecticut: In the case of Millstone, it was Long Island Sound that got too warm, forcing the plant to shut down one of its two reactors for 11 days in mid-July. This represents the first open-water collision on record and signals that even plants on large bodies of water are at risk as temperatures increase.
Source: Energy and Water in a Warming World Initiative (EW3), including the Power and Water at Risk and Freshwater Use by U.S. Power Plants: Electricity's Thirst for a Precious Resource.
All of these new cases help shed light on how dependent our electricity systems are on adequate water supplies. Stand for water and find no-water options in your local community to raise awareness, protect and preserve our most precious resource. Water.
Andrew Ciccone, VP Branding & Media Strategy - Andrew's long strange marketing trip began after graduating from Syracuse University with a BS in Marketing. Andrew then developed his marketing prowess when he moved to Madison Avenue big boys Young & Rubicam, Backer Spielvogel, and Grey Advertising. He went on to get a Masters in Corporate Communications from Baruch College, then went on to start his own agency in 2011 - Hudson Valley Public Relations. Andrew has earned a reputation for creative, smart, innovative campaigns that get results. Andrew's spare time is devoted to sailing regattas, family fun and film. To date he has penned four screenplays.
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