Report on power plant water use garners SE media coverage

David Merryman of Catawba Riverkeeper, Dr. Peter Frumhoff of UCS, Ulla Reeves with SACE speak to interested press in the Charlotte, NC area

David Merryman of Catawba Riverkeeper, Dr. Peter Frumhoff of UCS, Ulla Reeves with SACE speak to interested press in the Charlotte, NC area

On November 15, the EW3 (Energy and Water in a Warming World) Initiative released a report titled, Freshwater Use by U.S. Power Plants: Electricity’s Thirst for a Precious Resource. Across the Southeast the media paid close attention to the valuable new information in this report, and in large part because of the efforts of SACE staff throughout the region last week.

The report analyzed data that estimates the water-supply impacts from power plant cooling across the nation. As previously detailed, many rivers in the Southeast are stressed by the tremendous amount of water that is withdrawn by coal and nuclear plants for cooling purposes. As we encounter increasingly hot and dry summers in tandem with growing populations, the available water in some rivers and water bodies may be stretched to the limit.

An article on the Facing South blog gets to the crux of the matter:

Consequently, big problems arise when drought strikes. During the drought that afflicted the Southeast in 2007, for example, Duke Energy was forced to cut output at its G.G. Allen and Riverbend coal plants on the Catawba River because of a lack of cooling water, and it struggled to keep the water intake system for its McGuire nuclear plant near Charlotte, N.C. underwater. And for three of the last five years, TVA’s Browns Ferry nuclear plant in Alabama had to dramatically cut power output to avoid exceeding the temperature limit on discharge water and killing fish in the Tennessee River.

Another issue the report identified is the lack of comprehensive reporting of power plant water use. While some improvements have been made at the federal level, many states do not require other necessary information. An article in the Macon Telegraph highlighted this problem:

Georgia Power’s Plant Scherer outside Macon, one of the largest coal-fired power plants in the country, used 55 million gallons of water a day in 2010 in its recirculating cooling system, Evans said. Scherer consumes about 60 percent of that. The plant releases 22 million gallons a day to the Ocmulgee River to prevent a buildup of concentrated minerals in its equipment, Evans said. Environmental rules do not require the company to monitor the temperature of that water, he said.

As the EW3 report details, many power plants discharge water at temperatures exceeding 100 degrees. Rob Jackson, director of the Center on Global Environmental Change at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University and a member of the report’s scientific advisory committee points to why this is a problem, “It’s unsafe for people to sit in a Jacuzzi at 105 degrees, let alone live in it. Fish and other species can’t climb out of the hot tub.”

You can read media coverage of the EW3 report and see TV news clips by following the links below:

Facing South
Macon Telegraph
Charlotte Business Journal
Georgia Public Broadcasting
WBIR TV (Knoxville)
WFAE “Charlotte Talks” radio interview
CN2 News TV Interview (Rock Hill, SC)

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