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Nuclear power plant cooling towers
Thirty-nine percent of all water withdrawn from the environment is used to cool thermal electric power plants, equal to the amount used to irrigate agriculture in the United States.

The Energy & Water Nexus

Sandia National Laboratories' Dr. John A. Merson addresses Toyota Sustainable Mobility Seminar

By EV World

Few of us think about water when we turn on a light switch or drive our cars, but water -- lots of it -- is very much a part of our energy picture whether we're talking about running cars on biofuels or electric power, the proposed "fuels" of the future.

Those are the findings of Sandia National Laboratories 'Energy & Water Nexus' research group, reported Dr. John Merson at the Toyota Sustainable Mobility Seminar in Portland, Oregon las month.

The following video is the third in EV World's series featuring experts in energy, water and urban planning who Toyota invited to address two "waves" of journalists. The purpose of the event was to provide insight into what factors the company see as important in their strategic planning process.

Dr. Merson's presentation highlights the critical link between the energy sources we use on a daily basis, or are looking to as substitutes for our current heavy reliance on petroleum, and the amount of water needed to make that energy available to us.

While it is now widely recognized that biofuel production, especially that requiring heavy irrigation of agricultural food crops, consumes unsustainable amounts of fresh water, the amount of cool, fresh water needed to run thermoelectric power plants is equally problematic, especially in drought-prone regions. This is especially critical in nuclear power plant operations where steam not only drives the electric generation process, but is required as a radiation safeguard should the plant need to be immediately shut down for safety reasons.

As Dr. Merson points out, only wind and photovoltatic solar consume virtually no water to produce electric power.

Any future plans to expand the use of nuclear power also must take into account the amount of fresh water each plant will consume.

Additionally, any shift to coal, whether for thermoelectric power production or for conversion into synthetic liquid fuels, also places enormous demands on water supplies. Merson notes that the amount of energy that will be required to remove and sequester carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants will consume the power of every fifth plant built.

Dr. Merson concludes that while there are significant reserves of shale "oil" in the inter-mountain region of Colorado, Wyoming and Utah, there are serious concerns about where the necessary water will come from... a pipeline from Canada?

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Times Article Viewed: 12712
Published: 11-Oct-2008

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