Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Aywa in Egypt, Nein in Germany

One of the tasks nuclear energy plants could easily do is desalination. Desalination, the process of removing salt from water to make it drinkable (potable, that is), is especially important in more arid lands – say, for example, California:

The massive project, in Carlsbad, teems with nearly 500 workers in yellow hard hats. When it’s done next year, it will take in more than 100 million gallons of Pacific Ocean water daily and produce 54 million gallons of fresh, drinkable water. While this adds up to just 10 percent of the county’s [San Diego]water delivery needs, it will, crucially, be reliable and drought-proof—a hedge against potentially worse times ahead.

In this case, the Carlsbad facility is co-located with the Encina natural gas plant, which will supply it with power. There are some 16,000 desalination facilities around the world, many of them co-located with gas and coal plants. The Technology Review article linked above provides a lot of useful data on the subject if you’re interested.

Some countries have experimented with nuclear-based desalination – notably Kazakhstan, India and Japan, but no one has really proceeded with it commercially.

So this news is exciting:

Egypt and Russia have signed an agreement for the development of a design for a nuclear power plant with a desalination facility, Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom said.

Rosatom did not release details of the agreement, but said it believes a desalination facility at a large capacity nuclear power plant with Russian-supplied VVER pressurized water reactors has “significant potential” in foreign markets.

Such a facility would be able to produce up to 170,000 cubic meters of fresh water a day from one nuclear power unit, Rosatom said.

Though Rosatom is apparently using a full scale reactor for this project, desalination practically calls for small reactors. (Many agree. The NucNet article says: “Argentina, China and South Korea have developed small nuclear reactor designs specifically to generate both electricity and fresh water. Small reactor technology may be key to expanding clean, nuclear energy-based desalination, the IAEA said.”) Obviously, as carbon dioxide emissions reduction becomes more important to energy policy, a move away from fossil fuels for at least some of these plants will gain currency (I haven’t read this, but I suspect the relative importance of desalination will allow many facilities to grandfather their way into any emission reduction plan.)

In any event, and given the issues that come from dealing with the lumbering bear, this is a great development. The Americans need to get cracking on this.

NEI has a page on desalination. It’s a subject that tends to fly low and quiet, but where it’s needed, it’s the most important thing there is.


From the New York Times:

The European Union will fail to meet an ambitious goal of significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 unless it takes more aggressive measures to limit the use of fossil fuels and adopts new environmental policies, according to a report scheduled for release on Tuesday.

And why might this be? Ah, Germany, how we want to love you.

According to the report, Germany, whose economy is the best in Europe, was the only country not on track to meet its emissions reductions for 2020, or cut its energy consumption. According to the German Association of Energy and Water Industries, the country saw an increase of 20 million tons of carbon emissions between 2012 and 2013, instead of a reduction.

In order to meet its goals, Germany must reduce emissions annually by 3.5 percent over the next six years, a feat that will result in substantial increases in energy costs, and generate political pressure to block measures that could hurt the economy.

And why might that be?

The race to shutter the country’s nuclear reactors by 2022, for example, has resulted in many power providers using brown coal, or lignite, the cheapest and dirtiest of all fossil fuels to keep the power flowing to customers. This, in turn, has led to an increase in carbon emissions.

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1 comment:

TheTracker said...

I imagine the people crusading against Iran's right to nuclear energy will not be too terribly happy about an Egyptian nuclear industry.

Not to mention that the country is in the midst of an insurgency against a military dictator, and is hence not the most stable place right now.