Which is where NEI's Bill Skaff comes into the picture. Here's his comment that you can find in the string below the article (emphasis mine):
The discussion of electricity generation water use contains some misleading statements that mask the truth. Power plant water use consists of consumption, when water is evaporated and thus lost, and withdrawal, where water is removed from a water body but can be returned, totally or partially. The “outdated cooling technology” mentioned is a once-through cooling system, which cools by the coldness of the withdrawn water and returns 99 percent of that water back to the water body. The so-called up-to-date cooling system, cooling towers, cools by evaporation and thus consumes twice as much water as the once-through cooling system.This is just the sort of sleight of hand that anti-nukes regularly fall back on when presenting their arguments to a general audience. Please keep it in mind the next time you see a claim like Rabin's. Now, back to Bill with some additional facts to think about:
It is not surprising, then, that the Electric Power Research Institute, in a 2002 study, found that 98 percent of water withdrawn by the electric power sector in total is returned to the source water bodies.
Here are some other facts to consider that provide some needed context that the news coverage this week has omitted. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 1995, the last USGS study to consider water consumption nationwide:
- Electric power sector water consumption represents only 3.3 percent of the nation's water consumption.
- Residential water consumption, at 6.7 percent, is more than twice power sector consumption.
For more on nuclear power plants and water use, see our website.
The electric power industry, in partnership with businesses, universities, and the National Science Foundation, is supporting over a dozen research projects to develop power plant cooling technologies designed to reduce water consumption in the future.
- Agricultural water consumption is 81.3 percent, 17 percent of which is water lost during conveyance that never reaches the crops it is intended to irrigate.
Photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography. Photo used under Creative Commons License.