Skip to main content

What Huffington Post Gets Wrong About Nuclear Energy & Water Use

We regularly return to the issue of water use and nuclear power plants because anti-nuclear activists can't help but manipulate or obscure the facts when it comes to explaining how much water is used to cool an operating reactor. The latest example comes from the Huffington Post where Kyle Rabin of the Grace Communications Foundation writes that thermoelectric power plants account for 45% of water withdrawals in the U.S.

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 The “outdated cooling technology” mentioned is a once-through cooling system, which cools by the coldness of the withdrawn water and returns 99 percent of that water back to the water body.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.

It is not surprising, then, that the Electric Power Research Institute, in a 2002 study, found that 98 percent of water withdrawn by the electric power sector in total is returned to the source water bodies.
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:
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. 
  • 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.
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.
For more on nuclear power plants and water use, see our website. 

Photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography. Photo used under Creative Commons License.

Comments

Anonymous said…
There is a reason the Huff Post is called the Huff Joke. That so-called news source actually censors and blocks commenters that are against its ultra-liberal positions. Thanks for pointing out another propaganda piece from the Huff Joke.
Jeffrey M. Skov said…
Don't overlook the water used in supposedly "green" ethanol production. Per the Economist: "A typical ethanol factory producing 50m gallons of biofuels a year needs about 500 gallons of water a minute" and "All this is putting a heavy burden on aquifers in some corn-growing areas." See here: http://www.economist.com/node/10766882

Popular posts from this blog

Knowing What You’ve Got Before It’s Gone in Nuclear Energy

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior director of policy analysis and strategic planning at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

Nuclear energy is by far the largest source of carbon prevention in the United States, but this is a rough time to be in the business of selling electricity due to cheap natural gas and a flood of subsidized renewable energy. Some nuclear plants have closed prematurely, and others likely will follow.
In recent weeks, Exelon and the Omaha Public Power District said that they might close the Clinton, Quad Cities and Fort Calhoun nuclear reactors. As Joni Mitchell’s famous song says, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”
More than 100 energy and policy experts will gather in a U.S. Senate meeting room on May 19 to talk about how to improve the viability of existing nuclear plants. The event will be webcast, and a link will be available here.
Unlike other energy sources, nuclear power plants get no specia…

Making Clouds for a Living

Donell Banks works at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 as a shift supervisor in Operations, but is in the process of transitioning to his newly appointed role as the daily work controls manager. He has been in the nuclear energy industry for about 11 years.

I love what I do because I have the unique opportunity to help shape the direction and influence the culture for the future of nuclear power in the United States. Every single day presents a new challenge, but I wouldn't have it any other way. As a shift supervisor, I was primarily responsible for managing the development of procedures and programs to support operation of the first new nuclear units in the United States in more than 30 years. As the daily work controls manager, I will be responsible for oversight of the execution and scheduling of daily work to ensure organizational readiness to operate the new units.

I envision a nuclear energy industry that leverages the technology of today to improve efficiency…

Nuclear: Energy for All Political Seasons

The electoral college will soon confirm a surprise election result, Donald Trump. However, in the electricity world, there are fewer surprises – physics and economics will continue to apply, and Republicans and Democrats are going to find a lot to like about nuclear energy over the next four years.

In a Trump administration, the carbon conversation is going to be less prominent. But the nuclear value proposition is still there. We bring steady jobs to rural areas, including in the Rust Belt, which put Donald Trump in office. Nuclear plants keep the surrounding communities vibrant.

We hold down electricity costs for the whole economy. We provide energy diversity, reducing the risk of disruption. We are a critical part of America’s industrial infrastructure, and the importance of infrastructure is something that President-Elect Trump has stressed.

One of our infrastructure challenges is natural gas pipelines, which have gotten more congested as extremely low gas prices have pulled m…