200B Gallons of Water Drawn Each Day for U.S. Coal, Nuclear Power

200B Gallons of Water Drawn Each Day for U.S. Coal, Nuclear Power SustainableBusiness.com 31/1 2011, An astounding 200 billion gallons of water withdrawn from America’s water supply each day… and four metric tons of high-level radioactive wastes for every terawatt of electricity produced by nuclear reactors, even though there is no long-term storage solution in place
These are just two of the little understood and largely “hidden”  water, health and other costs from U.S. coal and nuclear electricity production detailed in a new analysis released by Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., for the nonprofit Civil Society Institute (CSI) think tank.

“What we refer to as the ‘Business As Usual’ (BAU) approach to electricity production carries significant costs, chief among them the health impacts,” Pam Solo, president and founder, Civil Society Institute, said. “As the White House and the Congress propose moving from a Renewable Energy Standard to what they are calling a ‘Clean Energy Standard,’ there should be a full and public debate about what constitutes ‘clean’ energy.”

“Water quality and water availability are perhaps the key lens through which to look at whether energy sources are indeed clean and should have any part in a ‘Clean Energy Standard,'” she added………

The Synapse report for CSI notes the following about nuclear power:

  • With no long-term plan in place for the storage of nuclear waste, nuclear reactors in the United States generate up to 4.1 metric tons of nuclear waste for each terawatt of power produced.
  • Like all mining activity, mining for uranium can wreak a heavy toll on the environment and produces significant quantities of waste. Water use in a typical uranium mine is approximately 200 to 300 gallons per minute,  and a mine requires more than 220 acres of land to be set aside permanently for waste rock and radioactive tailing storage. Over time the radioactivity of the tailing material can grow to be about 75% of that of the original ore.
  • A typical 1,000 MW nuclear plant might produce around 30 tons of high-level waste a year. The U.S. currently has 104 nuclear reactors (69 PWR and 35 BWR) with a total capacity of around 101,000 MW, so annual production of high-level waste is around 3,000 tons. Currently the
  • majority of this waste is stored on site–that is, at the location where it is produced–while the rest is stored in nearby temporary storage sites. Out of 104 active nuclear power plants, 68 have run out of local storage space or will run out this year. Of the rest, all are expected to run out of space by 2026.
  • The cost to society of a nuclear accident can theoretically be quantified by multiplying the social cost of an accident (measured in terms of lives lost, increased rates of cancer and other diseases, and the value of irradiated land). Quantifying the risk of a severe accident is open to significant interpretation. There has only be one significant nuclear meltdown (Chernobyl, in Ukraine), which leads some to argue that the risk of an accident is relatively low. Others point to the near meltdown of Three Mile Island and the recent radioactive leak at Vermont Yankee as evidence that even countries with strong regulatory oversight of their nuclear facilities are not immune from potential disaster.
  • Transportation becomes problematic because U.S. nuclear facilities are spread out across the country, so maintaining a unified storage site requires the transport of high-level waste over long distances, which in turn exposes nuclear waste to the possibility of accidents, attack, or theft.
  • Even today, with numerous redundant safety mechanisms in place in the U.S., scrams, or reactor trips due to safety or operational faults, occurred in one of every three nuclear units in 2009. These scrams require the unit to be powered down immediately. Two thirds of units reported a safety system failure to the NRC in 2009 as well.

The report finds that aggressive investments in more efficient technologies in every sector could reduce electricity use by 15% from today’s requirements, or over 40% from a “business as usual” scenario. Utilities in several states are already achieving savings at this level………

The full report is available at the link below.

Website: www.CivilSocietyInstitute.org

200B Gallons of Water Drawn Each Day for U.S. Coal, Nuclear Power

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