Friday, July 27, 2012

Water Problems Stop and Hinder Power Plant Operations In Midwest

One goal of this blog is to identify important facts and trends before they become common knowledge. Recently, we discussed how the rising temperatures and droughts caused by climate change would create increasing water problems for power plants.  Water is for many power plants--especially coal and nuclear--their Achilles Heel.

This water weakness in July actually stopped at least one power plant from operating in the Midwest at the height of the heat wave, when its cooling water source dropped below its intake pipe. Also, a nuclear plant sought and received a waiver from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to use 102 degree water for cooling, when its operating permit required that cooling water be no more than 100 degrees.

Power plants that gulp cool water don't like droughts, don't like record high days, and then record high night temperatures that heat water beyond operating parameters. As we are but one month into this sizzling summer, keeping watch on how water impacts the nation's generation fleet this year will provide key data for grid operators that they must use to prepare for even hotter summers ahead.

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