Nuclear Power Generation: High Demands for Cooling Water Use

by Cameron Bernhardt

Nuclear power is often praised for its potential to replace carbon-intensive energy sources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity and power generation. Although nuclear power may offer a promising future in this regard, it is likely to place stresses on the environment in other ways, namely through increased demands on water for cooling and space for waste disposal. Byers et al. (2014) tested six decarbonization pathways to estimate current water use in the UK electricity sector and project water use to 2050 in the UK. The study observed the water use associated with cooling for all varieties of thermoelectric power plants, but nuclear power accounts for over 20 percent of the UK’s electricity mix and is likely to share a large stake in the future of the UK’s power mix. Byers et al. concluded that the pathways with the highest projected proportion of nuclear generation resulted in tidal and coastal water abstraction that exceeded current levels by up to six times. This finding suggests that nuclear power may not be as viable a future energy source as previously thought, especially in areas where water resources are relatively scarce. It seems that the UK should extend its investigations into the merits of nuclear power, and similar studies may be warranted to assess the impacts of nuclear generation in other countries. Continue reading

Smart Grid Policy Support will Reduce European Carbon Emissions

by Stephanie Oehler

Carbon emissions are greenhouse gases and are often targeted for reductions in order to slow the progression of climate change. The energy sector, in particular, is seen as an area with significant potential for minimizing emissions since it is responsible for such a high percentage of society’s atmospheric carbon contribution. In Europe, a plethora of smart grid technologies has been installed and more are being designed in order to increase efficiency of electricity production and transmission. Darby et al. (2013) examined six national energy markets in the European Union (EU) in order to determine how carbon emission reductions occurred with the implementation of technologies and policies, market characteristics that were conducive to reductions, the areas with the greatest potential of achieving emission reductions, and the areas in which the new systems would be most effective. They collected a variety of quantitative and qualitative data from the German, Austrian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and British markets in order to predict the emission reductions produced under three conditions: no smart grid implementation, smart grid technology implemented without legal or economic support for users, and smart grid technologies installed and supportive legislation and market conditions adopted. Continue reading