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Nuclear power plants are the “thirstiest” of them all

It is not often thought about that all modern techniques for energy generation consume a vast quantity of water, and some consume a great deal more than others. Although each technique is very different in principle, they all consume water in some fashion. Cambridge, Massachusetts research consultants, Synapse Energy Economics, released a report entitled “The Hidden Costs of Electricity Generation” that outlined the water impacts of all the different energy generation outlets including coal, natural gas, nuclear, biomass, wind and solar.

Wind energy consumes anywhere from 45 to 85 gallons of water for every megawatt hour of electricity that is produced by a wind turbine. This figure includes the water that is used for manufacturing, transporting and constructing the turbine and wind farm.

Solar photovoltaic energy production doesn’t necessarily require water, except when it comes time to clean the panels. After a clean solar installation, the sun is the only major resource that is being utilized.

Coal, uranium, gas, and biomass based power plants use these fuels to create enough heat to produce steam, which is then used to spin an electricity generating turbine. These types of plants – known as thermal plants – require a large amount water for cooling steam. According to the results produce by Synapse, natural gas power plants consumed 50 to 180 gallons of water per megawatt hour, coal and biomass plants consume 300 to 480 gallons, and nuclear plants consume up to 720 gallons just to cool steam. The numbers see a steady increase when life cycle costs are accounted for.

For example, growing enough biomass to produce a megawatt hour of energy can consume up to 100,000 gallons of water. Coal mining products pollution that dramatically contaminate the earth’s water supply. Building and maintaining a nuclear plant can exceed up to 6,900 gallons of water consumption per megawatt hour.

The fact that nuclear power plants can consume up to 90 times more water than green sources such as wind and solar energy signals the importance of renewable energy for the future.

Source: The Star

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