Hydropower: Dammed If You Do
No, that is not a picture of cooling ponds inside a nuclear reactor. Those are dust covers on the turbines at the Grand Coulee dam. According to the photographer, you have to pass through a metal detector to get this far into the power plant. Come to think of it, the nuclear power industry could probably improve their public image with similar tourist photo ops of their spent fuel cooling ponds.
There’s an article over on Mongabay about a protest of the Belo Monte Dam project in Brazil:
Belo Monte will flood more than 40,000 hectares of rainforest and displace tens of thousands of people. The project will impede the flow of the Xingu, which is one of the Amazon’s mightiest tributaries, disrupting fish migrations and potentially affecting nutrient flows in a section of the basin.
They will of course lose in the end like all native people have always lost. You will be hard pressed to find a more environmentally destructive power source yet here we have a very upbeat article titled Hot dam: Hydropower continues to grow on an environmental website:
Brazil, the second-largest producer of hydropower worldwide, gets 86 percent of its electricity from water resources. It is home to an estimated 450 dams, including the Itaipu Dam, which generates more electricity than any other hydropower facility in the world — over 92 billion kilowatt-hours per year.
The article also mentions Grand Coulee dam and the fact that the United States gets about seven percent of its electricity from hydro. It didn’t mention that:
Kettle Falls, once a primary Native American fishing grounds, was inundated. The average catch went from a historical average of over 600,000 salmon a year to nothing. In one study, the Army Corps of Engineers estimated the annual loss was over a million fish.
The environmental impact of the dam effectively ended the traditional way of life of the native inhabitants. The government eventually compensated the Colville Indians in the 1990s with a lump settlement of approximately $52 million, plus annual payments of approximately $15 million.
Interestingly enough, the above link also says:
In 2007, Grand Coulee generated the second-most energy among US power facilities, after the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant at 26.78 TWh. Palo Verde has a lower nameplate capacity but operates at a higher capacity factor, giving it slightly more annual output.
Which got me to thinking. There are over 1400 hydroelectric power plants in the U.S. compared to 105 nuclear power plants. The 105 nuclear power plants produce almost three times more energy …without destroying a single ecosystem or native culture. I then read a little bit about the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant:
Due to its location in the Arizona desert, Palo Verde is the only nuclear generating facility in the world that is not located adjacent to a large body of above-ground water. The facility evaporates water from the treated sewage of several nearby municipalities to meet its cooling needs. 20billion US gallons (76,000,000m³) of treated water are evaporated each year. This water represents about 25% of the annual overdraft of the Arizona Department of Water Resources Phoenix Active Management Area. At the nuclear plant site, the wastewater is further treated and stored in an 80 acre (324,000 m²) reservoir for use in the plant’s cooling towers.
You will be hard pressed to find an more environmentally friendly power source.