Sunday, September 13, 2009

Water helps fuel debate on a south Texas power project

Anton Caputo in the San Antonio Express-News: During the intense Southeast drought of 2007, when the region desperately needed to power its air conditioners, the Browns Ferry nuclear complex in Alabama had to shut down one of its reactors for more than a day and significantly reduce power from two more.

In the deadly European heat wave of 2003, many of the French nuclear plants were in a similar bind and were forced to power down as thousands were overcome by heat-related illnesses.

The culprit in both cases was a lack of water in the rivers used to operate and cool the reactors.

Situations like these have many questioning if there possibly can be enough water in fast-growing, drought-prone South Texas to meet the needs of two more nuclear reactors being proposed at the South Texas Project plant outside Bay City.

But San Antonio’s CPS Energy and partner New Jersey-based NRG Energy, which want to build the reactors, contend they have the legal rights to all the water they need. Those rights, negotiated with the Lower Colorado River Authority, give the plant access to some 102,000 acre-feet of water a year, a massive amount equivalent to roughly half of San Antonio’s water needs in a dry year.

That figure includes 20,000 acre-feet of guaranteed, drought-ready water from the Highland Lakes. If two more reactors are built, the guaranteed amount — already reserved by South Texas Project Operating Company — doubles to 40,000 acre-feet each year….

South Texas nuclear power plant, shot by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission

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