Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Killing Fish at Millstone; Shays Should Be Proud of Opposing Broadwater for the Right Reasons

Terry Backer argues forcefully and convincingly that the Millstone nuke plant, in Waterford, is killing fish by the millions and that the only question for its owner, Dominion, is whether it wants to stop killing fish. It could easily do this by building a closed-cycle cooling system but if it does so, its profits will be lower. In other words, there's an environmental cost to running a nuke plant, but Dominion doesn't want to pay it. Here’s what Terry says:

Power plant cooling water intakes kill trillions of fish, fish eggs and larva on an ongoing basis. This fact is certainly no secret. It's clear that species of fish in Long Island Sound are heavily affected by power plants. The fish are killed, in all their life stages, along with other marine life when they are sucked into the facility along with a flood of water to cool the plant, in Millstone's case it can be up to two billion gallons per day. The marinelife that can't escape are then either scraped off the protective screens into a trash pit or discharged back to the Sound as a lifeless soup….

Studies of large power plants demonstrate that cooling water intakes have caused the near collapse of fisheries. Millstone is already known to have created great pressure on the flounder population in Long Island Sound. The carnage caused by cooling water intakes at Millstone has been known for some time, now we know how to stop it. Closed cycle cooling is the best available technology to protect our dwindling fish populations and preserve the environmental integrity of the Sound.

I will leave you with this. Power plants are not built to make electricity, they are built to make profits for investors and shareholders. Dominion will fight tooth and nail for that profit. After years and years of no progress it is time for us to stop giving away our irreplaceable and threatened resources of Long Island Sound for power-generator profits.

There’s more about the issue on the Soundkeeper’s website.

Meanwhile, Newsday quoted Congressman Chris Shays as saying he was “becoming ashamed” of his opposition to the Broadwater liquefied natural gas plant.

"I'm formally against Broadwater, but I'm becoming ashamed that I am."

But look deeper and you’ll see that, in a way, Shays is right. What he’s ashamed of are the silly, irrelevant reasons people cite for opposing Broadwater. Anyone following the issue has noticed the same thing, from the beginning, and I wrote about it at least once, here (these kinds of the-sky-is-falling scenarios are common whenever a project causes opposition on environmental grounds – some people raise legitimate issues and some don’t; that’s life, and while I don’t like it, in this case it’s Broadwater’s problem, not mine).

Oppose Broadwater because it’s an unneeded natural gas factory being imposed on the publicly-owned waters of Long Island Sound and would usurp all kinds of beneficial, non-industrial uses of the Sound, as well as damage marine life.

So now that he’s said he’s ashamed, Chris Shays ought to also say he’s proud to oppose Broadwater for the right reason.

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Anonymous Bryan said...

I appreciated Mr. Backer's emphasis on the need for " do a better job presenting the facts on the issue." He presents a convincing argument on the economics that apparently drive Dominion's decision to fight closed-cycle cooling. He also chose the right target given the magnitude of Millstone's cooling water requirements vs. the other power plants that are located on LIS. I hope Soundkeeper continues to educate the public and delves further into the issue of alternatives to using LIS as a source of cooling water.

While the efficiency of cooling technology has improved over the years, his choice of the iconic cooling tower typically associated with nuclear plants (think Three Mile Island) as representative of older, inefficient technology is a bit off the mark. Natural-draft cooling towers (the big chimney-like structures) are one way of rejecting heat from the power plant. The shorter cooling towers he references, presumably mechanical-draft towers, are another way to do it. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Natural draft towers don't require large, electrically-powered fans to move the air, so they're cheaper to operate (i.e., they're more efficient from an energy-consumption perspective). Mechanical-draft towers use these fans, so these towers can be smaller (i.e., they use space more efficiently), but they require more energy to operate.

Both types of towers work by evaporating some of the water that passes through them, thereby cooling it. Both towers require a supply of fresh water to make up the supply lost to evaporation, plus additional water to keep the minerals in the water from over-concentrating.

Given the amount of land that's available, any height restrictions that are imposed and the existence and quality of fresh water for make-up, you could design a cooling tower to replace the use of water from LIS. It might be one or more very tall towers taking up X amount of acreage, or it could be many more shorter towers taking up the same or more acreage but using more electricity. Throw in the issue of plume visibility and waste water discharge restrictions and you're on your way to eliminating the thermal pollution and fish kill in LIS caused by the existing cooling system. It's do-able, but there are trade-offs and compromises to be made (as usual).

When all these issues are put on the table and sorted out, the public can then push Dominion to provide the best solution, not just the cheapest solution for Dominion (or for the public for that matter).

At the same time, attention can be focused on the other dozens of power plants on both shores of LIS that are currently using it for cooling water.

PS. It's worth noting that Mr. Backer didn't call for shutting down Millstone. Given that it supplies CT with about 50% of its electricity, I don't think it's surprising. Perhaps he thinks that there's not enough space to site cooling towers on the Millstone property, in which case it would be a good back-door approach to shutting it down. But to be replaced by what?

3:07 PM  

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