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24 Comments

  1. “Not surprisingly, there are already some nuclear energy deniers that are concerned about the potential effects of disposing of additional brine into the Pacific Ocean, ”

    I always want to ask these people: What about all the salt from the Billions or Trillions of gallons of water the sun desalinates every day? Why is is that the sun desalinating massive, massive amounts of water causes absolutely no harm to the ocean, and yet, somehow a man-made desal plant that will desalinate some miniscule fraction of the water that the sun desalinates, is an ecological nightmare?

    1. Man-made desalination plants deposit a lot of highly concentrated brine in a small area — the natural water cycle does not.

      I wonder if the brine could be loaded onto ships (maybe oil tankers on their way back to the oil-producing countries) and gradually released into the ocean over the course of the journey, so that there is no really high concentration of brine anywhere?

      1. @George Carty

        Another possibility would be putting the desal plants on board large ships and letting them produce and disperse brine as they traveled the ocean. Then they could deliver a load of freshly made water along with whatever cargo they were planning to deliver in the first place.

      2. Diablo Canyon uses a lot of cooling water.  Just add the brine to the effluent of the main condensers and it will be very well-diluted before it hits the Pacific.

        1. Just to clarify, the primary purpose of the desal plant on site is to provide the cooling water for the plant, in addition to some other needs correct? I thought what you suggested is exactly what they do already. The difference would be that they’d be generating fresh water that wouldn’t be able to be mixed with the brine as the point of use for the fresh water would be dispersed from where the extra brine would be disposed.

          Maybe Cargill could use the brine to make salt instead of using salt ponds in the SF Bay Area?

          1. the primary purpose of the desal plant on site is to provide the cooling water for the plant

            The main condensers are cooled by saltwater (salt adds a bit to the heat capacity of the water).  The desalinization plant provides makeup water for the steam systems and fresh water for drinking, washing, flushing, etc.

      3. I find the “too briney” complaint very nicely low on the “yes but” transactional analysis hierarchy. I find the exchanges “yes but” response designed to prevent accomplishment, goofy, and typical: “We could desalinate huge quantities of water!” “yes but, the effluent would be too briney!” Eric Byrne would surely recognize it.

        http://www.ericberne.com/games-people-play/why-dont-you-yes-but/

        1. It’s silly to argue, except for fun. Given that, If you simply put it down the drain, then today’s briney water would be mixed with yesterday’s desalinated fresh water.

      4. George Carty – that’s a potential problem, but not an inherent problem. I could be wrong, but it is my understanding that they have found reasonable ways to release the brine so that it doesn’t cause a temporary, localized ‘high salt’ zone in the ocean near the plant?

        If that is the case, then I think my original comment applies – that once the brine is adequately mixed in with the original saltwater, the ocean can handle the salt?

  2. “Once that water pipe is installed, I suspect that the city will consider building additional water storage that can be filled during times of low demand to be ready to help when natural rain cycles are insufficient to meet demand.”

    Doesn’t California already have a lot of water storage capacity that is underutilized because of the drought? Couldn’t water from the desal plant just be pumped into existing, underutilized storage facilities (i.e. reservoirs)?

    1. Lake Mead is critically low as many farmers are now taking too much water out of the river systems due to the drought. What is the expected cost per litre/gallon from Diablo Canyon’s excess desal plants capacity if this proposal is activated.?

      1. I realized after my previous comment in this thread, that the issue might be that none of the existing reservoirs is near Diable Canyon? Lake Mead is near Las Vegas – that’s an aweful long way to build a pipe and supply energy to pump the water to, uphill, so obviously, you wouldn’t store water from DC at Lake Mead. But, perhaps there is a nearby reservoir close to DC?

        Although, I’ve also just realized it creates something of a billing problem – if the water is piped into a reservoir, who pays for it? If it runs downstream to a farmer whose property has ‘grandfathered’ water rights and gets ‘free’ water, would the state be paying to fill the reservoir from DC, but then having to give the water away for free? That wouldn’t work out well.

    1. What’s with the issue over tritium? Is it the permeation from TPBAR’s or reactor cooling systems specifically? The natural occurring atmospheric tritium equilibrium level from high energy cosmic rays interacting with atmospheric nitrogen and storm lightening etc was about 2.6 TBq. I’m a scuba diver and so I need tritium for my equipment- watch and compass on night dives, so replaced every 12.3 yrs. (t1/2). He3 is very expensive and researchers need lots.

  3. Perhaps those nuclear energy deniers that are concerned about the potential effects of disposing of additional brine into the Pacific Ocean, might devote some additional concern to the potential effects of disposing additional fresh water into the Pacific Ocean from continuously depleted aquifers.

    It isn’t that large-scale desalization is free from ecological consequences: from where and how does one obtain the ocean water, and to where and how does one return the brine? But ocean currents move a lot of water, and with proper siting such concerns can be minimized.

    A collapsed aquifer in the Central Valley, on the other hand…

  4. I would think a logical plan for the brine would be mixing a large amount of additional seawater with the brine, greatly reducing the salinity, then returning it to the sea.

    1. As I wrote above, the cooling water is exactly such a stream.  If the quantity of brine equals the volume of fresh water produced, that is 1.5 mmgpd tops.  The plant running at full power uses ~2.5 billion gpd of cooling water.  The brine would vanish into that cooling water stream with a barely-measurable increase in salinity.

  5. Another semi-related tidbit. At Thorium Energy Alliance Conference (TEAC7) one of the speakers was a botanist who spoke about plant diversity as greatest in the world in California and that he praised TEA for pursuing the cause of tackling drought in California. So drought in California will cause extinctions of plant life as well as wildlife.

  6. We need desalination plants badly here in California. We are in a severe drought. So any existing ones should be used! I’m sure there’s a way to discharge the brine in an environmentally sound fashion. There is a company that built a solar desalination plant in Fresno (uses the heat of the Sun to convert the water to steam and then condenses it back to nearly pure water). Obviously nuclear power gives you more flexibility in where the desalination plant is located. But again, ANY technology that can desalinate water without causing pollution is something I would support, including nuclear fission!

  7. 800,000 gallons per day is worth about $800. It is a very small quantity, not worth building any pipeline, and no appreciable effect on the draught issue.

    It seems simply a way to promote nuclear energy.

    We need far better solutions than desal, which cost 10 time pumped or surface water. Once you go down that desal road, you are heading down a rocky road that will only get worse.

  8. http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/534996/megascale-desalination/

    An excerpt…..

    “The new plant in Israel, called Sorek, was finished in late 2013 but is just now ramping up to its full capacity; it will produce 627,000 cubic meters of water daily, providing evidence that such large desalination facilities are practical. Indeed, desalinated seawater is now a mainstay of the Israeli water supply. Whereas in 2004 the country relied entirely on groundwater and rain, it now has four seawater desalination plants running; Sorek is the largest. Those plants account for 40 percent of Israel’s water supply. By 2016, when additional plants will be running, some 50 percent of the country’s water is expected to come from desalination.”

    “The traditional criticism of reverse-osmosis technology is that it costs too much. The process uses a great deal of energy to force salt water against polymer membranes that have pores small enough to let fresh water through while holding salt ions back. However, Sorek will profitably sell water to the Israeli water authority for 58 U.S. cents per cubic meter (1,000 liters, or about what one person in Israel uses per week), which is a lower price than today’s conventional desalination plants can manage. What’s more, its energy consumption is among the lowest in the world for large-scale desalination plants.”

    End excerpt.

    One wonders, how much of this plant did we, (the American taxpayer), pay for. Truth be told, Southern California is a desert. It is only through the mass movement of water through aqueduct systems that the San Fernando Valley and greater Los Angeles have been able to grow and prosper. As time rolls on, and our water shortage intensifies, we will need solutions such as desal, expensive or not. The only question is not whether or not we’ll need it, but whether or not we’re wise enough to act proactively. Of course, the role of government and politicians in such an endeavor answers the question, doesn’t it?

  9. Rod,

    I believe that even if the drought ends in California we must still must find new sources of water even it is just to replenish our groundwater reserve which has been depleted to a frightening level. Do you think that nuclear energy will be able to economically desalinate water?

    I just finished reading the book, “The West Without Water” by B. Lynn Ingram and Frances Malamud-Roam and it paints a bleak picture of droughts lasting several centuries with incredibly wet years in between. I believe that we need to be able to both desalinate water during dry years and pump out vast amounts of water during abnormally wet years. I am intrigued by small scale nuclear plants because they can serve the many purposes like water recycling, desalination and when needed emergency pumping of excess water while not bankrupting local municipalities. What are your thoughts on this?

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