Home > Uncategorized > The Drought Could Plunge The US Into Darkness – Business Insider

The Drought Could Plunge The US Into Darkness – Business Insider

September 7, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

But as consumers fret about the inevitable rise in food prices to come, the drought is unveiling another, darker threat to the American lifestyle, as it is now threatening U.S. electricity supplies.

Why?

Because virtually all power plants, whether they are nuclear, coal, or natural gas-fired, are completely dependent on water for cooling. Hydroelectric plants require continuous water flow to operate their turbines. Given the drought, many facilities are overheating and utilities are shutting them down or running their plants at lower capacity.

Few Americans know (or up to this point have cared) that the country’s power plants account for about half of all the water used in the United States. For every gallon of residential water used in the average U.S. household, five times more is used to provide that home with electricity via hydropower turbines and fossil fuel power plants, roughly 40,000 gallons each month.

Michael Webber, associate director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas at Austin, is under no such illusions, stating that the summer’s record high  heat and drought have worked together to overtax the nation’s electrical grid, adding that families use more water to power their homes than they use from their tap. Webber said, “In summer you often get a double whammy. People want their air-conditioning and drought gets worse. You have more demand for electricity and less water available to produce it. That is what we are seeing in the Midwest right now, power plants on the edge.”

In July U.S. nuclear-power production hit its lowest seasonal levels in nine years as drought and heat forced Nuclear power plants from Ohio to Vermont to slow output. Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman David McIntyre explained, “Heat is the main issue, because if the river is getting warmer the water going into the plant is warmer and makes it harder to cool. If the water gets too warm, you have to dial back production,” McIntyre said. “That’s for reactor safety, and also to regulate the temperature of discharge water, which affects aquatic life.”

via The Drought Could Plunge The US Into Darkness – Business Insider.

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