The race towards carbon neutrality has precipitated a sort of selective blindness when it comes to environmental impacts other than CO2 —impacts like air and water toxicity, habitat encroachment, and freshwater consumption — all of which get sidelined in the debate over our future energy supply. Water, it turns out, may be a far greater problem than CO2 and a problem that may hit us more quickly.
Even removing projections on climate-induced summer droughts, most of the U.S. is expected to have moderate to severe water shortages simply due to increased population (and the food and energy demands that go with it) according to a recent report by the Sandia National Laboratory (PDF):
So knowing that, why would we invest in a source of energy that requires enormous quantities of fresh water to produce? Nuclear uses on average 43,000 gallons per megawtt of electricity, significantly more than coal which uses 36,000 gallons (a total of about 60 trillion gallons last year). By comparison, natural gas use 14,000 gallons per megawatt hour with solar (even water-cooled CSP) and wind using less than 1,000 gallons per megawatt hour.
Strike 3 for Nuclear ... where's all that water going to come from?
- Nuclear, strike 1: TOXIC WASTE
- Nuclear, strike 2: EXCESSIVE COST
- Nuclear, strike 3: WATER DEMAND
- The 6 myths of nuclear energy exposed