Never mind reducing oil or coal consumption, nuclear power is making a case to solve a much more serious commodity shortage water.
Las Vegas could be one of the first US cities to be hit by a serious water shortage says the Telegraph Newspaper, some are even questioning whether it can survive in its current form at all. The city gets 90% of its water from Lake Mead, the body of water created by the Hoover Dam. The water in Lake Mead, and the Colorado River which feeds it, has been falling for some time. It is slowly running dry due to overuse. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography believes there is a 50% chance that the lake will be completely dry by 2021 if climate change continues as they are predicting and future water usage is not curtailed. Whether that proves to be correct is anyone’s guess but the fact remains consumption is exceeding supply and that cannot continue indefinitely.
In the Middle East, the problem is even more acute, many countries are experiencing rapidly rising populations who in turn are expecting rising living standards which require increasing water usage. Yet water supplies are limited, in many cases critically so, and the extraction of fresh drinking water from surrounding sea water is extremely energy intensive. Burning oil or coal, or even natural gas would consume vast amounts of power, emit large quantities of carbon and divert energy that is also required for air conditioning, lighting and industry to feed these growing populations.
No wonder then that Middle Eastern states are planning massive nuclear power investment, in spite of also holding some of the world’s largest oil and gas reserves. Nuclear power can generate large quantities of power day and night, without releasing significant quantities of carbon; power that is increasingly needed to desalinate large quantities of sea water into drinking water. A reactor at Aktau in Kazakhstan on the shore of the Caspian Sea successfully produced up to 135 MW of electricity and 80,000 cubic meters of potable water a day between 1972 and 1999 when the plant was closed down at the end of the reactors life. Saudi Arabia is planning to generate some 25% of its electricity from nuclear power within just 15 years. That’s barely enough time to get the orders placed and the foundations laid. Nuclear may not be the power source of choice yet in the US but in many other parts of the world the twin constraints of water supply and carbon emissions is making it increasingly attractive.