A coal plant at the Savannah river site has recently been shut down. It was in a 280,000-square-foot, five-story building and used about 160,000 tons of coal each year. The plant was a 1950s era design and was one of nine powerhouses or steam plants functioning on the large nuclear facility grounds. That a single coal plant could use 35-45 million gallons of water every day is astonishing, especially when one considers the total amount of water used by similar facilities around the country.
A nuclear plant in New York uses vast quantities of river water also, and doing so kills close to one billion organisms each year. (Two new nuclear reactors could use 55-88 million gallons of water daily from the Savannha River.)
Impacts on local ecology from the use of such massive quantities of water every day are obviously disruptive. In 2009, the Savannah River was ranked number four in a top ten list of waterways for total toxic discharges.
It isn’t only river ecology that is at issue; it is human health as well. According to Source Watch, the annual health impact of particle emissions from the Savannah River D-Area Power House were: three deaths, four heart attacks, forty-seven asthma attacks, two hospital admissions, two cases of chronic bronchitis, and three asthma ER visits.
A biomass co-generation facility was opened at the site in March to help replace the power generated by the old, polluting coal plant. This new plant’s operation has been estimated to help prevent 100,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere each year.
Image Credit: Debs, Wiki Commons