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Reclaiming Wastewater Is Good, Right?

I just read this blog post over at Ecocentric about reclaiming wastewater from communities and using it in power plants.  As I started reading, it seemed like the perfect use of recycling.  Why not use waste water in power plants? Power plants suck up gallons and gallons of water per day that could be used for drinking or other domestic uses.  There is a limited supply of freshwater available, and power plants should not be sucking up the biggest portion of that.   

As I continued reading, it occurred to me that this might not be the perfect solution either.  What happens to that water once it has gone through a nuclear power plant? I had always thought that waste water from a nuclear power plant becomes slightly radioactive.  So even though the water gets a second use, it still would end up in a radioactive pond somewhere, potentially leaking into groundwater sources.  Doesn't sound that wonderful to me. This apparently is not true, well at least not all true.  The water used in power plants like nuclear plants is used for cooling purposes. They draw water in from nearby lakes/rivers/streams/oceans etc.  This water goes through the cooling process, is 'cleaned' for most of the radiation and returned to a pool.  This pool feeds back into the cooling system in most cases.  Sometimes, water that has been through the cleaning process does get released back into the natural groundwater sources, but in controlled amounts.  This issue brief from the Union of Concerned Scientists said "when the water discharged from a nuclear power plant contains radioactivity, it is by design and not by accident."

 It doesn't make me feel better that radioactive water is released intentionally.  

I like the idea of reusing water.  I can even get on board with the water going to nuclear power plants, because at least people are thinking about ways to reuse the resource rather than just continually sucking up new water.  In one of my classes last night, we were talking about the strategy of taking a little so the next little bit is a little easier.  To get to the goal of finding new ways to infinitely reuse our water and re-assess our water usage, I'll take this small step.