Water is necessary for life, and in our current nuclear industry, it is necessary for continuing operations. Whether to enable sustainable fission, provide cooling during normal or emergency plant operations, or support radioactive decontamination processes, water is relied on as much as any other commodity to keep the nuclear power industry going. Even though it has played a big part over the past six decades of commercial nuclear power operations, the need for innovation in water management is a top priority.
First, we have to have it
It’s well-known that the western U.S. is currently seeing some of the worst drought conditions in recent history. Maintaining a dependable (and affordable) water supply is key for our existing nuclear facilities to keep operating. Several of the drought-affected locations will need to find ways to make use of what is there or find an alternative—and alternatives to water are not that easy to come by. As we look to the next generation of reactor types, many have reduced reliance on water, but this is not the solution in the near term. Our best plan, then, is to find ways to use less of an increasingly diminished resource through integrating new and existing technology so we can get by with what is available.