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PostPosted: Jan 18, 2014 10:01 am 
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It's been in the news that California is under a big drought. About ten percent of the people in the USA are in California. There's a lot of them huddled in the big cities along the Coast. The water supplies for these people come from up in the mountains. Los Angeles gets a lot of water from the Colorado River about 200 miles away.

There are a lot more people in the West today than when some of these water projects were built. There have been changes in de-salination over that time.

Would it be realistic to supply the water for the coast from de-salination and free the diverted water up for agriculture or other uses? Would this actually turn out to be an economic boom for the area and make the desert bloom for generations to come?

Could LFTRs be designed to be ready for such a task? Clean air, clean water and sunshine is what people can use to build a paradise.

Would the populace of California be open minded to explore such a project?


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PostPosted: Jan 18, 2014 11:01 am 
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The biggest problem is in economics. Desalination is marginally competitive for drinking water, but most water use is of lower quality and value. 80% of water consumption is from agriculture. Typically the water is pumped out of a lake or from a well. So you're competing essentially against pumped cost and nothing else.

Good OECD paper on agriwater pricing in the USA.

http://www.oecd.org/unitedstates/45016437.pdf


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PostPosted: Jan 18, 2014 12:23 pm 
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Maybe in 30 years but not now.

Price of desalination is dropping like a stone but is still 55 cents per cubic metre at best.

Needs to be less than half that to stand a chance.


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PostPosted: Jan 18, 2014 1:03 pm 
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It makes sense that you are competing against pumping costs. Then I got to thinking, "What if there isn't enough water to pump?" This drought thing seems like it's been going on a long time. I wonder if this is one of the permanent changes that scientists predict are coming.

This is from Wikepedia:

"In a December 26, 2007, opinion column in the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Nolan Hertel, a professor of nuclear and radiological engineering at Georgia Tech, wrote, "... nuclear reactors can be used ... to produce large amounts of potable water. The process is already in use in a number of places around the world, from India to Japan and Russia. Eight nuclear reactors coupled to desalination plants are operating in Japan alone, nuclear desalination plants could be a source of large amounts of potable water transported by pipelines hundreds of miles inland..."[18]"

It goes on to add this:

"A typical aircraft carrier in the US military uses nuclear power to desalinate 400,000 US gallons (1,500,000 l; 330,000 imp gal) of water per day.[20]"

Just like a dam these facilities can also produce electricity.

There's one that is going to be built in Chile. Surprisingly, it may use a Thorium reactor.

/http://www.thoriumpowercanada.com/technology/the-projects/

Los Vegas is getting big and needs water too. They could use that Colorado water. Maybe, it California could sell it's water to Nevada, it could help pay for such a project.

Well,.....another pipedream that I will have to live 30 years more to see.


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PostPosted: Jan 18, 2014 2:10 pm 
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A new desal plant is currently under construction next to a power plant in Carlsbad, just north of San Diego. The impetus for the project is to develop a more secure source of drinking water for San Diego County. See:

http://carlsbaddesal.com/

Desal is the future for California, IMHO. Existing water sources are over-subscribed, even discounting the likely increase in drought episodes in the Southwest from climate change. New nuclear + desal make perfect sense for CA; I expect that the anti-nuclear mindset here will be overcome in time.


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PostPosted: Jan 18, 2014 3:26 pm 
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So - They are already doing it. Well, in 30 years maybe they can retrofit the diesel to LFTRs or replace the whole plant.

Maybe they could make a deal with the Sierra Club in the Bay area if they drained Hetch Hetchy.

Thanks for the information.


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PostPosted: Jan 18, 2014 4:02 pm 
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In many communities building permits are depending on getting water credits. The water supplies are already maxed out and the ground water is being lowered to the point that we get salt water intrusion. So several communities have seriously considered desalination systems and there are quite a few deployed. I expect that water will become another critical resource like energy.
This is something folks already realize, such that combined electricity & desalination plants have been proposed for several designs. Desalination using multi-effects distillation requires low grade heat in significant volume. Using the exhaust heat from a power plant allows for the energy input for desalination at a pretty minor decrease in electricity generation. The higher the hot temperature the less impact running desalination at the same time has. So, it while it can be done with LWRs it would work better with LFTRs. (Note from my understanding it should also work well to do a combined electrical/desal system with natural gas. So I'm thinking we will start seeing those systems more widely deployed first - perhaps in the middle east).

But as noted earlier for California, the big swingers are farms and fish so if you really want to have an impact this is where the efforts have to go.


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PostPosted: Jan 18, 2014 4:35 pm 
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NickL wrote:
Desal is the future for California, IMHO. Existing water sources are over-subscribed, even discounting the likely increase in drought episodes in the Southwest from climate change. New nuclear + desal make perfect sense for CA; I expect that the anti-nuclear mindset here will be overcome in time.


Don't forget that the west coast is getting absolutely fried by radiation from Fukushima, and it's blowing out geiger counters on the beaches!

Yeah, we can laugh about it, but what percentage of the population believes it? Way too many. And that's why CA won't get new nuclear plants any time soon.


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PostPosted: Jan 18, 2014 4:59 pm 
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@Russ: I hear you in re: anti-nukes in CA. I recently had a long conversation with a couple of my greenish friends up in the Bay Area. They were amazed to hear me defending nuclear power. By the end of the evening, one of the two was willing to reconsider her views in light of what I had said. Baby steps.


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PostPosted: Jan 18, 2014 5:09 pm 
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FWIW, desal plants are also under consideration (in various stages of decision making) along the CA coast in Huntington Beach, Monterey and Santa Cruz. All of these are for drinking water, and I believe reverse osmosis is the preferred technology in all cases. With the ongoing drought, the water crisis in California is *now*.


BTW, co-location with power plant in Carlsbad is to piggyback on the plants water intake and outflow infrastructure, not to use waste heat--it is a reverse osmosis plant.


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PostPosted: Jan 18, 2014 6:26 pm 
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E Ireland wrote:
Maybe in 30 years but not now.

Price of desalination is dropping like a stone but is still 55 cents per cubic metre at best.

Needs to be less than half that to stand a chance.

$0.55 / m^3 should be quite competitive for municipal water supplies. For agriculture, movement is needed on both sides. Desalination needs to get cheaper, but the cost of natural freshwater also needs to go up. Unless there is a significant surplus, any water that is supplied for the only cost of pumping it is undervalued and the price needs to increase until supply and demand are balanced.


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PostPosted: Jan 18, 2014 7:41 pm 
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The California water situation is a mess due largely to government intervention. I haven't followed the issue recently, but during the earlier drought (15 years ago or so?), I read that the gov't (don't recall if it was state or federal) promised farmers all the water they can use for free. Back then (1950s?) it didn't seem like much of an issue I guess. So the farmers started growing water-intensive crops such as rice and alfalfa. As far as I know this is still going on, so farmers are sucking up something like 85% of the water on crops that have no business being grown in CA.


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PostPosted: Jan 18, 2014 10:53 pm 
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As a 4th generation Californian, I have followed the water wars here for many years. Government created the water projects (both state and federal) that provide cheap water for big ag, which uses most of the water. The original intent of the federal project was to provide water to small farmers--there was an acreage limitation (~160 as I recall). (ellipsis wherein big business subverts the law) Cut to the present: almost all that water goes to very large corporate farms. And yes, water-intensive crops are grown in semi-desert, creating drains of toxic waste while starving the rivers and the fish that used to live there. It is true to say that government created the problem, if by government you mean the government bought and paid for by the main beneficiaries of government policies.

If we could in some way retrieve some of the water 'rights' which were, in effect, stolen from the people, there would be a lot more water for cities and rivers at the cost of some excess cotton and rice.


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PostPosted: Jan 18, 2014 11:59 pm 
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Unfortunately there is no technological fix for government stupidity. Is the agriculture lobby still that powerful even though the majority of the population now lives in large cities and works in non agriculture-related industries?


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PostPosted: Jan 19, 2014 1:30 am 
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Soviets had set up a fast reactor and desalination plant on Caspian shore in Kazakhstan. Some entrepreneur or DOE has to build a floating plant and offer power and water and one of the cities may accept.
Perhaps coastal military installations could be given such facilities and municipalities will ask for them when development costs have been recouped.


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