We are well aware of the benefits of recycling. The process allows us to help preserve resources and protect our planet. But did you know that a nuclear plant recycles so much wastewater per minute?
The Palo Verde Nuclear Plant in Arizona is the only power plant built far from any body of water. Its reactors need 20,000 gallons of water per minute to cool it down, using only wastewater from nearby cities.
The Palo Verde Nuclear Plant
The Palo Verde Generating Station (PVGS) is considered the most significant nuclear energy facility. It was built in Wintersburg, Arizona, around fifty miles outside Phoenix. The PVGS can produce 3,739 megawatts of power coming from three 1,270 megawatt units.
The nuclear plant is able to generate power for approximately 4 million homes and is powered by uranium-fueled, steam-electricity using a pressurized water reactor. Construction for the PVGS began in 1976, and after ten years, the first power generating unit went online. In 1988, all units were online. (Source: San Diego Union Tribune)
The plant supplies power to Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas. It has been recognized as among the best for safety and reliability by the Institute of Nuclear Operations and the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It is also the provider of 70% of the state’s clean energy as it does not emit any carbon nor produce any air pollutants.
To date, the plant has been able to offset 484 million metric tons of carbon dioxide since it runs on nuclear energy. It was also able to offset 253,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and 618,000 tons of nitrogen oxide. All of the nuclear waste the plant created in its years of operation is stored on-site. Waste is stored in cement and steel containers. These containers are stored in an area about as big as a football field.
The plant spans over 4,000 acres of land. This includes housing for thousands of employees. Reactors are shut down every eighteen months to be refueled and undergo preventive maintenance. The process takes about three months, and approximately 3,000 employees work on it.
A third of the plant’s employees are veterans, with Chief Nuclear Officer Robert Bement, a US Navy veteran. The complex has its fire department and has stringent safety and security measures.
As one of the country’s biggest power generators, the PVGS provides an annual economic impact of more than $2 billion to Arizona, with almost $55 million being paid to property taxes. The plant also provides additional employment opportunities for those in the state during maintenance shutdowns. It employs 800 to 1,000 temporary employees during this time. (Source: AZ Big Media)
Where Does Palo Verde Get Water?
With three nuclear power generators functioning 24 hours a day and combining it with the desert heat, the PVGS needs a lot of water in its daily operations. The nuclear fission process creates extreme heat, and since this process is underwater, the intense heat creates a heavy mass of vapor. This vapor, in turn, activates the turbines that generate electricity.
The PVGS is nowhere near any body of water that it can use for this process. However, the engineers designed a system where the plant can utilize treated wastewater from Phoenix’s 91st avenue wastewater treatment facility and the Tolleson facility.
The wastewater travels approximately 36 miles of pipelines from the facilities to the plant. It was recorded that the plant uses about 80 million gallons of water to generate power during a typical hot day in summer. People use more electricity due to the heat. (Source: Tucson)