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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International

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Publication Date

Winter 1972




Boston College




As the rate of electricity generation increases, and as more nuclear power plants-in contrast to fossil fuel and hydro-electric facilities-are built to meet power needs, the use of cooling water and its subsequent discharge in heated states into the environment is expected to rise to massive levels. Estimates of future cooling water use vary and are subject to technical and economic developments, but by 1990, between 640 and 850 billion gallons per day are expected to be required. This range of water use can be roughly equated to one-half to three fourths of the average daily run-off of fresh water in the United States.' Alternatively, it has been estimated that "50% of the nation's water will be affected by the year 2000 if once-through cooling continues." 2

Discharge of heated water by the once-through process creates local thermal problems for the receiving lakes, rivers and coastal waters. Alternatively, the use of cooling towers or ponds brings about the loss of effluent heat to the air, but it has been said that "local thermal air pollution is and will continue to be of little concern because of natural convection in the atmosphere."' However, the aggregated impact of thermal air pollution on specific metropolitan areas and ultimately on the global environment, may become an environmental problem, over time.

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