Freshwater for Cooling Needs: A Long-Run Approach to the Nuclear Water Footprint in Spain
From the invention of the steam engine to the present, water has represented a significant input to the energy system, although this has been mostly ignored in the literature. In Spain, the most arid country in Europe, studies about water footprint typically just consider domestic, agricultural and industrial water uses, but water requirements for the electricity sector are omitted despite our dependence on thermal power. It has been demonstrated that for each available cooling technology, nuclear needs and consumption of water tend to be larger per MWh generated. We calculate a first approximation to the Spanish nuclear water footprint from 1969 to 2014. Our results show that while water consumed by Spanish nuclear power plants are around 3 m3 per capita/year, water withdrawals per capita/year are around 70 m3. Moreover, our analysis allows extracting conclusions focusing on a River Basins approach. What is the water impact of our nuclear power plants? Will water limit our energy future? These are some of the issues at stake.
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