Expert Witness Report of Arnold Gundersen
Regarding Consumptive Water Use of the Susquehanna River by the Proposed PPL Bell Bend Nuclear Power Plant
Tue, Jan 5, 2010
Eric J. Epstein
Susquehanna River Basin Cimmission
January 5, 2010
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER BASIN COMMISSION
|In the matter of||)|
|RE: Bell Bend Nuclear Power Plant||)|
|Application for Groundwater Withdrawal||)|
|Application for Consumptive Use||)|
EXPERT WITNESS REPORT OF ARNOLD GUNDERSEN REGARDING
CONSUMPTIVE WATER USE OF THE SUSQUEHANNA RIVER BY THE
PROPOSED PPL BELL BEND NUCLEAR POWER PLANT
CONSUMPTIVE WATER USE OF THE SUSQUEHANNA RIVER BY THE
PROPOSED PPL BELL BEND NUCLEAR POWER PLANT
I, Arnold Gundersen, declare as follows:
|1.||My name is Arnold Gundersen. I am sui juris. I am over the age of 18-years-old.|
|2.||Eric J. Epstein, a resident of 4100 Hillsdale Road, Harrisburg, PA 17112, and a PPL
ratepayer and shareholder, has retained me as an expert witness. I have been asked
to examine what alternative methods may be available and could be applied by PPL
Bell Bend, LLC (“PPL” or “Applicant) for cooling the steam that is generated by the
proposed Bell Bend plant in lieu of withdrawing and discharging significant
quantities of water directly into the Susquehanna River. If any alternative methods
are available, I have also been asked to discuss those alternatives so that
the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) will have the information necessary
to complete its assessment.
|3.||I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Nuclear Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic
Institute (RPI) cum laude. I earned my Master’s Degree in Nuclear Engineering
from RPI via an Atomic Energy Commission Fellowship. Cooling tower operation
and cooling tower plume theory were my area of study for my Master’s Degree.
|4.||I began my career as a reactor operator and instructor in 1971 and progressed to the
position of Senior Vice President for a nuclear licensee prior to becoming a nuclear
engineering consultant and expert witness. My Curriculum Vitae is Attachment 1.
|5.||I have qualified as an expert witness before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
(NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) and Advisory Committee on
Reactor Safeguards (ACRS), in Federal Court, the State of Vermont Public Service
Board, the State of Vermont Environmental Court, and the Florida Public Service
|6.||I am an author of the first edition of the Department of Energy (DOE)
|7.||I have more than 38-years of professional nuclear experience including and not
limited to: Cooling Tower Operation, Cooling Tower Plumes, Consumptive Water
Loss, Nuclear Plant Operation, Nuclear Management, Nuclear Safety Assessments,
Reliability Engineering, In-service Inspection, Criticality Analysis, Licensing,
Engineering Management, Thermohydraulics, Radioactive Waste Processes,
Decommissioning, Waste Disposal, Structural Engineering Assessments, Nuclear
Fuel Rack Design and Manufacturing, Nuclear Equipment Design and
Manufacturing, Prudency Defense, Employee Awareness Programs, Public
Relations, Contract Administration, Technical Patents, Archival Storage and
Document Control, Source Term Reconstruction, Dose Assessment, Whistleblower
Protection, and NRC Regulations and Enforcement.
|8.||My declaration is intended to alert the Susquehanna River Basin Commission
(SRBC) to significant problems in consumptive water use of the Susquehanna River
if the proposed PPL Bell Bend nuclear plant is built as designed and allowed to use
the Susquehanna River as its primary resource for make-up water for cooling.
|9.||Specifically, PPL has filed an application to build a 1,600 MWe Evolutionary Power
Reactor (EPR) designed by AREVA named Bell Bend because of its location on the
Bell Bend of the Susquehanna River. In my professional opinion, the Bell Bend
Combined License Application (COLA), as filed with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory
Commission (NRC), has significant deficiencies in its analysis resulting in serious
unresolved issues with consumptive water use that will negatively impact the health
and vitality of the Susquehanna River Watershed and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
|10.||If completed, the proposed PPL Bell Bend nuclear power plant will be one of the
largest nuclear reactors in the world. Due to its sheer size and because it also has a
lower thermodynamic efficiency (discussed in detail below), Bell Bend will draw an
inordinately large amount of water from the Susquehanna River in order to cool the
reactor. The amount of water anticipated for use by the PPL proposed Bell Bend
nuclear power plant is detailed in a recent report written by Normandeau Associates,
paid for by PPL, and submitted to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.
|11.||In its November 2009 report, entitled, Instream Flow Study Plan To Assess The
Effects Of Consumptive Use Of Water On Fish Habitat At The Bell Bend Project,
Normandeau Associates said,
“November 2009 The Bell Bend Nuclear Power Plant (BBNPP) proposed by PPL is estimated to consumptively use up to 43 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 28 million gallons per day (mgd) of water from the Susquehanna River. Up to approximately 64 cfs or 41 mgd will be withdrawn from an intake located about 300 ft downstream of the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station (SSES) intake structure (Figure 1- 1). Water not consumed will be returned to the river via a submerged discharge diffuser approximately 680 ft downstream of the BBNPP intake. PPL has applied to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) for approval to withdraw water from the river at BBNPP and to use some of this water consumptively. In its application to SRBC, PPL has requested approval for consumptive use of up to 31 mgd as a measure of conservatism and to account for variability within the range of monitoring accuracy required by SRBC.”
|12.||As a result, the PPL proposed Bell Bend nuclear power plant will withdraw at least
15,000,000,000 (15 billion) gallons of water from the Susquehanna River every year.
|13.||Consequently, each year the 4,000,000,000 (4 billion) gallons of water that will be
returned to the river will have been heated and will contain additional chemical
contaminants discussed below.
|14.||The difference between what is withdrawn from and what is returned to the
Susquehanna River each year will be consumed by the PPL proposed Bell Bend
nuclear power plant, and as a result, this consumptive use of water amounts to
11,000,000,000 (11 billion) gallons per year.
|15.||The 11,000,000,000 (11 billion) gallons of water withdrawn each year from the
Susquehanna River will be emitted as water vapor from the proposed cooling towers.
|16.||It is hard to visualize exactly how much 11,000,000,000 (11 billion) gallons of
water per year would be. To put the consumed water into a visual perspective, the 11
billion gallons of water would fill the equivalent of 50-football fields 500-hundred
feet high with river water.
|17.||Subsequently, in addition to the environmental burden of 4 billion gallons of heated
and chemically contaminated water that will be dumped into the River each year, the
Susquehanna River Basin and the Chesapeake Bay will face an enormous yearly
consumption of Susquehanna River Water that will be withdrawn and never returned.
|18.||According to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission’s website, the mission of
“…is to enhance public welfare through comprehensive planning, water supply allocation, and management of the water resources of the Susquehanna River Basin. To accomplish this mission, the SRBC works to: reduce damages caused by floods; provide for the reasonable and sustained development and use of surface and ground water for municipal, agricultural, recreational, commercial and industrial purposes; protect and restore fisheries, wetlands and aquatic habitat; protect water quality and instream uses; and ensure future availability of flows to the Chesapeake Bay. The SRBC is uniquely qualified to carry out this mission. As a federal-interstate compact commission, its focus is defined by the natural boundaries of the river basin rather than the political boundaries of the member states. As such, the SRBC serves as a forum to provide coordinated management, promote communication among the members, and resolve water resource issues and controversies within the basin.”
|19.||Moreover, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission has joined with other
watershed commissions to form the Interstate Council on Water Policy and is a
Chesapeake Bay Partner Community “committed to protecting water quality, the
bay, and its many tributaries.”
|20.||Since the Susquehanna River currently provides half of the fresh water that enters
the Chesapeake Bay, I believe that the intended withdrawal each day of as much as
31,000,000 (31 million) gallons of the Susquehanna River’s flow by the proposed
PPL Bell Bend nuclear power plant will have a significant impact upon the
downstream ecology that is not adequately addressed in the current application or
appropriately reflected in the Susquehanna River Basin Commission’s fee structure.
|21.||Consumptive water use is defined as “any use that permanently removes water from
a watershed or a confined aquifer from which it is withdrawn by activities that result
in substantial evaporation and evapotranspiration.” Industrial cooling operations, like
those intended for the proposed PPL Bell Bend nuclear power plant, are some of the
activities that often result in substantial evaporation and evapotranspiration.
|22.||A nuclear power plant like the PPL proposed Bell Bend unit uses steam created from
water heated by the nuclear reactor to produce electricity. Any power plant, nuclear,
coal or oil, that uses steam to turn a turbine that then creates electricity like the
proposed PPL Bell Bend nuclear power plant will do is governed by the laws of
thermodynamics. Furthermore, according to the laws of thermodynamics, a physics rule
known as the Carnot cycle governs the maximum theoretical efficiency of these
steam-generated turbine power plants.
|23.||In lay terms, the Carnot cycle simply means that no power plant is theoretically
capable of converting one hundred percent of the heat it produces as steam into
electricity. The maximum efficiency of a power plant like the PPL proposed Bell
Bend Unit is capped by the difference between two key parameters: the high
temperature of the steam (heat source) and the low temperature of the heat sink. The
PPL Bell Bend nuclear power plant, like most current power plants located on rivers,
would use as its heat sink the process of water evaporation in its cooling tower via
water withdrawn from the Susquehanna River.
The Carnot Cycle
|24.||Whether a power plant operates with coal, oil, gas, or nuclear power as the PPL
proposed Bell Bend Unit does, each method heats water in order to create steam. In
turn the steam is used to turn a turbine and create electricity. By whatever method
the steam is created, that is called the “heat source”. After that steam turns the
turbine, it is cooled, condensed back into water and returned back to the boiler or
nuclear reactor from where was originally drawn.
|25.||This process of creating steam, turning a turbine, condensing the steam and
returning it to a boiler or nuclear reactor is called the Carnot cycle. In a Carnot cycle,
there must be a heat source to create the steam and a heat sink to cool the steam back
into water. The heat source may be oil, coal, wood, gas or nuclear fuel, and the heat
sink is always either water or air or a combination of both.
|26.||While all power plants may create heated steam through different heat sources,
every power plant condenses its steam in a device called a condenser. Even though
each condenser varies in shape and size, each condenser fulfills the same function:
that is, condensers take in steam from a heat source and condense it back to water.
This cooled steam now becomes water that is called condensate. After the cooled
steam becomes condensate, it is pumped back to the heat source to be heated again.
This repeating loop is called the steam cycle.
|27.||In order to turn steam back into condensate, condensers are compartmentalized to
separate the heated steam from the heat source with a physically separate second loop
that is called the heat sink. This second loop is filled with either water or air that is
the applied cooling mechanism. The heat that leaves a condenser and migrates to the
heat sink is called waste heat.
|28.||Nuclear plants are inherently less efficient than oil, natural gas, and coal fired
power plants because of the Carnot cycle. On a per megawatt basis, nuclear plants
also release more waste heat per megawatt than coal, oil, or natural gas fired power
plants. The hotter the heat source can be made, the higher the Carnot efficiency.
Since both coal and natural gas create higher temperatures by which to create steam
than nuclear plants, coal and natural gas plants have a higher Carnot efficiency.
|29.||Thus, for a nuclear power plant like the PPL proposed Bell Bend unit, more waste
heat will be released because it is more inherently less efficient than either coal or
|30.||Additionally, because the PPL proposed Bell Bend nuclear power plant would be
the largest size nuclear power plant yet constructed, its sheer size will also increase
the waste heat sent to the heat sink.
Various Types of Heat Sinks
|31.||When water is plentiful at nuclear power plants in ocean locations, the steam is
passed on the outside of the tubes within the condenser while ocean water passes
through the inside of tubes on the other side of the condenser. This is called once
through cooling and the ocean is quite literally the heat sink. The advantage of once
through cooling is that it makes the nuclear power plants rather inexpensive to build
and operate in comparison to other nuclear power plants that do not have access to
such an abundant and infinite water supply. Once through cooling of the condenser
has become increasingly rare because the methodology of using ocean or river water
to cool the condenser makes the river or ocean too warm thereby killing various
aquatic organisms and negatively impacting the ecosystem.
|32.||River flow is limited and power plant output and heat sink demand has increased
dramatically with these much larger reactors, so once through cooling is rarely used
in inland locations. Due to its large size and inherently inefficient cooling
methodology, the proposed PPL Bell Bend nuclear power plant cannot use the
Susquehanna River for once through cooling of its condenser. If constructed, the
proposed Bell Bend nuclear plant will send all of its waste heat into the air via some
type of cooling tower, because the river flow is simply too low to support the
consideration of using a once through condenser.
|33.||Therefore, some form of cooling tower must be relied upon to help cool the steam
inside the condenser at the PPL proposed Bell Bend nuclear power plant. There are
three types of cooling tower designs currently in use by the power generation
|33.1.||The first cooling tower design is the large hyperbolic, natural draft cooling
tower, which has come to symbolize most nuclear power plants. The shape of
these hyperbolic cooling towers creates lift in the air and naturally pulls the air
across water that is falling inside them.
|33.1.1.||Some of this water that is withdrawn from a river evaporates causing
large vapor clouds to exit from the top of the cooling tower.
|33.1.2.||The remaining water is then circulated back through the condenser
where it again absorbs heat from the heat source.
|33.1.3.||A side effect of the process of evaporating water and heating the air is
that natural draft cooling towers also concentrate any impurities that are in
the river water, basically making that water dirtier.
|33.1.4.||Additionally, these hyperbolic towers create large plumes of water
vapor leaving the top of the tower that have adverse visual and
|33.2.||Mechanical-draft cooling towers cool countless other power plants around the
country, including many nuclear power plants. In this application short squat
towers are used instead of the large hyperbolic tower, which does not have fans.
|33.2.1.||Since these short squat towers cannot rely upon the natural shape of the
hyperbolic tower to cool the water, large fans are placed above these
cooling towers so that the fans actually pull air through each cell.
|33.2.2.||These mechanical-draft cooling towers are also called forced draft
cooling towers and are a modular design with a lower visual profile.
|33.2.3.||These forced draft cooling towers also withdraw water from a river and
release plumes of water vapor out the top and also concentrate
contaminants in the remaining water as did their hyperbolic cooling tower
|33.2.4.||While they cost less to build than hyperbolic towers, they have an added
operational expense because electricity is required to operate the fans.
|33.3.||The third design for power generation cooling towers does not use any river
water to cool the power plant. This design is called dry cooling and requires a
different condenser design than that presently designed for PPL proposed Bell
Bend nuclear power plant.
|33.3.1.||Instead of applying water to cool the steam and then cooling that water
with either river water or a combination of fans and river water as in a wet
cooling tower, this design cools the steam directly with air and utilizes no
|33.3.2.||This design is called an air-cooled condenser. These air-cooled
condensers are short and squat, thereby resembling the forced air towers
discussed in the previous section.
|34.||Because both the hyperbolic tower and the forced draft tower evaporate water, as
discussed in detail in the previous section, some river water must still be used to cool
the power plant. Make-up water is the term used to describe the water used to replace
the evaporated water.
|35.||All hyperbolic or forced-air cooling towers also create dirty water called blowdown
water that is returned back to the river with contaminants concentrated within it.
Make-up water is also used to replace blowdown water.
|36.||The dirty water released from the cooling towers back into the Susquehanna River
as blowdown will be approximately 25% of the amount of water that is withdrawn.
For every four gallons the plant withdraws, it sends back one gallon of blowdown.
The blowdown is a pollutant for three reasons:
|36.1.||Three out of every four gallons of withdrawn evaporate water (consumptive
use water) that will be initially drawn from the Susquehanna River will be
returned to the river as blowdown with four times more concentration of
pollutants and minerals than when that water was withdrawn.
|36.2.||In addition to concentrating contaminants and minerals that already existed in
the river, the blowdown contains biocides and algaecides used within the cooling
towers to prevent them from becoming clogged with mold and mildew.
|36.3.||Along with chemical contamination and highly concentrated minerals, the
dirty blowdown water will be approximately 20 degrees hotter than the river
water to which it is being returned.
|37.||The PPL proposed Bell Bend nuclear power plant will use about 1% of the flow in
the Susquehanna River for its make-up water due to evaporation.
|38.||Whereas, in an air-cooled condenser design, the steam that leaves the turbine passes
directly to a dry cooling tower thus using no river water. The air-cooled condenser
sits at the base of a dry cooling tower.
|38.1.||This design has the unique advantage of not having a secondary loop of
additional river water required to cool the steam.
|38.2.||In the air-cooled condenser design, steam heat from the power plant passes
through a tube directly into the air.
|38.3.||Also, in the air-cooled condenser design, steam is directly condensed by the
air and then sent back into the power plant.
|38.4.||No intermediate river water is ever used in the air-cooled condenser design.|
|39.||Dry cooling and an air-cooled condenser have several key advantages:|
|39.1.||The first advantage of dry cooling and an air-cooled condenser is that there is
no consumption of river water.
|39.2.||The second advantage is that without dirty water (or blow down) being sent
back into the river, contamination to the river is lessened.
|39.3.||The third advantage is that there is no cloud of hot moist air leaving the
tower, so these towers never produce a cloud of water vapor that has so many
additional negative meteorological, environmental, and esthetic impacts.
|40.||While the air-cooled condenser design would offer many significant advantages for
the proposed PPL Bell Bend environment and the overall health of the Susquehanna
and Chesapeake watershed areas, these air-cooled designs do have two disadvantages
|40.1.||The first drawback to the air-cooled design is that this design lowers the
efficiency of the power plant slightly by increasing the backpressure on the
turbine thus providing less electricity to generate and less income for the power
plant owner. However, for most of the year, when temperatures are lower than
70 degrees, the efficiency of the air-cooled design is quite comparable to other
|40.2.||The second disadvantage of the air-cooled design is that, because it is less
effective at removing the heat from steam than wet evaporative cooling, the air-
cooled towers are more expensive to operate than either the hyperbolic or forced
|41.||While installing an air-cooled condenser is slightly more expensive than the approach
chosen by PPL to use on the Bell Bend project, air cooled condensers would
completely eliminate the significant problem of consumptive water use of the
Susquehanna River. If PPL equipped its proposed Bell Bend project with air-cooled
condensers, then the Susquehanna River Watershed area would not be facing the
negative environmental burden of the Bell Bend nuclear power plant’s evaporative
|41.1.||A withdrawal of 31 million gallons per day of water of make-up water being
drawn from the Susquehanna River to cool plant, or
|41.2.||Any dirty water (blowdown water) being returned to the Susquehanna River.|
Detailed Discussion of Air Cooled Condensers
|42.||Air-cooled condensers consist of a modular design, are pre-built, and then are
delivered to the site in individual modules. The air-cooled condenser design is even
simpler than the current PPL proposed design for the Bell Bend unit.
|43.||In my review of the PPL design for its Bell Bend cooling towers, the evidence
shows that the overall layout of the main steam and condensate system can in fact
accommodate an air-cooled condenser. Furthermore, the only limitation an air-cooled
condenser may place upon the proposed PPL Bell Bend nuclear power plant is that
backpressure on the steam turbine may change slightly as a result of using an aircooled
|43.1.||A slightly different turbine design will also be required to accommodate an
air-cooled condenser due to the slight backpressure considerations with a dry
cooling system. The additional cost of this turbine redesign and the backpressure
considerations are nominal, especially when compared to the overall cost of the
unit and the environmental costs of withdrawing 31 million gallons of water out
of the river daily.
|43.2.||Additionally, the efficiency of the proposed PPL Bell Bend Project will be
reduced by no more than 1% from the slightly higher backpressure due to the use
of an air-cooled condenser.
|43.3.||Moreover, with the air-cooled dry towers, when the ambient air temperatures
are 70° or less there will be almost no difference in the electric output of the PPL
proposed Bell Bend nuclear power plant as compared with the PPL currently
designed evaporative towers.
|43.4.||At present, in the PPL proposed Bell Bend design, the turbine hall has a very
large space underneath the turbine reserved for the intended water-cooled
condenser. Therefore, removing the very large water-cooled condenser will
provide more than enough space for steam lines to exit from the bottom of the
turbine to an air-cooled condenser, seemingly without any additional major
|44.||While the Bell Bend design would have to be slightly modified to incorporate an
air-cooled condenser, since no components have yet been bought, fabricated, or
installed, the redesign cost to accommodate an air-cooled condenser is nominal in
comparison to the overall cost of the project and compared to the significant and
long-term environmental costs of using evaporative cooling towers to withdraw 15
billion gallons of water from the Susquehanna River every year.
|45.||Moreover, changing to an air-cooled condenser and air-cooled towers will not
impact any aspect of the nuclear design that has already been approved by the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
|46.||There are dozens of coal and natural gas-fired plants in the U.S. that use air-cooled
condensers, and abundant examples of air-cooled condenser applications of similar or
larger sized power plants worldwide.
|46.1.||For example, the largest air-cooled plant in the U.S. is the 1,650 MW
Midlothian Energy natural gas combined cycle plant near Dallas, Texas, and the
largest coal-fired air-cooled plant in the U.S. is the 330 MW Wyodak plant in
|46.2.||Worldwide, the largest air-cooled coal-fired plant in the world is the 4,000
MW Matimba power plant in South Africa.
Water Supply and Potential for Drought
|47.||In addition to water quality and consumptive water use, the Susquehanna River
Watershed could be compromised due to drought. According to SRBC’s
comprehensive plan, SRBC is responsible for:
|47.1.||Supporting and encouraging “the sustainable use of water for domestic,
industrial, municipal, commercial, agricultural, and recreational activities in the
basin” by an inventory of available water resources.
|47.2.||Maintaining “an equitable system for allocating water for various uses,
including the protection of instream flows and receiving waters of the
|47.3.||Ensuring “sustainability of water sources by improving systems and
managing water resources more efficiently”.
|47.4.||Mitigating “drought impacts through coordination and use of drought
|48.||If PPL used air-cooled condensers at its proposed Bell Bend nuclear power plant,
no water would be drawn from the Susquehanna River.
|48.1.||My review of the evidence provided shows that PPL may not have considered
the potential for a drought that would compromise the availability of
Susquehanna River water in its engineering design of the 1600 MWe Bell Bend
|48.2.||A modest but illustrious example of the magnitude of water used at nuclear
power plant is readily evidenced at the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station
(SSES), which is a two-unit nuclear power plant located on the Susquehanna
River very near to the location of the proposed Bell Bend nuclear power plant.
|48.2.1.||Every day SSES loses 14.93 million gallons of water as evaporative
cooling tower water vapor from each of its two units.
|48.2.2.||Each day 11 million gallons of contaminated cooling tower basin
blowdown water is returned to the Susquehanna River.
|48.2.3.||At the present time, SSES takes on average 29.86 million gallons of water
per day from the Susquehanna River that is not returned. However,
according to the NRC, once the Extended Power Uprate is fully
implemented at the SSES, the plants will withdraw more than double the
amount of water, with an upper limit of 65.4 million gallons per day, totaling
almost 24 billion gallons of Susquehanna River Water per year.
“…will withdraw an average of 60.9 gallons per day (mgd) (230 million L/d) of water from the Susquehanna River for cooling tower evaporative losses and other plant needs, with a maximum daily water withdraw estimate of 65.4 mgd (248 million L/d). This represents a 4.5 and 12.2 percent increase, respectively, in intake water withdrawn from the Susquehanna River from the pre-EPU conditions (NRC 2007a). Some of this water would be returned to the river as cooling tower blowdown, with the difference equaling the amount of the consumptive water use by SSES. Consumptive water use due to evaporation and drift of cooling water through the SSES cooling towers is expected to increase from 38 mgd (144 million L/d) to 44 mgd (166 million L/d). Based on the Susquehanna River’s annual mean flow rate, an average annual loss of 0.5 percent of river water at the SSES location would result. During low-flow conditions, which usually occur in late August, the average evaporative loss at SSES could approach 1 percent of the river flow (PPL 2006b).”
|48.2.4.||As currently designed, the proposed single unit Bell Bend station would
withdraw an additional 31,000,000 (31 million) gallons per day.
|49.||According to the U.S. Geological Survey,
“…changes in evaporation and transpiration during a drought depend on the availability of moisture at the onset of a drought and the severity and duration of a drought. Also, weather conditions during a drought commonly include below-normal cloud cover and humidity and above-normal wind speed. These factors will increase the rate of evaporation from open bodies of water and from the soil surface, if soil moisture is available.” [Emphasis Added] http://geochange.er.usgs.gov/sw/changes/natural/et/
|50.||One of the considerations for review is plant reliability, and the potential for
drought would reduce the reliability of the plant during the middle of the summer
exactly at the time the area’s need is greatest.
|50.1.||Droughts on the Susquehanna are not merely a theoretical consideration.
According to the SRBC Drought Management Information Sheet, droughts and
low-water flow but have occurred quite recently, with droughts occurring every
decade except the 1970s.
“Like floods, the magnitude of drought events can be categorized based on historical frequency, i.e., 5-year droughts, 10-year droughts, 50-year droughts, etc. (The higher numbers indicate more severe, and less frequent, droughts.) Droughts can affect the entire basin or cause localized water shortages.
Since the beginning of the 1900s, the basin has experienced droughts in every decade except the 1970s. The worst droughts occurred in 1930, 1939 and 1964. During the 1990s through mid-2000s, periodic low flows throughout the basin or in regions resulted in frequent droughts, including in 1991, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2006.”
|50.1.1.||The 4,500 businesses in the Susquehanna River Basin employ 230,537
people, add $6.8 Billion (Dollars) to the region’s economy, and depend upon
the water from the Susquehanna River.
|50.1.2.||Water shortages on the Lower Susquehanna reached critical levels during
the summer of 2002, but during the 2002 drought, the Susquehanna Steam
Electric Station’s (SSES) two nuclear power plants were in fact exempted
from water conservation efforts in order to meet the Region’s demand for
|50.1.3.||During the month of August 2002, 66 of 67 Pennsylvania counties had
below normal precipitation levels, while the Susquehanna Steam Electric
Station’s nuclear plants did not take any measures or precautions to
|50.1.4.||The Bell Bend unit proposed by PPL would withdraw an additional
31,000,000 (31 million) gallons per day from the river obviously
exacerbating a frequent drought situation in one of the nation’s most critical
watershed areas already facing many added usage burdens at the same time
it is attempting to heal an environmentally challenged and fragile ecosystem.
|51.||The June 2009 issue of Power Magazine featured an article entitled Air Cooled
Condensers Eliminate Plant Water Use in which author William Wurtz said,
“The pragmatic developer may also select dry cooling early in a project because it increases plant siting options and its use can significantly accelerate approval of construction permits because water use issues are taken off the table. Shortening a project schedule by even six months can completely change the economics of a project and easily balance the increased capital cost of dry cooling options.
Dry cooling applications in the U.S. have not been limited to arid regions but have also been specified for plants sited in eastern, northern, and mountain areas where water is typically more abundant…”
|52.||The evaporative cooling tower approach planned for Bell Bend and for which PPL
has applied is a less costly construction alternative. Moreover, by applying SRBC’S
current rate structure for water withdrawal, PPL has a financial incentive to use the
low cost Susquehanna River water at the proposed Bell Bend unit rather than
designing more environmentally compatible alternative.
|53.||If the full financial cost accounting of the environmental impact of extracting 20
million gallons per day of water from the Susquehanna River were applied to the PPL
Bell Bend project, it is doubtful that the construction design for the PPL Bell Bend
project would include evaporative cooling towers that feature large consumptive
water losses. Realistic environmental cost accounting applied through a more
stringent consumptive water use fee schedule would make the air-cooled condenser
design a financially desirable alternative.
The Cost of Water
|54.||Presently, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission sets the rate schedule for
water withdrawal from the Susquehanna River. A new schedule of fees was adopted
December 17, 2009.
|55.||According to the newly instituted Application Fee Schedule in effect beginning
January 1, 2010 through December 31, 2010:
|55.1.||PPL would be charged an application fee of $28,650 for up to ten million
gallons per day plus $4,875 for every million gallons per day additional usage
beyond that withdrawal rate. Because of its enormous withdrawal rates and the
low application fee structure, the PPL proposed Bell Bend project will be
charged an application fee of less than 3 tenths of one cent (3/10 of 1¢) per
gallon for Bell Bend.
|55.2.||In comparison, smaller users will be charged $4,400 to apply for water
withdrawal of 100,000 gallons per day. On a per gallon basis, smaller users will
be charged an application fee of more than 4 cents (4¢) per gallon.
|55.3.||Thus, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission plans to charge small users
10 times more per gallon to apply for withdrawal from the Susquehanna River
than it plans to charge PPL its proposed Bell Bend project.
|55.4.||The environmental impact of a 100,000 (100 Thousand) gallon per day
withdrawal pales in comparison to a 31,000,000 (31 million) gallon per day
withdrawal proposed by PPL it its COLA for Bell Bend.
|55.5.||The data reviewed shows that the consumptive water use intended by the PPL
proposed Bell Bend project may require significant additional environmental
review. The new SRBC fee schedule appears to erroneously encourage the
consumptive water use of 31,000,000 (31 million) gallons per day proposed by
PPL. Therefore, other users of the river water are effectively subsidizing the PPL
Bell Bend application.
|56.||Furthermore, according to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission’s new fee
schedule, all users will be charged the same “Consumptive Use Mitigation Fee $0.28
for every 1,000 gallons consumed”. The same fee is assessed to users drawing 100
times less water than the PPL proposed Bell Bend project is anticipated to withdraw.
Therefore the “Consumptive Use Mitigation Fee” of $0.28, rewards large-scale users
thereby encouraging large-scale use and its resulting negative environmental impact
upon the River. Moreover, if Bell Bend were allowed to withdraw 31,000,000 (31
million) gallons of water under this fee schedule, then hundreds of other small water
users will be precluded water use and access to water rights for the anticipated 60-
year life of the PPL proposed Bell Bend nuclear power plant.
|57.||By choosing low fees for water withdrawal, the Susquehanna River Basin
Commission appears to subsidize the consumptive water use anticipated by the PPL
Bell Bend project. In turn, this subsidy reduces available water to downstream
communities and increases the down stream pressures on the Susquehanna River and
the Chesapeake Bay.
|58.||Before a Joint Meeting of the Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee
and the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee on September 20, 2005,
Kathleen A. McGinty, Pennsylvania’s former Secretary of the Department of
Environmental Protection, submitted testimony entitled Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake
Bay Tributary Strategy. Secretary McGinty said,
“…a court order directed the federal agency to take action to restore the Chesapeake. Mandatory directives from EPA will come to Pennsylvania and other Bay states in 2010 if sufficient measures are not in place by then to restore water quality in the Bay and its tributaries.
More than half of our Commonwealth is within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, with the Susquehanna River, the Bay’s largest tributary, providing roughly half of the total freshwater flow…
Pennsylvania is working with communities, watershed groups, farmers and businesses to develop new tools and put practical solutions on the ground to improve the quality of our waterways. It is imperative that we work aggressively to clean up what is one of our Commonwealth’s greatest natural resources. It is true that the work we do at home ultimately serves to help the Bay. But our efforts are about making sure the water in Pennsylvania is safe to drink, healthy enough to sustain aquatic life and abundant in supply to sustain our economy.”
|59.||Reiterating what the Secretary stated, an “abundant supply” of water is important to
“sustain our economy”. Yet as proposed, the PPL Bell Bend project reduces the
River’s flow at the same time it introduces more contaminated water back into the
Susquehanna River. The PPL intended intensive consumptive water use at Bell Bend
and its resulting reduction in water flow in the Susquehanna River seems
counterproductive to the goals stated by the Pennsylvania’s Secretary of the
Department of Environmental Protection, especially when an air-cooled condenser
design is available for substitution.
|60.||Since the Susquehanna River provides half of the fresh water that enters the
Chesapeake Bay, the withdrawal of 31,000,000 gallons per day of the River’s flow
will have a significant impact on the down stream ecology that is not reflected in the
SRBC fee structure.
|61.||The PPL proposed withdrawal of fresh water from the river, while also reintroducing
concentrated contaminants back into the river, has the net effect of concentrating the
pollutants that move downstream into Chesapeake Bay. Achieving Secretary
McGinty’s goal “to restore water quality in the Bay and its tributaries” will be nearly
impossible if PPL is allowed to have the Bell Bend nuclear plant withdraw such a
significant portion of river flow while providing almost no financial remuneration to
the SRBC for the use of that water and remediation of the Susquehanna River. A
realistic financial cost accounting of the environmental impact of the PPL Bell Bend
project upon the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay Watersheds may help to
ascertain how much money will be required to remediate the River.
|62.||In my opinion, the present design of the PPL Bell Bend nuclear power plant that calls
for the withdrawal of huge amounts of water from the Susquehanna will exacerbate
downstream problems in the Chesapeake Bay. The problem of such water intensive
use would be entirely mitigated by the installation of an air-cooled condenser and aircooled
cooling towers prior to construction.
|63.||First, if the Susquehanna’s flow is used by the PPL proposed Bell Bend nuclear
power plant, more significant economic opportunities may be lost. The enormous
consumptive water use of the PPL proposed Bell Bend project would limit
Pennsylvania’s ability to pursue other economic opportunities in the future.
Specifically, there may be a need to use river water to extract natural gas in the
Marcellus Shale deposits. The extraction and sale of natural gas from the Marcellus
Shale will provide significant economic advantages in the form of revenue and
employment, but only if adequate river water is available. The Bell Bend COL
application will significantly reduce the amount of river water available for any
|64.||Second, I have identified three additional problems with the PPL proposed Bell Bend
application to withdraw large amounts of water from the Susquehanna River.
|65.||All of these problems would be completely eliminated by the installation of aircooled
condensers on by PPL before construction begins on its proposed Bell Bend
project. These air-cooled condensers are already in use in the electric industry but
cannot be retrofitted for use at Bell Bend after the plant has begun construction.
|66.||The most likely reason that PPL is proposing such a large withdrawal of water from
the Susquehanna River for its Bell Bend nuclear power plant is that the SRBC present
fee structure is so low that PPL has no motivation to address the long-term economic
and environmental damage that would be mitigated by the installation of air-cooled
condensers at Bell Bend.
|67.||In conclusion, air-cooled condensers could be successfully integrated into the PPL
Bell Bend project design and the use of such air-cooled condensers would completely
eliminate the need for the PPL Bell Bend nuclear power plants to have such a
projected massive consumptive water use from the Susquehanna River.
|68.||However, the proposal presently in front of the Susquehanna Basin River
Commission never discusses this viable alternative. Moreover, it is critical that the
substitution of an air-cooled condenser and air-cooled cooling towers receive
adequate analysis now, prior to final design and preliminary construction, as it is
impossible to adapt the plant to the use of air-cooled condensers after the construction
process is initiated.
|69.||Finally, the Draft fee schedule as presently proposed by the Susquehanna River
Basin Commission subsidizes huge consumptive water use at great risk to the
Susquehanna River Watershed and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. These two vital
watershed communities are already challenged by frequently occurring drought
conditions as well as the negative environmental impact of dirty water (blowdown) on
the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay fragile aquatic ecosystems.
- Combined license (COL)
By issuing a combined license (COL), the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) authorizes the
licensee to construct and (with specified conditions) operate a nuclear power plant at a specific site, in
accordance with established laws and regulations. A COL is valid for 40 years from the date of the
Commission finding, under Title 10, Section 52.103 (g), of the Code of Federal Regulations
[10 CFR 52.103(g)], that the acceptance criteria in the combined license are met. A COL can be renewed
for an additional 20 years.
In a COL application [COLA], the NRC staff reviews the applicant's qualifications, design safety,
environmental impacts, operational programs, site safety, and verification of construction with ITAAC.
The staff conducts its review in accordance with the Atomic Energy Act, NRC regulations, and the
National Environmental Policy Act. All stakeholders (including the public) are given notice as to how and
when they may participate in the regulatory process, which may include participating in public meetings
and opportunities to request a hearing on the issuance of a COL http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/newreactors/
- Page 1, Instream Flow Study Plan To Assess The Effects Of Consumptive Use Of Water On Fish Habitat
At The Bell Bend Project, November 2009
- Carnot cycle – the most efficient thermal cycle possible, consisting of four reversible processes, two
isothermal and two adiabatic. Jones and Childers Glossary,
- US NRC, Environmental Impacts of Operation, Draft NUREG-1437, Supplement 35, 4-15, April
- SRBC Drought Management Information Sheet,
- Economic Value of Water Resources: Direct Water-Dependent Businesses in the Susquehanna Basin,
Susquehanna River Basin Commission, Revised: November 2006.