April 18, 2006

Calif. panel advises no cooling seawater at new plants

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California's State Lands Commission
on Monday passed an advisory resolution saying that new power
plant leases must not use seawater as a coolant or meet strict
standards regarding seawater's use.

The commission's resolution, while not binding, hints that
the state may be on the way to abolishing seawater to cool
coastal power plants.

About 39 percent of the power generation capacity in
California is from the 23 power plants that are cooled in a
"once-through" process using seawater that is dumped back into
the Pacific Ocean, bays and estuaries. And about 23 percent of
the electricity used in California is produced by these seaside

The warm water put back in the ocean retards the growth of
kelp and eelgrass, which are both essential to sea life near
shore. Also, fish are ingested to the plants where many are
killed, according to the resolution passed on Monday.

The practice of "once-through" cooling of power plants
represents "the single greatest and unaddressed environmental
issue associated with power plant operation in the state," Jim
McKinney, an environmental policy specialist for the California
Energy Commission, told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Both nuclear and gas-fired power plants on the coast use
once-through cooling systems.

On Thursday, the California Ocean Protection Council, which
advises Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, will discuss if the council
should take a stand on once-through power plant cooling.

The five-member Ocean Protection Council was created in
2004 by the California legislature and Schwarzenegger to
coordinate ocean policies for the state.

It's possible that one day California will have a law that
would require that power plants prove that almost all of the
fish now being killed during the once-through process are
saved, said Paul Thayer, spokesman for the State Lands

But before any law or rule is enacted, it must go before
various regional and state boards such as the California State
Water Board and perhaps the legislature and governor's office.

California power plants run about 17 billion gallons of
seawater through their cooling systems, the State Lands
Commission said in its resolution.