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Cooling towers.

On page 20 of the April 30 "Nuclear Energy" issue is a picture of a coal-fired power plant showing a huge pair of dark plumes emanating from the plant in a sunlit backdrop.

The left plume emanating from the smokestack is a valid cloud of flying ashes that pollute the atmosphere. However, the larger plume shown in the center of the picture is condensed water vapor emanating into a humid atmosphere from the water-cascade-cooled cooling towers. This water vapor does not pollute the atmosphere. It only humidifies the atmosphere.

Cooling towers are needed to condense the steam exhaust exiting from the steam turbines after the superheated steam has done its work in the turbines. The condensed steam exhaust is in the form of hot water that is subsequently reheated by the coal-fired boiler to superheated steam. The condensed steam exhaust creates a vacuum at the exhaust end of the turbine, while the superheated steam creates pressure at the inlet side of the turbine. This is necessary for the turbine to do the mechanical work that is needed to spin the electric alternators.

Even in atomic power plants the same steam cycle is needed, and the cooling towers are needed. Hence, in humid weather, if water-cascade-cooled cooling towers were used for an atomic power plant, the same kind of water vapor cloud would emanate into the atmosphere.

If the cooling towers were air-cooled with giant fans, no water vapor would emanate into the atmosphere, for either coal-power plants or atomic-power plants.

My point is that the plume emanating from the cooling towers in the picture exaggerates the perception of pollution and therefore tends to fool the reader into thinking that the already bad pollution of coal power is much worse than it is.


Las Vegas, Nevada
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Author:Pelteson, Frank M.
Publication:The New American
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Jun 11, 2007
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