Assignment 1: Less Wastewater-Fracking or Nuclear?

Intro: Energy production in America has some of the greatest impact on the environment. While the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere and the resulting issue of global warming are obvious contentions, another major issue is the sheer amount of water that needs to be used to produce energy. Two major sources of power production in the U.S. require massive amounts of water: fracking and nuclear. The result of both of these processes is the same as well, with millions of gallons of wastewater being created in the process. The question is, which process wastes more water?

Calculation: I hope to calculate the amount of water utilized in both the process of fracking and nuclear power plants, and then the amount of that water that cannot be reused for another purpose, or wastewater.

  1. Entrekin, Sally. “Rapid Expansion of Natural Gas Development Poses a Threat to Surface Waters – Entrekin – 2011 – Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment – Wiley Online Library.” Rapid Expansion of Natural Gas Development Poses a Threat to Surface Waters – Entrekin – 2011 – Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment – Wiley Online Library. The Ecological Society of America, 6 Oct. 2011. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. <http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1890/110053/full>.

This article first explains how the fracking process works. It then delves into water contamination from fracking, especially the surrounding surface and ground water. Scholarly journal entry.

  1. “Explore Shale. Marcellus Shale Development, Geology and Water.” org. Penn State Public Broadcasting, 2016. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. <http://exploreshale.org/>.

This website is a project run by Penn State. Its aims are to educate the public on what fracking is and how it works. It also explains how much water in used in fracking, as well as risks to other sources of water.

  1. “Quick Facts on Nuclear Power and Water Use.” Nuclear Power and Water 117.10 (2011): 148-49. Ucsusa.org. Union of Concerned Scientists, Dec. 2011. Web. 29 Jan. 2016. <http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/nuclear_power/fact-sheet-water-use.pdf>.

This article details the amount of water used daily by nuclear power plants. The source is a science journal that is concerned about environmental damage caused by energy production.

Conclusion: Both processes have their perks. Natural gas produced by fracking releases far less carbon into the air than coal or oil. Nuclear power plants, in turn, are as clean as solar, wind, and hydroelectric plants. Despite the positives in terms of protecting the atmosphere, both sides of this issue require massive quantities of water, thus resulting in similarly large amounts of wastewater. These issues should be seriously considered by state governments before allowing the construction of new nuclear power plants or the fracking of new wells.

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