Attention, Cities: You Can Sell Your Excess Wastewater to Nuclear Power Plants

Palo Verde Nuclear plant

The problem: Five Arizona cities–Phoenix, Mesa, Glendale, Scottsdale, and Tempe–are facing severe cash shortages. The solution: selling billions of gallons of wastewater to the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in a move that will bring $1 billion to city coffers over a 40 year period. It’s a unique use for treated wastewater, which is often used in landscaping and on golf courses. Palo Verde is the first nuclear plant ever to use reclaimed wastewater for cooling.

AZCentral explains some of the benefits:

For Palo Verde, which produces more power than any other U.S. power plant, the deal cements access to a predictable water supply through the plant’s expected life span. Predictability is critical in the long-term management of a power plant, which uses water to cool the system, and eases the pain of the higher rates, utility officials said.

So why don’t more power plants use reclaimed wastewater? The majority of nuclear plants are located near oceans and rivers that provide easy access to water. Palo Verde, on the other hand, is located in the middle of the desert outside Phoenix. So instead of stealing drinking water from desert denizens, Palo Verde opted to use wastewater. It’s the greenest move possible, but it isn’t cheap. Palo Verde will pay $300 per acre-foot for treated wastewater by 2025, compared to today’s rate of $53 per acre-foot. Still, we won’t be surprised if more power plants adopt the tactic, especially if Obama’s dream of a new generation of nuclear plants comes true.