Drought Forces U.S. Government to Decide Among City Residents, Nuclear Power, and River Mussels

Until Friday, endangered mussels in Florida were protecting a key Alabama nuclear station

3 min read

19 November 2007—We’ve all heard those stories about some tiny endangered creature holding up a big engineering project. Sometimes concern about the fish or toad is really at the heart of the dispute. Sometimes it’s just an excuse in the hands of people who really want to stop the project for other reasons entirely. One of the most memorable examples was the 1970s controversy that pitted a big hydroelectric dam that was to be built on Tennessee’s Clinch River against the snail darter, a little endangered fish native to eastern Tennessee.

This story, however, is not about an endangered species torpedoing a big project; it’s about some endangered mussels actually protecting a nuclear power plant. It’s also a story about the drought afflicting the southeastern United States, the imminent threat to Atlanta’s water supply, and the danger that as lake and river waters fall, there might not be enough cooling water for the four nuclear power plants that provide much of Georgia’s and Alabama’s electricity. And it’s a story with a lot of unusual names in it.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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