A cooling pond is a man-made body of water primarily formed for the purpose of storing heated water and/or supplying cooling water to a nearby power plant or industrial facility such as a petroleum refinery, pulp and paper mill, chemical plant, steel mill or smelter.
Cooling ponds are used where sufficient land is available, as an alternative to cooling towers or discharging of heated water to a nearby river or coastal bay, a process known as “once-through cooling.” The latter process can cause thermal pollution of the receiving waters. Cooling ponds are also sometimes used with air conditioning systems in large buildings as an alternative to cooling towers.
The pond receives thermal energy in the water from the plant’s condensers during the process of energy production and the thermal energy is then dissipated mainly through evaporation. Once the water has cooled in the pond, it is reused by the plant. New water is added to the system (“make-up” water) to replace the water lost through evaporation.
A 1970 research study published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that cooling ponds have a lower overall electrical cost than cooling towers while providing the same benefits. The study concluded that a cooling pond will work optimally within 5 degrees Fahrenheit of natural water temperature with an area encompassing approximately 4 acres per megawatt of dissipated thermal energy.
- Lake Anna is a cooling pond in Virginia, which provides cooling water for the North Anna Nuclear Generating Station. This pond has recreational uses such as fishing, swimming, boating, camping, and picnicking as well as being a cooling pond for the nuclear plant.
- The cooling pond at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (Pripyat, Ukraine) has abundant wildlife, despite the radiation present in the area. There are some accounts of wels catfish (Silurus glanis) growing up to 350 pounds and having a lifespan of up to 50 years in the area.
- The Columbia Energy Center in Pacific, Wisconsin is a coal fired power plant with a capacity of 1000 MW. A duel cooling system is used for heat rejection that consists of a cooling pond and two cooling towers. The pond and towers are connected in a parallel arrangement to help dissipate thermal energy at expedited rates.
- In 1994 the reactor at Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, North Korea, was under U.S scrutiny and its nuclear fuel rods were taken out of the reactor and placed in the facility's cooling pond. The fuel rods have since been removed.
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