GNF, GE Hitachi Efforts Save Water, Reduce Emissions

Global Nuclear Fuel (GNF), a joint venture of GE, Toshiba, and Hitachi, spearheaded wastewater plant changes that drove down water usage site-wide at its Wilmington, N.C., headquarters, according to a Nov. 12 press release.

The result is a 25-million-gallon annual reduction in water usage at the facility, which includes GNF's U.S.-based fuel manufacturing operations. The plant has been working to optimize its operations and contribute towards GE's overall ecomagination commitment to reduce its water footprint 20 percent by 2012. GNF's new energy efficient wastewater system avoids nearly 80 tons per year of carbon dioxide emissions and realizes annual savings of $160,000 in water and energy use charges.

The water savings at the GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) site resulted from reusing wastewater effluent with ZeeWeed® membrane bioreactor (MBR) technology as a make-up water source to operate cooling towers, which would otherwise withdraw raw water obtained from local groundwater wells to accomplish the same. MBR combines ultrafiltration with biological treatment to produce a wastewater effluent that meets or exceeds some of the most stringent wastewater discharge and/or reuse standards. Its operation requires less chemical use, produces less residual waste, and has a much smaller physical footprint than conventional reuse systems.

"Given the water scarcity issues we have been facing in the region, we were pleased to find an economical way to meet the growing needs of our company while conserving the area's freshwater supplies, "said Lori Butler, GEH general manager of EHS. "This project significantly reduced the physical footprint of the treatment system at the plant, while doubling the capacity of the wastewater system."

GEH is undertaking a multi-year expansion and modernization of the Wilmington campus to meet growing demand for nuclear power. The total employee population at the site has nearly doubled over the last three years. The site's old water infrastructure capacity and tighter state water discharge restrictions were limiting the expansion of the facility. In addition, the new wastewater system reduced well water pumping at the filter plant, reducing energy usage and avoiding carbon dioxide emissions.

"Our commitment to delivering on our ecomagination goals is strong because it truly validates the relationship between water conservation, efficiency, and economic growth," said Jeff Fulgham, chief marketing officer, GE Water & Process Technologies.

The GEH site draws groundwater from wells for use on the site and generates an estimated 50,000 to 65,000 gallons of wastewater per day. The wastewater is treated by the MBR system and ultraviolet light is used for final disinfection. The treated wastewater effluent is then directed to the facility's cooling towers, an integral component of the campus heating, ventilating, and cooling system, where it is re-used as make-up water.

GEH provides advanced reactors and nuclear services. Established in June 2007, it is a global nuclear alliance created by GE and Hitachi to serve the global nuclear industry.

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