Fernando Fischmann's Power-Enabling Pools

By Nick Leiber
     April 14 (Bloomberg BusinessWeek) -- As the world is now
painfully aware, keeping nuclear plants near the ocean is a
devil's bargain. Most power plants, regardless of fuel, need
massive amounts of water for cooling the steam used to turn the
turbine generator. When things go wrong, like the leakage of
contaminated water into the Pacific at Japan's Fukushima Dai-Ichi
plant, the consequences can be harrowing. Fernando Fischmann, a
Chilean real estate developer and biochemist, may have a way to
use advanced swimming pool filtration—yes, swimming pools—to cool
power plants efficiently and eliminate their need to be close to
natural bodies of water.
     Fischmann's company, Crystal Lagoons, designs huge,
swimmable lagoons for resorts around the world, including a
19-acre creation in Algarrobo, Chile, which holds the Guinness
record for world's largest swimming pool. Using what he has
learned at his Santiago company, Fischmann believes his
technology can handle the millions of gallons that pump through a
typical large power facility every day. About 40 percent of the
electricity generated in the U.S. comes from plants that draw
from nearby lakes, rivers, or oceans—and spit heated water back,
which disrupts aquatic life near the outflow pipes. That's one
reason plants can be so ecologically damaging, even without a
Fukushima-scale disaster. The water going into a plant also must
be clean to avoid fouling its equipment.
     Fischmann's filtration system uses ultrasound to agglomerate
waste particles, simplifying their removal. A computerized
injector tracks algae and bacteria growth and squirts chemicals
whenever it detects buildup. "You have the same quality of water
as a swimming pool with 100 times less chemicals," Fischmann
says. Some plants have used massive cooling ponds for decades;
Fischmann says his system will reduce the size required, which
means they'd be cheaper to build and maintain. U.S. Geological
Survey hydrologist Tim Diehl says Fischmann's system could work
at hundreds of plants in the U.S. "Clearly you could retrofit his
technology," he says. "It's not just for new construction."
     Fischmann, who studied biochemistry at the Universidad de
Chile in 1981, didn't use that training until 1997, when a resort
project he was working on ran into trouble. Its main attraction,
a six-acre swimming lagoon, turned green with algae. Fischmann
set up a lab in a vacant resort building and devised Crystal
Lagoons' cleaning system. He says his 60-employee firm is
profitable; Boston Consulting Group valued it at $1.8 billion in
2009. He expects two big energy companies, which he won't name,
to sign contracts within a year. "Those two companies were
interested immediately," he says. "It took me much more time to
find a real estate developer to be interested in the normal
Crystal Lagoons pools."


     Biochemistry graduate degree in 1981 from Universidad de


     Designed a kilometer-long, 19-acre pool, the world's largest


     Power plants that needn't be near oceans or lakes to keep

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