Tuesday evening’s Grand County Council meeting was a contentious scene, with more than 50 residents in attendance to hear a presentation from Blue Castle Holdings, Inc., the company that hopes to develop a two-unit nuclear power plant near Green River, Utah, 40 miles northwest of Moab.
Aaron Tilton, chief executive officer, Tom Retson, chief operating officer, and Reed Searle, senior vice president of business development for Blue Castle were at the meeting. During the presentation, Tilton explained some of the needs for nuclear power in the state and aspects of the project and facilities.
“The model is to develop new electrical capacity needed for Utah. Utah will be short on electricity over the next 20 years,” said Tilton. We believe the current resource portfolio of the state [coal] is not the resource that should be developed.”
Tilton explained water use issues on the site, with water being the biggest criteria needed to cool the thermal process to make the electricity. He compared the current state use of water for electricity production – 2.2 percent – to the projected nuclear plant’s less than 1 percent use of water to create 50 percent more power in the state. That 50 percent is equal to approximately 3,000 megawatts of electricity produced, he said.
Tilton also addressed the proposed plant’s affects on the Green River, saying that the river depth would only change one inch during low flow conditions.
“Water proposed for this use is currently being sent downstream as an unused portion of Colorado River Compact allocations,” Tilton said. “But that water was previously approved and allocated… for use in coal-fire projects that never happened.”
Council chairman Chris Baird expressed concerns about the expected 50,000-acre feet of water the plant would use annually. He said that water has a “100 percent depletion rate,” meaning none of it will go back into the river system. Removing that volume of water from the Green River could have significant impacts on Grand County’s future industrial water needs, among other concerns, Baird said.
The company’s plan to store spent fuel onsite for future use was also criticized by many in attendance. Used fuel is first held in water-cooled pools for two to three years and then contained in rods, which are clustered and stored in dry cask cylinders above ground. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission deems it safe to store used fuel for 100 years, Tilton said.
Many local residents voiced opposition to the proposed nuclear plant. Sarah Fields of Moab said high-level nuclear waste such as spent fuel, would have negative impacts on the environment. She also questioned the reuse of the fuel, claiming it was a problem that would most likely be left to future generations to deal with.
Many residents called the idea of building a nuclear plant off of Interstate 70 “crazy” and said it would be a detriment to tourism. Others referred to the project as a “dinosaur solution,” saying that other trends in energy production would be more desirable.
“This all needs to be looked at holistically. There is already insufficient water… other needs will suffer,” said Bob Lipman, who also spoke about “cancer clusters” in communities located near nuclear plants. “There is no compensation for a loss of community. There are no guarantees that these plants will run smoothly.”
Moab resident Helene Rohr agreed. “Things can happen you can’t plan for. What happens when the money runs out and corners are cut?” Rohr said.
She accused Blue Castle of using technological jargon to blindside people and pushing jobs as an incentive. “Germany has decided to completely shift gears, and the largest labor organization in Japan is pushing for different forms of energy,” Rohr said.
Several people raised concerns about the burden and danger to future generations. And most questioned whether their views on the issue would have any effect on Blue Castle’s plans.
“You will still have a tremendous amount of say in what we do and how we do it, but we are committed to go forward with the project,” Tilton said.
Retson added, “We have spent a lot of time researching this… we feel gives us justification to move forward.”
The licensing process will take a minimum of five years, during which time a number of public hearings will take place. If Blue Castle is successful in getting the project licensed, construction will take a minimum of seven years, Tilton said.
For more information on the nuclear plant, visit www.bluecastleproject.com.