SALT LAKE CITY – Approval for the construction of a nuclear power plant was given by Utah officials after water rights to the Green River were granted Friday.
Two water right change applications for a proposed nuclear power plant near Green River, Utah have been approved by Kent Jones, State Engineer with the Utah Division of Water Rights.
The decisions follow more than two years of study.
Kane County Water Conservancy District and San Juan County Water Conservancy District are leasing rights to Blue Castle Holdings that wants to provide water from the Green River for a nuclear power plant.
Aaron Tilton, CEO of BCH, commented on the decision: “We realized early on that there would be a detailed and deliberate process adjudicated by the State of Utah before the water rights were approved for use at the project. We are pleased that the State Water Engineer, after a thorough review of all requirements under State law, determined that the water was available for withdrawal from the river, that its use at the proposed new nuclear power plant site would not interfere with other water users, that the proposed plan is physically and economically feasible and would not prove detrimental to the public welfare and the environment.”
The requests have raised many concerns such as the safety and oversight of nuclear power, local water use interference, wildlife concerns including endangered fishes, over-appropriation of Colorado River water, the economic viability of the project, and the financial ability of BCH to complete the project.
“We have listened to and very much appreciate the concerns raised by those in the local community and others,” said Jones. “Those concerns helped us look carefully and critically at the proposal as we considered the appropriate action on these applications.”
The water right approval criteria dictated in state law directs the state engineer to evaluate and investigate applications. An application is statutorily required to be approved if the state engineer believes: water is available from the source; the proposed use will not impair existing rights or interfere with the more beneficial use of water; the project is economically and physically feasible; it would not be detrimental to the public welfare; the applicant has the financial ability to complete the project; and, the application is filed in good faith and not for speculative or monopolistic purposes.
Almost 4.4 million acre-feet of water flows by the city of Green River every year. Blue Castle is seeking 53,600 acre-feet of that water to be allocated for its project.
“That amount of water is not a lot on the Green River,” said Jones. “But it is a significant portion of the water Utah has left to develop on the Colorado River and a significant new diversion from the Green River where efforts are underway to provide habitat for recovery of endangered fish.”
Tilton said BCH understands the duty the company has to the environment.
“We recognize our responsibility for strong environmental stewardship throughout the lifetime of the project, including working diligently to assure protection of the Green River endangered species.”
Approval of the application does not guarantee sufficient water will always be available from the river to operate the plant. Plant design will need to address the possibility of interruptions in water supply.
Nuclear power plants in the United States are developed and licensed for operation by the federal government under the regulation of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which is charged with promoting the use nuclear energy to benefit public welfare and protect the radiological health and safety of the public.
In pursuing NRC licensing of this project, Blue Castle plans to invest $100 million. Billions of dollars more will be required to construct the facility.
The state engineer’s decision on these applications authorizes the use of water for the plant after NRC approvals for the project are obtained. Prior to any construction, NRC will oversee an exhaustive design process to make certain the proposed site is safe for a nuclear power plant and the National Environmental Protection Act and Endangered Species Act requirements are complied with.
A copy of the decisions from the Utah Division of Water Rights, go to Utah Water Rights
Once the nuclear plant is built, BHC estimates that about 1,000 permanent full-time employees will work at the plant for 60 years, and that up to 3,000 workers will work during the projected six year construction of the dual unit plant.
For individuals who are skeptical about the cost and viability of the future power plant, BHC issued the following in a statement concerning today’s decision:
“Nuclear power is a competitive source of base-load electricity, with high initial capital costs and low production costs during its 60 year lifetime. The initial capital costs are high due to the inherent safety and security built into the new plant designs. However, the low fuel and operation costs balance this initial cost and lead to a very competitive and predictable overall cost.
“The approval of the use of water rights for the Blue Castle Project preserves the option of clean, safe and economical nuclear power for Utah and the Western US’s future power needs.”
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