Water Wars: Green River Nuclear Power Plant

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Blue Castle Holdings, an ambitious Utah company, wants to build the 3 gigawatt (GW) Green River nuclear plant in Utah. This would be enough power for about 2 million homes and would increase Utah’s electricity production by a substantial 50%. But nuclear plants are always controversial, even more so when being planned in areas with perpetual conflicts over water.

Nuclear power requires substantial amounts of water for cooling. The plant would use about 53,000 acre feet of water per year, all of from the Green River, which is a major tributary of the Colorado River. Blue Castle CEO Aaron Tilton says “This is Utah’s water to use as it sees fit,” that the water is currently unused, and would only amount to 1% of Utah’s water allotment. Plus, he adds, nuclear power uses less water than coal. Well, that may be true, but solar photovoltaic and wind turbines use practically no water, so why not do that instead?

Under the ever-arcane and complicated water laws of the Southwest and Utah, this particular allotment of water is already held by various water agencies that haven’t used it. Utah water laws are “use it or lose it.” Thus the agencies would be able to retain these water rights by leasing the water to Blue Castle.

The problem is that the currently unused 53,000 acre feet a year is going into the Green River now. If the plant becomes operational, then the Green River and the Colorado River have that much less water available. Brad Udall, director of a NOAA laboratory says the Colorado is already at its limits and less water could have serious impacts. This could also affect the seven states that use its water.

As you might expect, numerous lawsuits have been filed trying to stop the plant. And since this is in the Intermountain West, the chief concern is not the possibility of a nuclear meltdown or where to store the nuclear waste, but on the environmental impact of using that water and on what happens if there is a drought.

Blue Castle has put much time and thought into their website and have tried to answer every possible objection to the plant. Their attempts are deeply marred by an auto-play video on the home page. Guys, if you don’t want to make those researching your site crazy, then turn off that annoying video that starts playing every time you return to the home page. Sheesh.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission still needs to ok the plan. Given the opposition to it, even if it is approved, construction could be years away.