February 8, 2011 - nuclear power in Utah?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Nuclear power is one element in the mix of U.S. electric power generation sources.  In 2010, nuclear power from 104 plants accounted for 19% of net electric generation in the country, or about 670 terawatt-hours.  (That's 670,630,000 megawatt-hours.)  On a net electric generation basis for 2010, nuclear ranked below coal and gas, but above all other resource types.  Since 1977, no new nuclear plants have started construction, due to reasons including cost, safety concerns, and local siting opposition.

The tide against new nuclear power plants may be shifting.  In 2007, the Tennessee Valley Authority approved plans to restart construction on the Watts Bar Unit 2 plant near Spring City, TN; its sister plant was the last domestic civilian reactor to reach commercial operation, while Unit 2 has sat in a state of 80% completion since 1988.

A number of new nuclear plants are now in the planning stages around the country.  In Utah, a plant proposed by Blue Castle Holdings is proposing to build a two-unit plant near Green River. Nuclear plants need a large amount of water for cooling and steam production; Blue Castle has obtained leases for the annual use of 50,600 acre-feet of water from the San Juan and Kane County water conservancy districts.  Those leases stem from 1960s-era unused water appropriations for coal-fired generation plants that were never constructed; Blue Castle has filed to change the leases to allow for nuclear generation.  Blue Castle's project remains on the drawing board, with other key permits not yet sought (like approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which Blue Castle hopes will be obtained by 2016).  What role will Utah play in a nuclear renaissance?

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