Judge approves nuclear power plant in Utah

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A judge has cleared the way for a nuclear power plant to be built in Utah, with conditions.

“The court finds that there is reason to believe that the project will not be detrimental to the public welfare,” Judge George Harmond said in a ruling issued late Wednesday and obtained by FOX 13 News.

The environmental group HEAL Utah filed a lawsuit in an effort to block Blue Castle Holdings from building a nuclear power plant on the Green River.

On Wednesday, a sign still remained firmly planted in Matt Pacenza’s front lawn, just hours after his campaign against the plant took a significant blow.

“It's super disappointing,” Pacenza said. “We thought we had a really strong case.”

The Policy Director for HEAL Utah is not accepting defeat anytime soon, though.  As one of several organizations that took the plant’s backers to court, he’s already gearing up for another fight.

“We will meet them at any venue that we need to and try to stop the proposed Green River reactors,” Pacenza said.

The dispute is over a 53,600 acre portion of water that's been leased out by Kane and San Juan counties to Blue Castle. The portion would be used to cool the proposed plants two nuclear reactors.

In September, Pacenza and other groups took the three to court for five days to challenge a state engineer’s decision that approved the use of the water. Judge Harmond released a detailed, 26 page ruling, which addressed some of the concerns Pacenza raised in court.

“We had a bunch of good, solid reasons,” Pacenza said. “And we made a great case in front of the judge, and unfortunately, he ruled against us.”

Judge Harmond considered several points, one of the most significant being whether or not there is enough water for the plan, which he found there is.

“The additional depletion of water from the Green River to support the Project would be 1.22% of the annual mean volume of the River,” said Harmond in his findings. “…The court finds reason to believe that there exists adequate unappropriated water in the Upper Colorado River Basin and the Green River to support the Applications.”

The findings, while disappointing to Pacenza, were not a surprise to the attorneys for the counties and Blue Castle, who believe the plaintiffs failed to properly make a case in court.

“They were dreadful. They were terrible witnesses. And it showed because they just didn’t understand the project and they didn’t really understand Utah energy and Utah water issues,” said David Wright, trial counsel for the defendants.

According to Wright, Utahns are using far less water than the state’s share in the Colorado River, which the Green River is a tributary to.

“It’s somewhere between 350-400,000 acre feet of water that goes unused in the Colorado River drainage,” Wright said. “And this project is expected to use around 50,000 acre feet. So, there’s a lot of cushion there.”

But the dispute likely won’t stop here, as Blue Castle still has years of hurdles to clear with U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, allotting plenty of time for an appeal and future debate between the two sides.

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24 comments

  • Nurses of America

    Sheesh, Utah has over 1,000 earthquakes daily. I see the Japan meltdown all over again. Since when does ONE judge determine something that the public should vote on?!

  • Trish Ramirez

    How sickening. Nuclear energy has proven time and again to be unsafe and devastating when it ultimately goes wrong. This is not a viable, long-term energy solution for Utah or anywhere. We need to be worried about consumption of resources and making realistic global changes regarding our energy use, not mortgaging our children’s futures by dotting the globe with more and more nuclear power plants that are clearly not sustainable or safe. When will humans start learning from the mistakes from the past and realize that the Earth is a finite planet and can only take so much abuse?

  • Bricktop

    First of all, the Fukushima Daiichi incident was caused by a tsunami, not the 9.0 earthquake that hit, second of all, Utah doesn’t have 1000 earthquakes a day and is pretty far from the ocean. Plus, if people in utah didn’t breed like rabbits, we wouldn’t need to look at nuclear as an option. Mortgaging your dim-witted children’s future on the only energy source capable of supporting masses of people to the “American” standard of living is not a bad investment. If this is unsettling to you, they are doing amazing things with birth control.

  • Trish Ramirez

    Birth control will be a moot point when people start dying off en masse from radiation poisoning. Fukushima, Chernobyl, Peach Bottom, Brown’s Ferry, Idaho Falls – the list goes on. And when a release of nuclear material into the environment occurs, the effects aren’t immediately known and are rarely able to be quantified. Of course, you really can’t argue with someone who believes that human beings have some kind of right to destroy the environment that millions of creatures depend upon so that they can all have McMansions and continue leach the energy required to manufacture a new car for everyone every year – gotta keep padding that bottom line, after all. Nothing more important than that.

  • sheena

    Really, when they can’t even find enough places to “safely” dispose of the by product! Yes it might give us more energy but at what costs, for our future generation. The main thing we should be concerned about is the damage we are the damages we are creating to our home Earth. It just seems to me were only capable of thinking in short term, the quickest and easiest solution. So sad!

  • L Norris

    I live in central MO and we built a nuclear plant in 1976. We’ve never had any problems, warnings, etc. I dont know how many other nuclear power plants are in other areas of MO because there’s never been any trouble with them. There is also a nuclear reactor at the University of MO in Columbia. We are within the New Madrid fault area of concern, albeit barely so. Many other states, including California, have them.

    I’ve read that France is 100% nuclear energy powered. They haven’t had the problems that Chernobyl & Japan have had. I dont think Japan should’ve taken that risk knowing the violent natural occurrences they have with storms & earthquakes. But that’s just my uneducated opinion.

  • Bricktop

    There are plenty of places to dispose of nuclear waste, our government just legislates against disposing of it on American soil, politics gives nuclear a bad name, not its track record. Get informed on the matter, talk to a nuclear physicist like I have done. I don’t think we have the right to exploit our planet of its natural resources but I think we have a duty to provide energy for those of us who think it is a right to have children they can’t afford. Please name some alternatives.

  • Rob Brissette

    people lean you true facts before you comment on a topic, they also said they would band Propane gas but look everyone uses it and we have not had a major explosion from propane gas in what 30 years, my point is there is no difference as long as all the safety’s are in place. and please there are more birth defects from other things and more death by other types of radiation, cell phone for one, it has been proven that people that I will say live on the phone have gotten some kind of brain injury my own sister got a tumor on her brain behind her left ear from cell phone use, everyone screams environment but no one is willing to let go of the things that are hurting it

  • Nurses of America

    First of all, building a nuclear plant should’ve been put to a public vote and not left to the discretion of ONE judge which infringes on our civil rights to control our land only by the people and not the government.

    Fraudulent collusion can also occur if only a few are making decisions where enormous amounts of money are involved.

    Secondly, the Population Reference Bureau states that the US now has the lowest birthrate in history. “in many European Union nations and other developed countries, birthrates are below the level necessary to maintain their populations. This threatens the survival of cultures and even of nations”, Oaks 2013.

    Thirdly, we do have other viable energy solutions such as Cold Nuclear Fusion without any of the dangers of Nuclear Plants as well as solar powered cars and homes.

  • Nurses of America

    The Utah Geological Survey stated that Utah has over 1,000 earthquakes a day. Most are imperceptible to man. Utah is no place to build a nuclear plant.

    Utah’s earthquake forecast is out-of-date and will be updated in 2014 by the Working Group on Utah Earthquake Probabilities.

  • Rob Brissette

    oh ok then there should be none in calf as well then the san-o nuc plant is on a fault line and has been there 40 plus years and in the middle of a populated area with over 30,000 living with-in 10 miles of the plant,
    the one that is being talk of here in Utah has my-be 5000 people living with-in 50 miles of the purposed site and would be built with higher standers then the 40 year old san-o plant, ok cold fusion great build then lets get rid of All the coal and oil burning plants, yes we need more electric vehicles (transportation) in order to do that we need to learn how to make them with out using fossil fuels to do so. and as far as the worlds low birth rate come on now you cant blame that on nuc power, the world is over populated as it is. how can you not say that it may be god doing population control, every thing tops out and leaves off, I just love this kind of debates, it show how one sided people are and cant see past there own front yard

  • Rob Brissette

    oh by the way the thing about only one judge, that is another point that I was getting at about dumb people, the ruling of this one judge is only over the WATER RIGHTS for the plant, and now that the company has the water rights now they can move on to the other steps of getting the rights to build the plant, redneck term the judges said we can have water with our meal now we need to find out what we can now have for an appetizer, then get approval for the main Couse then we will go the supreme court to find out what to have for desert.

  • Nurses of America

    To Brissette; I was referring to Bricktop’s comments about people breeding like rabbits, I didn’t say anything about this being related to nuclear power.

    I also didn’t say replace coal and oil with Cold Fusion, I said to replace Nuclear Power Plants with Cold Fusion. We must keep our coal and oil.

    Please read our comments more carefully.

  • Bricktop

    Birth rates may be down but there is still a birth rate and every single person born adds stress to an already stressed power grid. Yes, solar power is an option, but not a viable one with the population of people we have. Outfitting every house and car with a PV system would send the price of the precious metals that go into solar panels skyrocketing and nobody could afford it, so that’s not really viable and we are not any closer to achieving cold fusion than we were twenty years ago. We cannot even sustain a normal fusion reaction on earth.
    If most earthquakes in utah can only be picked by seismometers, I think a power should be fine.

  • Christina Taylor

    NO MORE NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS! Nuclear power is NOT clean and it’s NOT safe!! The opposite is true. Look at Fukushima, look at Chernobyl.. consider Murphy’s Law!

  • Christina Taylor

    We have the technology and ability to meet the worlds power needs with solar power, alone, right now. Wind power is another alternative. Harnessing ocean wave power is being developed as another clean energy alternative. There are plenty of other clean, sustainable, forms of energy available, however big oil, big coal, big nuclear utility heads are making billions of dollars from dirty, outdated, energy sources and they are not willing to listen to reason or make any changes that might cut into their short-term profits. Utah, already has the dirtiest air in the country, during the winter months. Of course, we should STOP using oil, coal and all fossil fuels!!! We should stop mining uranium and other radioactive materials!!! These toxic compounds should stay buried in the ground and under the ocean floors, where they belong. We should stop spewing it all up into the atmosphere! Global warming is a real threat to life on earth, people are getting sick and dieing from breathing dirty air, people are getting cancer and having babies with birth defects from radiation exposer. It just hasn’t affected the people in your family or in your neighborhood, yet. It’s obvious that Nuclear power never should have been developed or used in the first place. There is no safe way to dispose of the spent fuel rods. They stay dangerously “HOT”, highly radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. There WILL be major earthquakes, the landscape WILL shift… during those hundreds of thousands of years!!! No one wants that stuff buried in their backyard! Why would we ever consider leaving that kind of poison behind for future generations to deal with? Nuclear energy is the most expensive form of energy to create. Only the utility owners and share holders are making big money. The public pays the higher cost for utilities. Albert Einstein, himself said: “Nuclear power is one hell of a way to boil water.” When are we going to learn from our past mistakes?

  • Bricktop

    We have the technology right now for the USA to switch over to solar, yes. Now if we could only figure out where to build a PV array roughly the same size as Pennsylvania, then mine the resources that go into those PV arrays, then we are set. I haven’t done the math on a concentrated solar system, but rest assured it would take up a lot of space too, plus it can cost more per kWh than a PV system. Then we just have to figure out what to do with an unemployed petroleum workforce. Too bad they won’t find jobs in the newly created solar sector, since the US already imports two thirds of its solar arrays from China. So, let’s do it. We’ll have a crashed economy but hey, we’ll have green energy. I’m not even going to touch on wave energy, because I’m going to let you research that, get some numbers like kWh produced vs consumption, and let you figure that out. I’m not saying nuclear is safe and clean. I’m just saying it’s the only option given our population and lifestyle. And by the way, nuclear waste is already being stored in Tooele, we might as well have a power plant so we can get the benefits of nuclear energy and not just the risks.

  • Christina Taylor

    The nuclear waste being stored and buried in the West Desert, Tooele, by Envirocare or Energy Solutions is low-level radioactive waste, not high-level spent fuel rods from nuclear reactors. The government and the industry still have not agreed on a permenant storage site for all the spent fuel that remains highly radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. No State wants to take on the risk involved in transporting and storing all of the our country’s high-level spent fuel rods. Why would we build more nuclear power plants, when we haven’t even figured out what to do with all the waste from the existing ones, yet? Sure, solar energy would require some mined materials and some land use, better that than more sacrificed zones from radiation spills, leaky reactor sites and large permanent storage dumps for low-level and high-level nuclear waste. The materials and waste form solar energy is not lethal for life on this planet, like high-level radiation is. Every home could be built, every office building could be built with solar panels on the roof tops and on the South sides of the buildings. Most people and businesses could generate their own power with renewable energy sources, become self-sufficient and not have to rely on big oil, coal or nuclear industries. New ‘green’ jobs will be created as we switch over to renewable energy sources. If clean (non-radioactive) air, water, soil and food is not important to you, or to most of the public, if it’s more important to maintain the current American standard of living, the U.S. economy, the disproportionate wealth of the upper class and the control of government by the corporate giants, than keep right on supporting toxic industries. But, don’t be surprised when “we all fall down”.

  • Bricktop

    I hate to burst your green bubble where the renewable energy sector is filled with altruistic, righteous people who care about the future generations, but they are just as hell bent on profits as big oil, coal, and nuclear. The same corporations that control the government include big green energy, in my eyes, its money that’s going to the same rich white man. Oh, and mining the material that goes into PV arrays isn’t exactly the most environmentally friendly thing either. First, you have to have fossil fuels to run equipment, then more likely than not, the refinery and/or foundry used to render the material into useable goods will be getting its energy from a coal fired plant. I would love to hear about these green jobs that will be created. And yes, it is important to maintain this American standard of living and the economy. If it’s not important to you, move to Kenya. I give it a month till you’re to the point of willing to do anything to put gas in a car, watch tv, or have an internet connection so you can voice an opinion on something you nothing about. And please, for the love of God, do the math on solar. It’s easy, just figure how much sunlight on average hits a square meter of earth, then figure out the efficiency of a commercial PV panel, then figure out the amount of energy an avg. household uses. On houses, you could fit the PV arrays needed on the roof, yes. Figure out how much energy a hospital or office building uses and you will notice that roof size is not proportional to the area needed for said building to run completely off solar.

  • Ben

    So many ignorant ‘experts’. The statement that solar can provide for our energy needs has no merit.
    And putting the issue to a public vote… are you kidding me. The response would be…..’We vote for free electricity!’
    Who in there right mind let’s the uneducated, uninformed and ignorant public make decisions like that. Oh, I know… the uneducated, uninformed and ignorant.
    I will trust the nuclear physicists, the most qualified, capable and talented minds advise me.
    I will also put the rhetoric aside and apply a little logic….
    How many people do you know who have died from nuclear radiation?

    When you ultimate reach the conclusion of …. Zero.

    Then…. Compare that with the number of people you know who have died in coal mines, oil fields or deaths can be attributed to carcinogens placed in the air by fossil fuel power plants.

    On December 10th, the documentary “Pandora’s Promise” will be available for download. I am looking forward to watching it and encourage anybody who claims an interest here to do so as well.

  • Christina Taylor

    Ben, I don’t know if you’re the same Ben that wrote or posted this article, but calling the public or your readers “uneducated, uninformed and ignorant” is an ignorant and an extremely arrogant thing to do. I never claimed to be an “expert” on the subject of nuclear or alternative energy sources, however I am a concerned citizen who is voicing my opinion. Where is your respect and tolerance for the differing opinions of your readers? I take offense at being called “uneducated, uninformed and ignorant” not once, but twice.. by you, a news journalist, I assume, who should inform the public in an unbiased, professional manor. First of all, I have two bachelors degrees from the University of Utah, one of which is a Bachelors of Science degree in Environmental Studies, so I have had some education; second, I wrote a number of research papers and term papers on the subject of nuclear power plants; inequities and health risks of mining uranium, sitings of plants and the proposed storage of spent fuel rods on or near Native American land and in impoverished communities, for example the Goshute Reservation near Tooele, UT and Yucca Mountain, NV. I’m no “expert”, I don’t know how to “do the math”, but I am somewhat informed on this subject; and in response to your third insult, your presumption that the public is ignorant, that myself and any reader who is in favor of developing renewable, clean energy over continuing to pollute the environment by using toxic energy sources, is ignorant (?), no, I’m sorry, but by being that closed-minded, that judgmental, that arrogant, you have made yourself out to be all three of those things which you have accused your readers of being.

    Thousands of people have died and hundreds of thousands of people have developed thyroid cancer and other forms of cancer from radiation poisoning following the Chernobyl reactor meltdown, following Three Mile Island and many more will develop cancers after Fukushima. Hundreds if not thousands of miners, soldiers, downwinders and their family members were compensated by the federal government, due to the high rate of cancers and deaths after nuclear weapons testing at the Nevada Test Site and at other sites. Thousands more fell ill with cancers, that they failed to prove were a direct result of radioactive fallout, but there have been increases in rates of cancer in downwind communities. The number of deaths from radiation exposer is far from “zero”. Of course the public, who’s health would be affected if there were to be an accident or a natural disaster resulting in a meltdown, should have the right and chance to vote on building a nuclear power plant in their home State!

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