Groups pan water request for proposed Utah plant

SALT LAKE CITY — Environmental groups from four states have sent a letter to Utah officials criticizing a request from the owners of a proposed nuclear power plant in Utah to use water from the Green River.

The biggest issue for the groups from Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah is the scarcity of water in the Colorado River basin. But they also cite safety concerns in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan, cautioning that a similar disaster could have dire consequences because the radioactive material could flow downstream.

“We urge you to carefully consider that possibility, given the critical location of the proposed reactors upstream from not just the water supply for tens of millions of Southwestern residents, but for a host of fragile ecosystems, flora and fauna,” the groups wrote in the letter.

The proposed nuclear power plant would be located in eastern Utah. Currently, the Utah Division of Water Rights is studying a request for the power plant to use more than 50,000 acre feet of water from the Green River, a major tributary of the Colorado River.

An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons, enough to cover an acre of land with a foot of water or serve one or two households for a year.

“Awarding a massive quantity of water ... to nuclear reactors seems a poor choice given the realities of the already over-subscribed Colorado River system,” the groups wrote.

The nuclear power plant is being proposed by Blue Castle Holdings, which is owned by Aaron Tilton, a former state Republican lawmaker.

About half of the water rights being studied were sold to Blue Castle by Kane County for up to $1 million a year when the plant begins operating.

Andalex Resources Inc. donated the water rights to Kane County after President Clinton in 1996 created the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which scuttled the company’s plans to mine and burn coal for electricity on the Kaiparowits Plateau.


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