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State officials grant use of water for nuclear plant in Green River

Deseret News, January 20, 2012

By: Amy Joi O'Donoghue

SALT LAKE CITY — Critics of a proposed nuclear power plant near Emery County's Green River say the state dodged its only real chance to say no to the deal and instead waffled by granting water rights necessary for its operation.

"It is devastating news," said Matt Pacenza, HEAL Utah's policy director, reacting to Utah State Engineer Kent Jones' Friday decision to grant water rights for the Blue Castle project. "This was the only opportunity for a Utah official to weigh in on the wisdom of building nuclear reactors on the Green River, and unfortunately he made the wrong decision."

Under state law, applications for water rights must be approved if it can be demonstrated to the state engineer that a number of factors have been met, including if the water is available from the source, existing rights won't be impaired and if the project is financially feasible. Those requirements were met, Jones said, and criticism was weighed during an evaluation process that took more than two years.

The water — 53,600 acre-feet per year — is owned by Kane County and San Juan County water conservancy districts, which have proposed leasing the water to Blue Castle Holdings for use at the two-unit nuclear power plant.

Both districts have contended they won't need the water for decades to come and such a business arrangement promises to deliver a financial windfall to the rural, sparsely populated counties.

The requests, however, have raised multiple 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 and the economic viability of the project.

"We have listened to and very much appreciate the concerns raised by those in the local community and others," Jones said. "Those concerns helped us look carefully and critically at the proposal as we considered the appropriate action on these applications."

Pacenza's HEAL Utah, an anti-nuclear activist group, has been among the many organizations voicing strong opposition to the power plant and criticizing the use of river water as unsustainable.

"Pretending there is enough water in the Green River for the power plant is a mistake," says Bob Quist, the owner of Moki Mac River Expeditions, which leads rafting trips on the Green River. "It's bad for my business and bad for everyone that depends on this river."

Pacenza adds that granting the water for a nuclear power plant represents another flawed policy position Utah officials have taken when it comes to energy development. "It is another example of Utah officials embracing the dirty, dangerous energy of the 20th century, rather than the clean energy of the 21st."

In a release announcing his decision, Jones said the water for the nuclear power plant does not represent a lot of Green River water, but it does constitute a "significant" portion of water Utah has yet to develop off the Colorado River system.

The granting of the change applications does not guarantee sufficient water supplies into the future, and the design of the plant will have to address the possibility of interruptions in that supply, Jones said. Although Emery County officials have signed off on the proposal, some residents in the area and adjacent tourism hot spots in Grand County have been vehemently opposed to siting a nuclear power plant on their doorstep. "This is going to make it harder for farmers to get the water they need out of the river," says Tim Vetere, owner of Vetere Farms in Green River, which raises melons, sweet corn, field corn, hay and more. "Also, I'm worried that if a nuclear power plant goes in, people won't want to buy my melons."

Ultimately, it is the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that will license the plant — a process expected to take several years. The decision on the change applications authorizes use of the water after NRC approvals 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. Blue Castle's president and chief executive officer is Aaron Tilton, a former Utah legislator, who is raising the capital to finance construction of a plant that would generate 3,000 megawatts of electricity. Tilton didn't return phone calls Friday.

The plant would be built on 1,700-acre parcel four miles west of the town of Green River and be capable of increasing the amount of electricity generated in Utah by 50 percent. Blue Castle expects to have its preliminary site application submitted to the NRC sometime in 2013 and hopes to have the site ready for construction by 2016.

Interested parties may view a copy of the decisions from the Utah Division of Water Rights website: Utah Division of Water Rights
 

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Way to go Utah. A model state....:rolleyes:

Next up; the Wasatch Range Recreation Enhancement Act,so that you have no voice whatsoever.

Bend over,Utah. You look good in that position. Orrin Hatch told me so.
 

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Aside from the nastiness of radiation....

I though reactors only 'used' water for cooling, and actual consumption of water was small. ie they suck in water, cool the reactor assembly, and the water is then released down stream warmer than it was?

It's also my understanding that the water is never in contact with radioactive materials, it is just used in as radiator fluid; touching cooling fins/coils and is shielded from the fuel rods. Of course warmer water in the G would mean more algea, moss, etc, and would likely throw off the ecosystem down stream, but the Green is also very warm from June-Sept....
 

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Let's think about this. We have all seen the Green go below 700 cfs between Green River and the confluance. In fact I think that is the typical base flow when the Yampa is not running.
The Blue Castle project has leased 53,600 acer-feet per year. That comes out to 74 cfs, so almost 11% of the base flow of the green river.
As I see it this will leave BuRec two options: allow the green river below the Blue Castle diversion to drop to 500 or 600 cfs in low water or increase the base flows from Flaming Gorge. Increasing the base flows from Flaming Gorge would mean reducing the artificial floods they release in the spring.
Either option would have a detrimental effect on the endangered fish populations. The base flows are established by the US Fish and Wildlife service as a minimum requirement to sustain fish populations. The artificial floods are an attempt to help some of the endangered fish reproduce in the wild, but none of the artificial floods have had this effect. The natural flooding that took place last year was higher and sustained for longer than the artificial realeses in the past and juvinile razorback suckers were observed in flooded wetlands next to the Green River last fall. This leaves me to speculate that the recovery of these fish is dependant on not only protection of the base flows but also a more natural seasonal flood, both of wich will be threatend by any large scale future water projects.
Add this threat to the Million/Flaming Gorge Pipeline and the water requirements of proposed oil-shale development and I think we have a real problem. The increadably stupid Million/Flaming Gorge Pipeline would take 225,000-450,000 acer feet per year from that Green River. That is 311-621 cfs!!
Oh yeh, Las Vegas is alredy bracing for a water shortage due to this years poor snowpack.
 

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Aside from the nastiness of radiation....

I though reactors only 'used' water for cooling, and actual consumption of water was small. ie they suck in water, cool the reactor assembly, and the water is then released down stream warmer than it was?

It's also my understanding that the water is never in contact with radioactive materials, it is just used in as radiator fluid; touching cooling fins/coils and is shielded from the fuel rods. Of course warmer water in the G would mean more algea, moss, etc, and would likely throw off the ecosystem down stream, but the Green is also very warm from June-Sept....
From what I have read, there is no plan to return any water to the river.

Power generation is achieved by boiling water. The reaction creates heat, that boils water, that creates steam, that turns the turbines and generates electricity.

I know that many nuclear plants do discharge warm water, so either the design of this one is different or there is some plan to use any discharged water somewhere else.
 

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To try to clarify some information. <I have not read up on this plant. I do not currently support or oppose this plant. In general I support nuclear power. I do a fair amount of consulting work for the hydraulic side of the nuclear industry and could very possibly one day do work directly on a project for this plant.>

The water would only be used for cooling and would have to be returned to the river. The water that is used for boiling is a part of a closed loop system that "never" leaves the plant. The boiled water (steam) goes through the generators then to a condenser before returning to the reactor where it turns into steam again. At the condenser is where the river water would "interact" with the plant. The river water would be used to cool the steam back into a liquid form, through the radiator idea mentioned above. The river water would then be discharged back into the river.

The plant would be considered non-consumptive, outside of minor losses due to evaporation and such, and would not have a significant impact on the flows in the river. Water goes into the plant and is released somewhere downstream. The impact of the increased heat load in the water, intake and discharge structures, and other aquatic issues would be evaluated and mitigated in the final design phase of the plant, prior to getting the license from the NRC.
 

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I have not actively followed this.

But I seem to remember a map showing the location for the plant being over by the turn off to go towards Price. That is a long ways from the river. I guess they would pipe it in and back?
 

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Hey Dingle dangle,

Don't blame Utah as a state. We, the people of Utah, often don't like what our "law" makers are doing. Lets blame the individuals responsible, not the whole state.
 

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To try to clarify some information. <I have not read up on this plant. I do not currently support or oppose this plant. In general I support nuclear power. I do a fair amount of consulting work for the hydraulic side of the nuclear industry and could very possibly one day do work directly on a project for this plant.>

The water would only be used for cooling and would have to be returned to the river. The water that is used for boiling is a part of a closed loop system that "never" leaves the plant. The boiled water (steam) goes through the generators then to a condenser before returning to the reactor where it turns into steam again. At the condenser is where the river water would "interact" with the plant. The river water would be used to cool the steam back into a liquid form, through the radiator idea mentioned above. The river water would then be discharged back into the river.

The plant would be considered non-consumptive, outside of minor losses due to evaporation and such, and would not have a significant impact on the flows in the river. Water goes into the plant and is released somewhere downstream. The impact of the increased heat load in the water, intake and discharge structures, and other aquatic issues would be evaluated and mitigated in the final design phase of the plant, prior to getting the license from the NRC.
"Unlike some nuclear reactors, all the water that would be used annually by the plant -- equal to the capacity of East Canyon Reservoir -- would be given off as steam after cooling the nuclear reactor."

Source: Smart, Christopher. "Green River Nuclear Power Proposal Sparks Big Questions". The Salt Lake Tribune. 24 Jan 2010
 
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