The Utah Court of Appeals has ruled that plans for a nuclear generating plant in Green River, Utah, would not adversely impact the river and thus can move forward. The unanimous opinion, which was handed down Thursday, July 21, upholds a 2013 ruling that was appealed by environmental groups, led by HEAL Utah.
The advocacy groups argued that not only would the plant be detrimental to the already-taxed Colorado River system and the fish and wildlife that depend on it, but that the “speculative” nature of the project was a violation of state water-use laws. The Green is the largest tributary to the Colorado River.
The court, however, sided with a state engineer who approved the project in January 2012. The $17 million already invested by Blue Castle Holdings, the company proposing the project, shows that the $15 billion to $20 billion project is not just speculation, the court wrote in its ruling. And though it called the project “risky,” the court decided that the proposal falls within state law that requires water use to be beneficial, and that the state was still under its water-use limits.
The two-unit plant would sit on Utah state trust land just outside of the town of Green River and upstream from Canyonlands National Park. In a promo video for the plant, Blue Castle uses a voice with a Native American accent and images of climbers, though Native tribes downstream have stood up against the proposal, as have many conservation groups and businesses that utilize the river.
“Pretending there is enough water in the Green River for the power plant is a mistake,” Bob Quist, the owner of the rafting outfitter Moki Mac River Expeditions, said in the Salt Lake Tribune when the project was first approved in 2012. “It’s bad for my business and bad for everyone that depends on this river.”
Both the Colorado River Indian Tribal Council and the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe have passed tribal resolutions opposing the plant.
The video also touts nuclear as “clean energy,” and says the plant will “protect the environment,” while increasing the state’s electricity production by an estimated 50 percent. Local residents have called B.S. on that as well, citing plans to store spent fuel onsite. Others have pointed out that the power could go to neighboring states and California and won’t necessarily stay in Utah.
“We’re disappointed that a court again chose to buy Blue Castle’s paper-thin claims that this is a viable proposal,” HEAL Utah’s Executive Director Matt Pacenza said in a press release. “But Utahns opposed to the project shouldn’t worry. This remains a project which has failed to attract investment or interest from any utility. If no one wants to fund your project, or buy the product you’re selling, then you’re going nowhere.”
Ultimately where activism and legal recourse have so far fallen short in stopping the plant, the market could eventually succeed. Rocky Mountain Power, the state’s largest electricity provider currently does not use any nuclear power and has no plans to add it to its portfolio, according planning documents.
“This project has no hope,” Pacenza, says. “HEAL, our allies, and Utahns skeptical about [Blue Castle CEO] Aaron Tilton’s nuclear dreams may not be winning in court, but Blue Castle is losing where it counts: In the marketplace.”
Next up in the process is approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and an environmental and safety assessment.
Photo by Terry Feuerborn
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