Water grab for proposed Green River nuclear power plant raises eyebrows

Conservation groups and at least one federal agency are raising serious questions about a water grab for a proposed nuclear power plant near Green River, Utah, according to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is already on the record questioning the proposed leasing of up to 24,000 acre feet of the Green River to Blue Castle Holdings Inc., which proposed the power plant. The federal agency said taking so much water out of the Green could lead to several fish species being listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Two conservation groups — Living Rivers and Uranium Watch – filed protests Tuesday, according to the Sentinel, which reported another water conservation district is considering leasing 30,000 more acre feet for the project. But the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation also questioned the diversion, arguing the Green River may already be “over-appropriated.”

Recent calls for a revival of the nation’s nuclear power industry as a low-carbon alternative to fossil fuels in order to combat global warming – including a controversial pro-nuclear stance by Colorado Sen. Mark Udall – have been met with skepticism by some in the environmental community who worry about long-term waste storage and water consumption in the arid West.

The call for a nuclear revival has also led to rampant uranium-mining speculation in and around iconic public lands such as the Grand Canyon and divisive battles over mining and processing yellowcake for fuel rods, including recent hearings in Montrose County.

In calling for an investigation of oil shale lease amendments in the waning days of the Bush administration, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar Tuesday questioned just how much electrical power would be needed for full-scale commercial oil shale production.

Super heating and squeezing kerogen from shale rock and sand in the Green River Formation of northwestern Colorado, eastern Utah and southwestern Wyoming could tap into an estimated 1 trillion barrels of oil, but some analysts say at least 10 new coal-fired power plants would be required in Colorado alone.

That’s led to speculation about nuclear power as a means of providing enough electricity to power full-scale oil shale production. A nuclear power plant in Green River, Utah, would be at the epicenter of any future oil shale boom.

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