A spokesman for Xcel Energy told the Colorado Independent today that the company has not proposed a nuclear power plant for Colorado. Tom Henley, Senior Media Relations Representative for Xcel, said he was taken aback reading news that Colorado U.S. Sen. Mark Udall supported a plan Xcel was considering to build a nuclear plant in the state.
“We have absolutely not proposed a nuclear power plant,” Henley told the Colorado Independent Monday. “Yes, nuclear power is a discussion point for Xcel. It’s part of any larger discussion of future energy needs. It is just part of the discussion. We are not limiting ourselves. But with all the renewables we have coming online in Colorado by 2015, we do not plan to build a nuclear power plant in the state.”
On Friday Udall told reporters at an energy summit at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center that he would support a proposal Xcel was floating to build a power plant in the state in order to help it become a carbon neutral power supplier here within the decade.
“The large investor-owned utility Xcel, which covers most of Colorado, has expressed an interest in becoming carbon neutral in the next ten years and part of their plan would include a nuclear power plant being constructed here in Colorado,” Udall said. “I would of course welcome it under conditions that [Xcel] build it in a safe manner, that you have buy-in from the local communities and that it fits into our existing energy system.”
Udall spokesperson Jennifer Talhelm said Monday that Udall didn’t mean to imply that there was a “specific plan” on the part of Xcel to build a nuclear plant in Colorado. He only meant to say that “utilities are considering their options as they attempt to reduce carbon emissions.”
Henley said his phones had lit up after Udall’s Friday comments made news. “I’ve been on the phone with media outlets and I’m looking at regulators starting to call me any time now,” Henley said.
He wouldn’t presume to speculate on what Udall was originally thinking, Henley said, but he said there’s plenty of general context for Udall’s comment.
President Obama has recently voiced strong support for nuclear power. His administration approved $8 billion in grants for reactors to be built in Georgia. Closer to home, Colorado energy wholesaler TriState last week Wednesday told CBS4 that it would consider building a next-generation smaller nuclear power plant here in the future, that it was “preserving its options to build a nuclear facility in the future.”
In the same report, Xcel’s Henley said his company did not have any nuclear plans for Colorado.
“We have to weigh the risk of the cost of building a nuclear power plant, considering the size of our company and the tremendous capital outlay that it takes to build a plant like that.”
Xcel said it was proud of the fact that it was the largest supplier of wind-generated power in the nation.
Udall has been a key supporter of nuclear energy over the past year, arguing in favor of modular nuclear plants that create less radioactive waste and that, like all nuclear plants, would release no climate-changing carbon in creating power.