Pueblo commissioners point to water, safety concerns in denying nuclear plant

Citing concerns about safety and a lack of water, the Pueblo County commissioners Monday night unanimously voted down a zoning change request by a Pueblo attorney seeking to build a “clean energy park,” including a nuclear power plant, just outside the city. The vote was 3-0 to deny the zoning change.

“I respectfully disagree with their decision but it’s theirs to make and like the rest of us we all have to live with our decisions and they’ll have to live with theirs,” Pueblo attorney Don Banner said, according to KKTV.

Last month Banner stirred heated debate with his proposal, which has been in the works since last summer but came before the commissioners hard on the heels of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in Japan. The commissioners took their time to consider Banner’s request, weighing thousands of emails and letters of support and opposition.

Ultimately, the commissioners decided the potential jobs were outweighed by community concern over a lack of water to cool any future reactors and the potential safety and environmental concerns stemming from storing spent fuel on site.

Colorado’s only previous foray into nuclear power ended in 1989 when the Fort St. Vrain power plant near Platteville (between Longmont and Greeley) was shut down because it never fully operated at peak efficiency. More than 14 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel is still stored at the facility, near where Xcel Energy currently runs a gas-fired power plant.

Typically Colorado has seen environmental battles over the front end of nuclear power, the milling and mining of uranium later converted into fuel rods and exported overseas. Colorado Sen. Mark Udall has been a big backer of reviving the nuclear power industry in the United States in order to reduce fossil fuel consumption and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail and Real Aspen.

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