The Colorado Independent,2020
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The biggest reason cited by the Pueblo County commissioners recently when they rejected a rezoning request to accommodate a proposed nuclear power plant was their collective concern about a lack of water to cool the plant. Colorado's only nuclear plant, Fort St. Vrain, was gas-cooled because of concerns about water, ultimately closing it down in 1989. But a lack of water is the last thing worrying nuclear regulatory officials in Nebraska these days.
Until recently, most of the debate over nuclear power in Colorado had to do with whether to mine and mill more uranium to be shipped elsewhere for conversion into fuel rods to power nuclear plants in other states and other countries around the world. The magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan on March 11 changed both the nature and the tenor of the discussion in Colorado – a state that produced some of the uranium ore used in developing the nation’s first nuclear weapons.
Colorado Sen. Mark Udall has walked a fine line the last several years, advocating for new nuclear energy because of global climate change concerns while running the risk of alienating his Democratic, environmentalist base, many of whom still bitterly oppose nuclear power because of its legacy of mining pollution in the state. In the wake of the Japan’s ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant northeast of Tokyo, more than just the so-called “dirty front end” of nuclear power – Colorado’s rich but sometimes toxic uranium mining history – is being called into question. The issues of waste storage at the state’s only nuclear power plant – the now-defunct Fort St. Vrain – and a lack of water to cool future reactors also are being hotly debated.
The future of Colorado’s dormant nuclear power industry hinges on two critical issues – water and waste – both of which could prove insurmountable for proponents of new nuclear power plants in the state. Pueblo attorney Don Banner struck a nerve last week with his proposal for a new clean energy park that would include a nuclear power plant. His rezoning request will likely be decided by the Pueblo County commissioners next month, but not before the plan sparked heated debate in the wake of Japan’s ongoing nuclear power crisis.