(KCPW News) Utah State Engineer Kent Jones has approved water rights from the Green River for Blue Castle Holdings’ proposed nuclear power plant in Emery County, much to the dismay of environmental groups. Matt Pacenza, Policy Director of the anti-nuclear group HEAL Utah, says the decision was the only opportunity for a Utah official to reject the plan. He says the company now faces two hurdles, the easier of which will be getting permission from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
“Although the process will take several years and will cost them quite a bit of money, the NRC is notorious for cozying up to the nuclear industry and basically never says no,” he says. “So one imagines that they will fairly easily convince Washington bureaucrats that it’s okay to put a nuclear reactor in Utah.”
Pacenza says the bigger hurdle is finding investors and customers for the power.
Rob Mrowka with the Center for Biological Diversity says taking almost 54,000 acre-feet of water a year from the Green River would impact rare fish, among other problems.
“…to the point of perhaps driving those already listed for protection to the point of extinction and necessitating the addition of the other three to the endangered species act list of protected species,” says Mrowka.
A call to the state engineer’s office was not returned. In a news release, he said concerns raised about the water rights application were considered, adding that an application must be approved by law if the water is available, it won’t interfere with existing water rights, and it would not be detrimental to the public welfare. And approval of the application doesn’t actually guarantee there will be enough water to operate the plant.