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Deseret News, May 27, 2009

Critics say N-plant would harm ecosystem
By Amy Joi O'Donoghue

Critics of a proposal to divert nearly 30,000 acre feet of water from the Green River for use at Utah's first nuclear-power plant say it would threaten already endangered fish and rare plants.

The protest by the Center for Biological Diversity, filed with the Utah State Engineer's Office, raises concerns over the Kane County Water Conservancy District's application to change the nature of the water's use and its diversion point.

Specifically, the center questions "how the water diversion will be consistent with the need to protect river flows and habitat conditions critical for the survival of imperiled plants and animals in the vicinity of the power plant's footprint, including endangered fish," according to a news release from the group.

The Las-Vegas based organization joins other conservation and environmental groups like Living Rivers, Moab Local Green Party, Red Rock Watch and Uranium Watch, in addition to Healthy Environment Alliance (HEAL) of Utah, in protesting the water's diversion.

A total of 239 protests were filed, said state engineer Kent Jones. Of those, 195 came as part of a combined protest from HEAL Utah.

Headed by Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, the district made an application to divert 29,600 acre feet of water to lease to Transition Power Development, which wants to build a two-unit nuclear-power reactor, named the Blue Castle Generation Project.

Transition's chief executive officer is former Utah Rep. Aaron Tilton. Earlier this year, Transition contacted the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to convey the company's intent to submit an application for an early site permit of two nuclear units by April 2010.

Transition is proposing to site the reactor three miles west of Green River city in Emery County.

Protests over the water diversion — which were due Tuesday — raise a variety of issues in general.

"There are major health and safety and environmental issues associated with the construction and operation of a nuclear-power station next to a major Union Pacific passenger and freight line, an interstate highway (I-70), the town of Green River and the Green River (a major tributary of the Colorado River)," according to Uranium Watch.

The site is part of an industrial-development park on land that Emery County has leased from the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration.

Earlier this year, an escrow agreement was inked to put in motion the development of a uranium mill at the site.

There will likely be a formal hearing this fall, in which parties on both sides of the issue can speak publicly.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton