A nuclear-power plant planned for Utah could be as expensive as $3 billion to build, and the radioactive waste generated by the plant would have to be stored on site, nuclear-power experts told legislators this week.

David Hill, deputy director for science and technology at the Idaho National Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy research campus, spoke Wednesday during a meeting of the Legislature's Public Utilities and Technology Interim Committee. He was invited to speak concerning a plan by Transition Power Development, a private equity group, to develop a nuclear-power plant in Utah.

Rep. Aaron Tilton, R-Springville, a member of the interim committee, is an owner of Transition Power.

Hill said the cost of bringing a new nuclear plant online is estimated "in the range of $2 billion to $3 billion." The plants are capital intensive but could last for 80 years, he said.

Nils Diaz, a former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission who is working with Transition Power, said such a plant's radioactive waste should be stored on site until it can be moved to a permanent repository or reprocessed. No nations now have permanent repositories for high-level nuclear waste, he said.

A nuclear-power facility built anywhere in the United States would not be able move the radioactive material from its site "in a period of 40 to 100 years," he said.

Diaz said he would recommend that radioactive waste from the Transition Power plant be kept in Utah until effective reprocessing technology is available. He said such plants are 10 times as safe as they were at the start of the nuclear power era.

Utah now exports electricity generated by non-nuclear sources to Western states such as California, said Dianne Nielson, Utah's energy adviser. Some of the electricity from a nuclear-power plant also likely would leave the state.

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