Proposals for a uranium mill and nuclear power plant near Green River, Emery County, are raising more and more eyebrows.
A group that says it seeks to protect Utahns from nuclear and toxic waste wants to know where high-level radioactive waste will go if the state allows a nuclear power plant to be built in an industrial park on state trust land near Green River.
Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah members also told the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration board of directors during a meeting Tuesday that the state isn't maximizing the trust's revenue potential by exercising an option to give the nuclear-plant owners first dibs on 1,600 acres in the new industrial park six miles from Green River.
HEAL policy director Christopher Thomas told SITLA board members that the deal, which could benefit Emery County coffers, in effect puts a cap on the price of the 1,600 acres.
"As I understand it, other potential buyers will now have to get in line behind the nuclear power developer, even if they wanted to offer a higher bid for the land," Thomas said.
Thomas wants land in the industrial park opened up to bidders.
The proposed plant's waste stream is another sticking point for HEAL. Thomas said the plant developer should guarantee a disposal place before being allowed to set up shop near Green River.
"Without that assurance, we don't know how long we'll need to manage that waste on site, who's responsible for it after the plant's useful life and just how much it could cost," Thomas said.
If Yucca Mountain ever gets going as a waste site, HEAL is worried there won't be enough room to store waste there from a Utah reactor.
Some are touting the plant's benefits.
Earlier this year Heritage Foundation research fellow Jack Spencer wrote that a proposal to build two 1,500-megawatt reactors in Green River would provide Utahns with "clean and secure" energy while possibly lessening the blow on industry from efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, blamed for global warming.
But water issues for the mill and plant may be a long way from being resolved.
Last fall Rep. Aaron Tilton, R-Springville, talked about building two reactors somewhere in the state. Tilton is an owner of Transition Power Development. Water from one of the units could come from the Kane County Water Conservancy District, directed by Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab.
If the plant proposed for construction near Green River is built, it will be in the same industrial park as a planned uranium mill.
In 2001 the price for a pound of uranium cost less than eight items at the Dollar Store. By last year, however, uranium soared to $138 per pound, which has renewed interests from prospectors with an eye on Utah's cache of yellowcake.
Last May Mancos Resources Inc. presented the Utah Radiation Control Board with a plan to operate a mine that will produce about 1,200 tons of uranium per day. It's unknown at this point where the uranium would be enriched or even if the neighboring plant would use it or rely on sources outside Utah.
Canada-based Bluerock Resources Ltd. owns Mancos, which now has an office in Green River, and it has 12 "uranium properties" in Utah and Colorado. The Mancos mill would employ more than 40 people, last about 50 years and result in a $125 million investment in Utah, with an "optimistic" start date of three years from now.The group Uranium Watch is keeping an eye on how the mill might impact water resources. The mill would need licensing from three state regulatory agencies, including the Division of Water Quality. A hearing on water rights protests is set for Aug. 27 in Green River.
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