Future Of Utah Power Plant Hinges On Water Rights
By Sara Jerome
Testimony began this week in a trial over whether a nuclear power plant will be built in Utah. It all hinges on whether the Blue Castle nuclear project receives access to a substantial amount of river water.
"The week-long trial focuses on whether the state appropriately assigned 53,000 acre feet of water to the Blue Castle project," The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Though the state granted the water rights last year, the decision is being contested by environmental groups and local water consumers.
Utah's only say in the project has revolved around whether to green-light use of water from the Green River. Beyond that, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is the top authority on such matters.
Environmentalists oppose the idea of taking water from the river for the plant. "Environmental concerns include depletion of the river during low-flow periods, protection of the area’s endangered fish and decreased water quality," The Salt Lake City Weekly reported.
Testimony was given this week. The Weekly provided a rundown: Proponents focused on "supporting Blue Castle’s claims that the nuclear project is economically viable and will have negligible impacts on the environment and existing water rights."
In the end, the issue is all about water.
It's estimated that the water being requested is enough "to sustain a town of about 200,000 people," ABC4 reported.
Proponents said the water rights should be granted because Utah "currently isn’t using all the water it’s allotted" under the Colorado River Compact, the outlet reported. "Utah is entitled to 1.4 million acre feet of water per year. As of 2005, the state was only utilizing about a million acre feet per year."
The advocacy group HEAL Utah disputed whether there is sufficient water available. “No one denies that there has been a lot of water which has been awarded to various entities, the question is is there enough water actually in the river and that’s where the debate comes in," the group's policy director told ABC 4.
"Closing arguments are scheduled Friday, but [the judge] is not expected to rule right away," The Tribune said.
Image credit: "Nuclear Power Plant In Illinois" © 2010 Daniel Foster, used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/