The trial between HEAL Utah and the Blue Castle Group came to a close last Tuesday. Up in the air was the battle over whether the State of Utah was correct in granting water rights to Blue Castle to build a nuclear power plant along the Green River.
Blue Castle Holdings Inc. has been pushing heavily to build a reactor in Emory County, five miles northwest of the town of Green River, for the past two years. According to the company, Utah and the western region have a significant need for for new electricity sources, and that a nuclear reactor would produce relativity clean electricity compared to coal-fired plants. Former Republican state representative and CEO of Blue Castle Group Aaron Tilton says that project is a viable power source for Utah and a potential option to revitalize the job market in Price, which has historically revolved almost entirely around coal. Blue Castle cites a 2012 hearing that said the water source in Carbon County is capable of supporting the water needs of a nuclear power plant.
Tilton made a name for himself within the environmental community when, in 2006, he proposed HB 100 a bill that would require organizations to pay for a bond if they were to sue a private entity or the state and halt the construction of a project if the organization was suing on the grounds that an environmental violation has taken place. The bond money would be used to cover any costs associated with the possible litigation delays, and would be paid if the organization bringing the lawsuit lost in court. The bill was in response to the Legacy Parkway construction and received widespread support from Republicans in both the House and Senate—the bill was ultimately vetoed by Governor Jon Huntsman.
HEAL Utah sued Blue Castle after Utah State Engineer Kent Jones approved 53,000 acre-feet of water rights to be taken from the Green River to support the cooling processes required in a nuclear power plant. According to US Geological Surveys, roughly 4.4 Million acre-feet pass near the site location annually. Due to the rural nature of the Green River, claims are available on the water.
HEAL Utah, originally founded to prevent the importation of nuclear waste into Utah, says they’re fighting to stop the nuclear plant’s construction because it uses too much water alongside a watershed that feeds St. George, and that nuclear energy is a costly source of power.
HEAL’s Executive Director, Matt Pacenza, says that not only is the project too costly, but is also a hazard to the surrounding cities, as well as the drinking water of those who rely on the Green River. “Everything we’ve learned this week confirms the obvious: No one wants to buy costly nuclear power and Blue Castle doesn’t have a viable business,” says Pacenza “We’re confident the judge has taken note and are hopeful for a favorable ruling.”
A decision on the trial will be made within the next 55 days be presiding Judge George Hammond. If Hammond affirms Blue Castle’s right, the plan will be examined by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission for approval. Prior to 2012, the Commission hadn’t approved a nuclear power plant in over thirty years.