I am the vice president for business development at Blue Castle Holdings, the Utah company proposing the development of a nuclear generating station near Green River. This paper has graciously provided the opportunity for me to explain why I am involved in this process.
In 2004, Gov. Leavitt appointed me to be one of Utah’s representatives to the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission, which was a multistate entity formed to find ways to improve the deteriorating visibility in the extended Grand Canyon region.
Monthly, for almost four years, representatives of local governments, states, Indian tribes, public utilities, transportation and mining companies from Utah, Arizona and New Mexico met to find ways to preserve the tremendous scenic vistas in the Grand Canyon and nearby national and state parks, including those in the Moab area.
During those years of meetings, I represented the coal-fired power generation industry as the CEO of the Intermountain Power Plant near Delta. I learned a great deal regarding the impact on air quality and visibility of both coal- and gas-fired plants and became a firm believer of the public need to generate electricity with the least possible impact on air quality.
Due to the excellent work of that commission, laws and regulations were enacted, which have improved visibility to our parks. The IPP plant is now consistently among the three cleanest coal-fired generating plants in the country. Nevertheless, many involved in that process, including myself, began to look to cleaner sources of electricity including wind, solar and nuclear. Here is a summary of what I learned about the comparison of these resources for Utah.
Wind is an excellent power generation source. Unfortunately, Utah is not blessed with good steady winds. The only large-scale wind project in Utah, the Milford Wind Farm, produces power on average only four to five hours a day, so other types of generation like a natural gas plant must be built to generate power for the other 19 to 20 hours of the day. Building a wind farm to produce power only four or five hours a day results in very expensive electricity.
Solar has great promise, but much better technology is still required. Currently, solar technology produces electricity at a cost almost four times what nuclear power costs and would produce electricity in Utah only about an average of 6.9 hours a day. The best solar technology for electric generation, sun-tracking concentrated solar, also uses twice the water that nuclear power uses.
A nuclear power plant produces power at full capacity on average 22 hours a day 365 days a year. It is the only resource available that can replace the steady, constant power generation of fossil fuels helping to reduce air pollution, which impairs visibility in our national parks. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports nuclear plants have produced the lowest cost of any large thermal base load resource in the U.S. over the last 10 years.
I am now advocating for clean and affordable nuclear energy. In my opinion, it is the only power resource that can generate electricity all day long and which can protect our clear skies and our wonderful scenic vistas.
Some are also concerned over water. The analysis of the Green River shows that the Blue Castle Project will use 1.4 percent of the river’s average annual flow of 4 million acre feet of water. During drought years, the water depth will be reduced by less than 1.5 inches.
In 2008, 83 percent of Utah’s fresh water was used for irrigation, 12 percent for public supply, 2.2 percent for generation of thermoelectric power and 1.5 percent for aquaculture. The greatest conservation is to be achieved by improving the delivery of irrigation water. Just by using pipes instead of open ditches, a water savings of more than 25 percent could be achieved. That savings is more than 20 times the amount of water that will be used in the Blue Castle Project.
The Blue Castle Project would increase electricity generated in Utah by approximately 50 percent, while using less than 1 percent of Utah’s current water diversion.
I love Moab, I float the rivers, hike, bike and ride my ATV in the Moab area several times a year. I also love Arches, Dead Horse Point and Canyonlands. Helping Utah obtain cleaner electricity generation, in my opinion, will help assure that my grandchildren can use clean electricity and will be able to enjoy Utah’s marvelous scenic resources with their clear skies.
Reed Searle is the vice president for business development at Blue Castle Holdings, the Utah company proposing the development of a nuclear generating station near Green River.