Tuesday, September 13, 2011

No Nuclear Power in Utah!

In case you didn’t know, I live in Utah. I love this state; its diversity in terrain, wild life, beauty, and natural wonders leave me in awe any time I venture out into the wild parts of the state.

Recently our governor, Gary Herbert, has proposed that a nuclear power plant be built in near Green River, Utah in the south eastern part of the state. At first, I was all for it, but then something started troubling me.

Now, before you start spouting off about how clean and safe nuclear power is, because I know all that. Here’s where I’m troubled… cost and water. Nuclear power is tremendously expensive. This power plant is going to cost the state, what, a couple of Billion dollars? And it won’t be on line for a decade or more? What good is that? Our energy problems are starting to happen now. What will they be like in 2020 when the new reactor is finally, maybe, going to come on line?

And what about water? Water is life in the west, and nuclear power takes a tremendous amount of water, from what I’ve read. Water is needed for the steam that actually turns the turbines, water is needed to cool the steam back into water, and water is needed to regulate the reactor core temperatures so that the whole thing doesn’t go boom. Water! Yes, the reactor will be by the Green River, and “the Green” is a pretty big river, by western standards. But it is but a trickle compared to the mighty rivers they have back east where nuclear power works and is sustainable because of their enormous amounts of water. Those of us who grew up in the mountain west have no idea what a river can be. A few years ago my wife and I went back east to visit the town in New Jersey where she grew up. We landed in Philadelphia, rented a car and then drove over a bridge into New Jersey. While on the bridge, I looked out over this vast expanse of water and asked, ”what bay is this?” Where upon, my wife looked at me as if I were the biggest dolt in the world and answered, “It’s a river, the Deleware.” Oh, my gosh! I thought. In my experience, the mighty Colorado was big water, The Green River, the Snake River, The Weber River, those were big water where you can catch large trout and crossing on foot is impossible. So with that mindset, I never understood why it was such a big deal that Washington took his army across the Delaware. After seeing the incredible size of the Delaware, I finally understood.

So I ask you, again, from where is the water is going to come. The Green is just not big enough to sustain the water needs of a nuclear reactor. Farmers down in the south eastern corner of the state need the Green and the Colorado to water crops, and the towns down there need the water to sustain themselves. This year has been a great water year for the mountain west. Lots of snow fall last winter, and mild temperatures have filled our rivers, lakes, and reservoirs to overflowing. But are we forgetting the years past, when water levels fell so much that parts of Lake Powell could be hiked again? What would the reactor do for water in drought years? Ship it in from… where?

Do I have a better idea for the power needs of the state? Yes, I think I do.

Last June, my family took a trip to Oregon, and on our way, we drove along the Columbia River; also, a very mighty river by any standard. Along the way I noticed wind farms; gigantic wind turbines by the hundreds churning away on the wind that rushes up the gorge from the Pacific Ocean; cheep, clean, plentiful energy. And I thought, why can’t we do that in Utah. The west desert, from Delta in the south to Dugway in the north is one vast plain of nothing but sagebrush, sand, abandoned mine shafts, and wind, lots and lots of wind. There has not been a time in my memory that I have been out there that I have not been beaten raw by blowing dust. For the cost of the proposed Green River Reactor, and half the time, we could build the world’s largest wind farm, spanning thousands of acres, churning away in the desert wind on the state’s western border. Zero emissions, no spent fuel rods to store (or pay someone else to store), and the only water required would be by the workers who maintained the turbines.

I love the idea… but, I’m just one voice. And the “leaders” of the State and the Country, can’t hear a single voice.

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