For several years now, energy experts have been predicting a “nuclear renaissance” in this country. But that’s not materializing very quickly.
In Idaho, an energy developer is now on his third proposed site for a new commercial nuclear power plant. Thursday, in Payette, Idaho, people traveled hours to express their feelings at an initial public hearing.
Opinions on the nuclear option were sharply divided. Tom Banse reports from Payette County.
|Proposed nuclear plant site is presently private ranchland.|
Tom Banse: “I’ve driven about an hour northwest of Boise. The Oregon line is only about 12 miles further. I’ve come to a remote private ranch. There’s not a cow in sight, actually, or another human being. This is the location where a small Idaho small company headed by Don Gillispie proposes to build a large new nuclear power plant. This is Gillispie’s third try — maybe the third time is the charm — to get a Northwest county to change the zoning to allow a nuke plant.”
Don Gillispie: “This is probably one of the better sites in the sense of no seismic activity, no volcanoes, and no ground motion and no faults.”
Gillispie started scouting locations in Idaho about the same time trend spotters popularized the phrase “nuclear renaissance.”
Since 2007, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has received applications for 26 new reactor units. So far, none are from the Northwest, although Gillispie hopes to change that.
In Richland, Washington though, pro-nuclear writer and blogger Mike Fox says the “renaissance” faces formidable headwinds.
Michael Fox: “It’s very slow to get here. There are a number of reasons for that. One of them is the heavy burden that we have in the United States from taxation, litigation and regulation.”
Fox says those factors drive up costs. The newly proposed nuke plant in Idaho carries an estimated price tag of nearly ten billion dollars to construct. The developer has not yet lined up financing.
Michael Fox: “The CEO’s of utilities have to basically have to put the entire financial future of the utility at risk to take on this load. It’s a lot.”
Fox is encouraged by national opinion polls that find growing public acceptance for nuclear energy.
A Gallup Poll earlier this year measured 59 percent in favor. But doubters remain numerous and adamant, especially here in the Northwest.
Tim Kennedy: “I don’t want that stuff in my area. Once it’s there, it’s there. I mean, Chernobyl, they still haven’t done anything with that. I’ve seen on National Geographic where they’re still at it, I don’t know how many years since Chernobyl happened.”
Tim Kennedy was among about 250 people who filled Payette’s high school auditorium to sound off at a county zoning hearing.
|Graphic of proposed plant location. Courtesy of AEHI, Inc.|
Tona Henderson talked calmly about nuclear waste for a few minutes, but then couldn’t hold back her emotions.
Tona Henderson: “Do we really know enough about the problems this plant could cause if something went wrong? Are you willing to stake your families’ lives on it?”
Other Northwest residents are more concerned about securing jobs, especially in a down economy. As well, nuclear supporters argue the Northwest needs new sources of electricity that operate round-the-clock, unlike wind turbines and solar panels.
Angelina Garcia Devine believes Idaho would benefit from hosting a nuclear plant.
Angelina Garcia Devine: “The low cost, clean energy is going to attract industries to the Gem State, which creates jobs and therefore stimulates our economy even more. It also helps with global warming, which is its own dilemma.”
Payette County’s Planning and Zoning commission listened to back-and-forth testimony until an hour before midnight.
The panel gave no indication of what it will eventually recommend to the county commission.
On the other side of Boise, the Elmore County zoning commission is taking its time with a separate application from the same company for another nuke plant.
Alternate Energy Holdings CEO Don Gillispie says he’s optimistic one of his plant sites will receive local approval by early next year.
Ultimately, a new reactor needs approval from federal regulators.
BY TOM BANSE, OPB News – http://news.opb.org/article/6255-much-discussed-nuclear-renaissance-slow-arrive/