Court upholds water permit for Blue Castle’s Utah nuclear project

A recent Utah court ruling has approved water for use at the proposed Blue Castle Holdings (BCH) new nuclear power project in Green River.

Blue Castle said Dec. 2 that it now has the first new nuclear site in the Western U.S. with an approved water source, which is the single most important asset for deployment of a new nuclear power project.

The decision was issued on Nov. 27 by Utah State Seventh District Court Judge George Harmond Jr., the company noted. The judge’s decision stated: “The court finds that Blue Castle presented evidence sufficient to establish that there is reason to believe that each of the statutory criteria have been met regarding the applications.”

Judge Harmond’s ruling also emphasized: “The court finds reason to believe that the project will not impair any existing water rights, nor will it interfere with a more beneficial use of water.”

In the dry Western U.S. water availability dictates just about everything when it comes to planning life, including electric power generation. “Without a source of water you don’t have a project,” explained Aaron Tilton, Blue Castle Holdings CEO. “The original approval by the State Water Engineer has now stood the test of an appeal where the relevant evidence was weighed. The ruling is a major de-risking milestone for the Blue Castle Project. It provides future utility participants greater certainty that the major asset, water for the deployment of a new nuclear plant, has been secured economically.”

The addition of new nuclear electricity generation will fit the Utah regional markets very well by the projected commercial operation date in 2024, the company said. Clean nuclear generation will contribute to fuel diversification and enable the establishment of a multi-source energy portfolio with lower risk and higher cost predictability, it added.

The resurgence of natural gas with current low prices has added a competitive fuel option to the generating mix in Utah. But Blue Castle said the future price of natural gas is uncertain and this could jeopardize the low and stable electricity price regime that Utahans have come to expect.

“Nuclear power’s base load benefits fill the approaching market void very well. As more new transmission projects are undertaken and current transmission capacity is freed up by the coal-fired closures, utilities will have additional capability to deliver new nuclear generation from our site to their customers at competitive, stable prices,” noted Tilton.

The proposed multi-unit nuclear plant could increase the electricity generated in Utah by approximately 50% by adding 2,200 MW-3,000 MW of installed capacity, using less than 1% of the state’s current water diversion.

“We always believed that the decision made by Utah State Engineer, Kent Jones, on January 20, 2012 complied with the law by approving appropriated water for use at the proposed Blue Castle nuclear plant. Judge Harmond’s new review and subsequent ruling confirms that the decision by the State Engineer was in accordance with State law and was well thought-out. The ruling provides additional certainty that the State of Utah, its citizens and future power consumers will be the beneficiaries of this water use,” Tilton said.

BCH said it has hired several local and national firms for on-site and off-site investigations to prepare an Early Site Permit (ESP) application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. BCH has completed a significant portion of the ESP data collection and application preparation activities. The ESP requires a thorough Environmental Impact Study (EIS) to ensure that the use of the water at the proposed nuclear power plant will be protective of the public health and the surrounding environment, including the endangered fish in the Green River.

Blue Castle Holdings is an energy infrastructure development company based in Utah. Its management team includes: Reed Searle (as senior v.p. of business development), the former general manager of the Intermountain Power Agency, which runs a coal-fired plant in Utah; Tilton (president and CEO), who is a former state legislator with experience negotiating equity positions and power purchase agreements with municipal and investor owned utilities throughout the Southwest; and Nils Diaz (chief strategic officer), who is a former Chairman of the NRC (2003-2006).

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.