Nuclear power plant proposed for Utah

18 October 2007

A private equity group has proposed the construction of the first nuclear power plant in the US state of Utah and has already agreed water rights for the plant. However, the involvement of two state lawmakers in the project has drawn criticism from opponents.

Transition Power Development (TPD) is reviewing potential sites for the plant in Utah. The company plans to spend some $100 million on obtaining a licence from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to construct the proposed 1500 MWe plant. However, TPD plans to then sell the licence to another company which would actually construct and operate the plant.

TPD, formed in February 2007, signed an agreement with the Kane County Water Conservancy District (KCWCD) on 20 September to secure the rights to water to cool the nuclear reactor. The water will be drawn from Lake Powell. Under the agreement, Transition Power will pay KCWCD $1 million annually for some 30,000 acre-feet of water (37.1 million cubic metres) once the plant begins operating. TPD paid the conservancy district $10,000 upon signing the agreement and will pay $100,000 annually for five years until construction of the plant commences. It will then pay $500,000 per year until power generation begins.

However, critics of the proposed plant have called into question conflicts of interest of two Utah state representatives promoting it. Representative Aaron Tilton, Republican for Springville, is a partner in Transition Power. Representative Mike Noel, Republican for Kanab, is an executive director of KCWCD.

Noel is chairman of the Utah's Legislature's Public Utilities and Technology Committee and Tilton is vice chairman. In addition, both men are members of the Public Utilities and Technology Interim Committee, which is co-chaired by Noel. The interim committee is considering legislation that would assist utilities in constructing nuclear power plants in the state. A bill to such effect was discussed by the committee on 18 July and 19 September.

Tilton said the criticism of his interests was "fairly predictable," but added that there has been no legislation before the committee that would help his company and he disclosed his involvement in Transition Power when he felt it appropriate. Noel said that he does not benefit in any way from the deal between KCWCD and TPD, either through the conservancy district or his private environmental consulting company.

Nils Diaz, a former chairman of the NRC, is a policy advisor to Transition Power.

Further information

WNA's US Nuclear Power Industry information paper