Green River Nukes and Water

The energy-water nexus is an issue all over the western United States. Many new sources of energy, from concentrating solar plants to oil shales, need water. New sources of water, whether pumping it long distances or desalinating brackish groundwater or ocean water, take energy.

Few examples on the energy side are as interesting as the Blue Castle nuclear power plant proposed for Green River, Utah.

Located on the Green River northwest of Moab (map), the town of Green River is home to the John Wesley Powell River History Museum, and if Aaron Tilton has his way, it will also be home to Utah’s first nuclear power plant, as Rachel Waldholz reports in High Country News:

The Green River proposal has sparked intense skepticism. Critics ask where the funding will come from, where the electricity will go, and, of course, what will happen to the waste. But the first hurdle is more immediate. In the Utah desert, this possible climate change solution is colliding with one of its projected consequences: water scarcity.

Blue Castle needs some 50,000 acre-feet annually — enough water to supply up to 100,000 homes — to cool the reactors of its proposed 3,000 megawatt plant, which would produce enough electricity to power nearly 3 million households.

It’s not yet clear whether to take this project seriously. Nuclear power folks expect new reactors to be built at existing reactor sites, and to be built by existing power companies. Blue Castle fits neither criteria. But the water part of the story, as Tilton tries to win permission to move water rights from elsewhere in the state to Green River to cool the plnat, makes it a fascinating case study in how we move water around the West to cope with our growing energy needs.