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Water usage and nuclear power plants April 23, 2010

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in nuclear industry, Water policy.
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Water usage and nuclear power plants is little known in the U.S., even in areas where water is at a premium such as in the semi-arid western states, where most of the fresh water is consumed in this country. Here are the facts:

  • About 80% is used for irrigation and much of that is for golf courses, lawns, parks, recreation fields, swimming pools and commercial property beautification. 2 billion gallons per day is used on golf courses alone.
  • Approximately 10% is used for industry and business.
  • About 7% is used for household use including some irrigation.
  • The remainder, around 3.0% is used for thermal power plants. Nuclear, coal, combined cycle gas, CSP solar and geothermal are thermal plants.  Coal plants are by far the largest user, followed by nuclear plants, and finally combined cycle gas plants in order of power production.

Figures from the above graph are very similar for Idaho except only about .01% of the fresh water is used for thermal power plants.

It is critical to point out just how much water leaves southern Idaho on an annual basis without ever being used.  In fact, 7,900,000 acre feet of water leaves the state every year via the Snake River, which has the Payette River as one of its tributaries

A proposed nuclear power plant in Payette County would use less than 1% of this water.

(Source: SPF Water Engineering)

What sources of electricity require the most water?

  • There are 2400 hydroelectric plants in the United States that require the largest amount of water than any other power producer.  However, hydro plants only produce 7% of the nation’s electricity and around 40% in Idaho, which is decreasing according to the Athena report. (http://www.harvestcleanenergy.org/IdahoEnergy/IdahoEnergyFuture_PR.pdf)  While there is some evaporation behind the dams, much of the water is held for production of often small amounts of power instead of flood control even when the water is needed in semi-arid climates for crop irrigation and industry.  There are no emissions with hydro, however, these plants negatively impact the environment in a variety of ways including fish passage and silting.
  • There are 600 coal plants in the U.S., which require more water than any other thermal power source due to the large number of units.  Coal produces 50% of the nation’s electricity, but they have the worst emissions of all power sources.  Many of these emissions contain mercury, sulfur and CO2.
  • There are 104 nuclear plants in the U.S. which use less water with fewer units than coal.  Nuclear power plants produce 20% of the nation’s electricity and 70% of all emission-free electricity.
  • Combine-cycle gas plants use the least amount of water of all the major power sources because they are the smallest power contributor.  However, these plants are rapidly growing in number and emit a large amount of CO2, although those emissions are about half the amount of an equivalent size coal plant.
  • Geothermal plants produce less than 1% of the nation’s power and use water much like any equivalent size thermal plant.  However, many of these plants have to inject water into the earth, which requires even more of this valuable resource.
  • Solar power plants, while contributing less than 1% of our electricity, use more water than thermal plants to wash the panels and for cooling of Concentrated Solar Power (CSP).
  • Almost all thermal power plants require about the same amount of water to cool a megawatt using conventional cooling methods.

Nuclear plant water usage:

There is a great deal of misinformation surrounding nuclear plant water usage often propagated by opponents of nuclear power. Water is recirculated for cooling of the power plant and it is consumed by the plant as well.  Here’s a look at the facts:

  • The power block in a steam-cycle plant, which actually produces the power, will consume between 50,000 to 100,000 gallons per day depending on the design and operations.
  • The workers at the plant will consume 500,000 to 700,000 gallons for day for toilets, cooking, washing and other general industrial usage.
  • AEHI’s design will use a hybrid cooling system that will control consumption depending on water availability to less than one million gallons per day or 1000 acre-feet per year (140 acres irrigated) for the steam cycle and plant usage (listed above) if required due to water shortage. This minimum consumptive mode is known as dry cooling.
  • Depending on the reactor’s total power and the cooling system design, the plant can recirculate up to 20 to 25 million gallons per day for cooling. In this cooling system, water is pumped from the water source (river) to fill ponds near the power plant.  It is then circulated from one pond into the plant for cooling, afterwards the water is returned to another pond to cool before being sent back to the first pond to use again. These ponds will be filled when water flow in the river is high.
  • Many older nuclear plants use high water consumptive cooling up to 90% of the recirculated water (such as cooling towers which are spray evaporative cooling) and were built where water was abundant from large rivers and lakes at these locations.

Source: 2005 USGS data (most recent available data)


The U.S. has water for almost every use including irrigating lawns, golf courses and ball parks while using the least amount of water to produce arguably one of our most important products for the success of our economy — reliable baseload electricity.

In most of Idaho, as in the rest of the U.S., without electricity, the economy would be devastated. So, it would seem water for power production should be a very high priority especially given the amount of electricity returned from large thermal plants. Specifically, less than 1% of the water leaving Idaho would cool a large dual unit nuclear power plant producing enough reliable power to address all foreseeable growth while stabilizing increasing power costs.

New uses for power plant hot water December 9, 2009

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in AEHI, Agriculture, economic benefits, Greenfield nuclear development, nuclear jobs, Water policy.
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Nuclear plants have advanced greatly in reactor design, safety systems, efficiency and reliability since my starting in the industry in the 1960s.

However, one area where nuclear plants – and thermal plants in general – haven’t changed much is dealing with excess heat. With a few exceptions, the approach today is much as it was 50 years ago: site the plant next to a plentiful water supply and use large amounts of water to cool the plant (with about 10-15% being  lost through those large cooling towers ). The industry’s view has been that nuclear plants are for creating large amounts of dependable, low-cost electricity – period – and that’s all baseload plants need to do.

Waste power plant heat has traditionally been viewed as nuisance, but having a plentiful supply of hot water is an incredibly useful thing. In our Idaho reactor, we will be using a hybrid cooling system, so that we’ll only lose to evaporation no more than a million gallons a day. There will be millions of gallons of heated water, however, that could sustain all kinds of industry – imagine a man-made source of geothermal water not quite hot enough to drive a power turbine, but plenty hot enough for dozens of practical uses.

Many industries spend huge amount of money heating water, usually with natural gas. Why not use a virtually free supply of hot water instead? Instead of just dissipating this hot water into the air, it could be useful  co-generation for almost any industrial process:

  • Food processing
  • Fertilizer production
  • Biofuels generation
  • Greenhouses
  • Facilities heating Crop application (where it could extend the growing season up to two weeks in each direction)
  • Recreation and wildlife habitat.

We have already had preliminary discussions with other industries interested in using this excess heat.

We have acquired existing water rights in the area and we have examined the concept of renting water from willing rights holders. Since we only need to rent water for cooling, we could return it to farmers after cooling and they could use it for whatever they were going to do in the first place.

We plan on installing cooling ponds next to our plant, useful for stepping down temperature as needed. Most American nuclear plants are located in farm or wildlife habitat areas so at the very least, the ponds will become incredible wildlife sanctuaries. But there is so much more potential.

Some reactors have used innovative approaches. Arizona’s Palo Verde plant, dating from the early 1970s, is one of the largest in the world and is the only reactor in the middle of a desert. How does it cool itself? It uses treated wastewater from Phoenix and other nearby urban areas. Of course, we aren’t proposing to use municipal wastewater to cool our plant. My point is that innovative approaches to plant cooling have been successfully tried and what we’re proposing is actually much less radical than cooling a reactor with sinks, showers and toilets. Hybrid cooling systems have been used successfully on fossil plants for years.

Of the nation’s 104 nuclear plants, only 4 are west of the Mississippi River. If nuclear plants are ever to become common in the arid West, they need to find new opportunities with cooling and heat disposal. We will take a progressive and pioneering approach with our proposed Payette reactor and use the excess reactor heat for many beneficial uses.

Nuclear power – a thumbnail sketch October 9, 2009

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in AEHI, reprocessing, Uncategorized.
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We recently produced this one-page handout for public meetings. While there’s a growing appreciation for the role nuclear power plays in creating carbon-free energy, there are still a lot of myths out there and handouts like this will help set the record straight. To see it at full-size, you may click and drag it to your desktop or save it to a folder.

One-page handout with facts about nuclear power.

One-page handout with facts about nuclear power.

“Commission praised for patience during nuke hearing” April 29, 2009

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in AEHI, Agriculture, approval process, economic benefits, Elmore County, Energy policy, Mountain Home News, Politics and nuclear, rural nuclear, Snake River Alliance, Water policy.
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The Mountain Home News was kind enough to publish this letter today. It pretty much speaks for itself.

Commission praised for patience during nuke hearing

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dear editor:

We applaud the patience of the Elmore County Commission in dealing with a very controversial issue at last week’s hearing. Throughout the over four hours of testimony from both sides, the commissioners heard and saw plenty of information.

In our view, the hundreds of supporters who showed up to support jobs, clean low-cost energy, agriculture and economic growth carried the day. Testimony on our behalf was passionate, including former planning and zoning commissioners who supported our application. Farmers, large landowners, the local farm bureau, shopkeepers and average citizens all told the commission that Elmore County needs stable jobs and that rezoning our land would serve the best interests of Elmore County. We have also submitted 1,600 Idaho signatures in support of the rezone, half of them from Elmore County residents.

We know some 500 people showed up at various stages of the four-hour meeting to support us. We handed out 475 green “AEHI supporter” stickers to people and we counted about 400 of those stickers over the course of the evening (people showed up shortly after 4 p.m. to our table and were coming until after 7 p.m.). There were also many supporters who had to stand in the back and behind the boundary wall who requested stickers, but we had run out. By contrast, we counted fewer than 100 people wearing stickers opposing us throughout the entire evening. Also, fewer than 10 percent of the AEHI supporters spoke. In contrast, over a third of the opposition spoke, but many were from the same organization. Their organizations were given 10 minutes of speaking time, and then in violation of the rules individual members of the organization also spoke giving the misleading appearance of an equal number for and against.

We expect people to oppose us, but the opposition sometimes resorted to strange arguments. I’m sure some of you have been in the position where you tell someone something, they give you a blank stare and act as though they didn’t hear a word you just said. That’s how we often felt at last week’s public hearing on our rezone.

Opponents largely ignored information presented by AEHI staff and our supporters. We showed pictures of nuclear plants with farm fields and grazing cows just a stone’s throw from reactor buildings, to prove that nuclear plants are very compatible with surrounding ag land uses. We repeated that our plant would occupy just 200 of the 1,300 acres in the rezone, with most of the rest of the land devoted to farming. We made it clear our site won’t have any of those large cooling towers. We stated we’ve already spent $8 million and put 100 Idahoans to work on our effort. We made it clear that many acres of good land could be farmed but aren’t due to the high cost of water. We specified nuclear plants emit no smoke, dust, noise or odors and do not generate large amounts of traffic in operation. We made it clear we’d use a low-water design for our plant and rely on existing water rights, not impinging on existing water holders in any way. We made it clear jobs would start soon after the rezone and Conditional Use Permit approval and ramp up to several thousand during the construction phase.

We also clarified that most jobs at our plant won’t require a college degree, just specialized training that we can provide.

In response, people made some amazing claims, suggesting we could put a dump or tire-burning plant on the site. Another gentleman worried about terrorists using advanced radar weaponry to induce earthquakes to destroy reactors and cities. They insisted our plant would destroy their rural setting, even when the reality of nuclear plants shows they are good neighbors and take up little room. Some kept referring to the land as “their farmland” and that they wanted to farm it, so it should be kept as-is for their benefit (whatever happened to private property rights? And why has the land been sold several times as recently as 2007, but no one from Elmore County purchased it?). They also said farmland is disappearing; having grown up on a farm myself, this is a strong appeal to make. However, according to the USDA’s 2007 Census of Agriculture, “nearly 300,000 new farms have begun operation since the last census in 2002.” Elmore County farm statistics, obtained from the county extension office, show farms in the county also increased between 2002 and 2007, from 364 to 381. While Idaho agriculture is robust, we know farmland figures could increase substantially if our power plant is built, as many acres cannot be irrigated due to lack of low-cost power for irrigation pumps.

Most surprisingly, several opponents said the jobs won’t materialize because the plant won’t be built — then proceeded to argue against the rezone so the plant could not be built!

The Snake River Alliance is a master of these both-sides-of-the-fence arguments. On one hand, the SRA says our reactor can’t be built for a mountain of reasons — but if they really believe that, why are they spending their time opposing us? Their preoccupation with our project is unintended but welcome testimony that we are fully capable of building this plant and have an excellent shot at success, even given the current financial markets.

For someone to build a commercial nuclear plant in Idaho on their watch would pretty much verify the SRA has lost relevance and is out of touch with modern environmental thinking, even more so than the successful Areva and Idaho National Laboratory expansions demonstrate.

So, this really is about jobs: theirs (about 10) versus ours (about 5,000, with salaries much higher). It’s also stunning the Snake River Alliance would say it’s concerned about jobs and agriculture in Elmore County, when it has advocated the closure of Mountain Home Air Force Base and supported restricting water supplies to farmers to protect the Bruneau Snail. I am frankly surprised at their alliance with the Hammett-area farmers. I guess the saying “My enemy’s enemy is my friend” holds, even uniting former enemies who haven’t considered the consequences. What will these farmers do when the newly empowered SRA resumes advocacy of cutting their water rights to protect a snail or return farmland to its original “pristine condition”?

Despite all the misinformation, the people who made the loudest statement last week were our hundreds of supporters. Sadly, the SRA and opposition websites (which don’t allow comment) discount and mock the people who are eager and willing to get to work building and running a reactor.

Our opponents concern themselves with obstructing and stopping, not building and creating. No matter how this is resolved, we have made a very clear statement that Elmore County’s (and Idaho’s) baseload energy supply and economic development are pressing issues – and neither the Snake River Alliance nor their supporters have any plan to address them.

For more information on the rezone and our intentions, please go to www.alternateenergholdings.com or www.cleanidahoenergy.wordpress.com.

Don Gillispie

President and CEO of Alternate Energy Holdings Inc.

Thanks to the hundreds who came to support jobs, agriculture and clean energy last night April 24, 2009

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in AEHI, Agriculture, approval process, economic benefits, Elmore County, Greenfield nuclear development, rural nuclear, Uncategorized.
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To the hundreds of people who came out to support us at the Elmore County Commission hearing, thank you all so much. The commissioners have a difficult task but you helped them understand that our proposed rezone will allow Idaho to have a dependable jobs and power for farms, industry, homes and commerce. Below is a news release we have distributed about it.

Elmore County Commission to decide on nuclear plant rezone
Hundreds turn out to support proposal to rezone 1,300 acres for nuclear plant that would create thousands of jobs

April 23, 2009
For more information, contact:
Jennie Ransom, AEHI spokeswoman 208-939-9311
Martin Johncox, 208-658-9100

Hundreds of people packed a hearing room Wednesday night to show their support of a proposal to rezone 1,300 acres of land for a power plant. The Elmore County Commission will discuss and decide the rezone at a future hearing, which hasn’t yet been announced.

The commission heard four hours of testimony from than 36 supporters and 32 opponents of the rezone. Alternate Energy Holdings Inc., which is proposing to build a nuclear plant at the site, submitted an additional 240 signatures in support of the rezone Wednesday night, bringing total signatures in support to 1,600, about half of them from Elmore County.

The meeting was held at the Mountain Home Junior High School and more than 400 people showed up to an AEHI-sponsored table on the sidewalk by the school to submit resumes and letters of interest about jobs; most of these people also went to the county commission hearing to emphasize the need for economic development. AEHI is committed to hiring locally and wanted to collect worker information now due to the need to phase in workers over a number of years. Company officials have said the high number of former and current military personnel in Elmore County make it an ideal place for finding prospective employees, who must have clean backgrounds.

Supporters said the rezone is a private property and jobs issue, while opponents said the landowner shouldn’t be entitled to rezone his land. Opponents, including several farmers who live next to the property, repeatedly referred to the property as “our farm land” said they would like to farm it themselves (although they did not buy it when it was for sale recently), which couldn’t happen if it were rezoned. Gillispie pointed out the nuclear plant would have a footprint of only 200 acres, leaving most of the remaining 1,100 acres for farming.

The company’s 2007 economic study, based on other American nuclear plants, calculated AEHI’s proposed plant would grow employment in Elmore and Owyhee counties by 25 percent and generate 4,230 jobs statewide during construction, including a total annual payroll impact of $839 million. It would also generate 1,004 annual jobs statewide during operation during its 60-year lifespan, with an annual statewide payroll impact of $57 million. Average annual wages would be $80,000 for plant employees and $33,536 in industries indirectly affected. Total annual labor income impacts in Owyhee and Elmore counties during operation would be $52.3 million. Opponents also said the company’s claims about job creation were part of a “marketing plan” but did not provide any evidence to refute the company’s job analysis. Some opponents discounted the depth of the economic crisis facing the nation and state and the need for additional non-agricultural jobs in Elmore County.

Supporters noted the nuclear plant would emit no odor, smoke, dust or noise. Gillisipie’s PowerPoint showed photos of nuclear plants with cows and farm fields next to them, but opponents avoided mention of these photos. Supporter also noted the Boise area has had to turn away major employers because of lack of energy, arguing that rezoning the land would be in the county’s interest.

The Idaho Energy Complex (www.idahoenergycomplex.com) will be a large advanced nuclear reactor with low cooling water requirements located about 65 miles southeast of Boise, in Elmore County. Company officials plan to submit a Combined Operating License Application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2010. The approval process is expected to take three years and cost $80 million. Construction could begin as soon as late 2012 and finish with power generation beginning in late 2016.

Information: http://www.energyforelmore.com and http://www.cleanidahoenergy.wordpress.com

Open letter to the people of Hammett April 15, 2009

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in AEHI, Agriculture, approval process, economic benefits, Elmore County, Greenfield nuclear development, rural nuclear, Water policy.
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We recently sent this letter to the people of Hammett, as they are the closest town to our power plant.

April 7, 2009

Dear Hammett resident,

As you know, my company, Alternate Energy Holdings Inc., is proposing to build a nuclear power plant near your town. If the Elmore County Commission approves our rezone request April 22, it will mean some changes for all of Elmore County and Hammett. There has been some concern about how a nuclear plant will affect the rural lifestyle of Elmore County so I want to explain some things to you in this letter about my company’s intentions and goals.

Nuclear plants may seem large, but they produce lots of power in a relatively small area. To generate the same amount of power, for example, a wind farm would need to cover about 100 times the area of a nuclear plant with 40-story-tall turbines and thousands of miles of access roads (and only produce electricity less than 20 percent of the time, compared to 92 for nuclear). Our plant will emit no odors, dust or noise, be well-landscaped and have a low profile, with none of those large cooling towers.

I know people are concerned about water. Any water our plant uses will have to come from existing water rights, whose holders willingly provide us with water, with fair compensation. Old-style nuclear plants consume up to 30 million of gallons a day, but our plant will use a hybrid cooling system, using heat sinks and fans to cool water. When water is scarce, a hybrid plant can throttle back its consumption greatly, spending an extra one-half to 1.5 percent of its power output to cool itself. If nuclear plants are to be possible in dry places, new approaches will have to be used.

What does a power plant mean for Hammett residents? There will be growing pains as the plant is built, but it will last 60 or more years, providing high paying job opportunities for young people to remain in the community. If you earn your living in the local economy, the plant will bring business opportunities. If your livelihood is tied to the regional or national economies, you will see expanded opportunities from low power costs. For example, Idaho farmers can’t compete without low cost electricity.

We are looking to acquire rights up to 10 million gallons a day but our hybrid cooling system will keep our net consumption of water between 100,000 and 1 million gallons a day (about as much as 140 acres of irrigated land). We are looking at the possibility of renting water – since we won’t actually have to consume much water, we can use it for cooling and return it to farmers. The warmer water could potentially extend the growing season up to two weeks each direction and give farmers another source of income. Winter greenhouses would be another beneficiary of abundant hot water.

Low-cost power built on coal and hydro sustains Idaho’s agricultural industry, but coal is on the way out and hydro is maxed out. To maintain current farming, and to bring more idle ground into production, we need low-cost power. Now only nuclear can provide that same low cost power. As a public company, Idahoans hold the majority of our stock. We are literally vested in Idaho and we want to be good neighbors.

Several people have asked me how I would feel if a nuclear power plant was proposed next to my home. If I were someone who had devoted their life to a place, living and working and raising a family there, I would understandably be concerned at the changes the plant would bring to a place I had known all my life. I might even oppose the plant if it were close enough to be prominently seen as an industrial facility or was noisy or emitted an odor, but this plant won’t do any of that. At the very least, I would want to know what the developer would do to ensure the plant would be a good neighbor, pay its fair share and give back to the community. Any large construction project will create some inconvenience on a community and any good developer will fairly compensate the people who live there, and then some.

We are proposing the following if our plant is built. These are standard things that good companies should do during construction, and to give back to the community:

  • A committee to oversee service needs. This committee would be a partnership of local officials, neighbors and plant representatives. It would examine demands that construction would place on fire, schools, housing, roads, administration, etc., and make recommendations for meeting those needs, including what compensation the plant would need to make to keep services well-funded.
  • Direct infrastructure funding. Nuclear plants typically pay for fire stations, vehicles, equipment, road improvements, etc., necessary to serve the plant and benefit the community.
  • Payment of local property taxes. This could involve paying money directly to the county to reduce the bill for all taxpayers, or focusing tax relief on the neighbors most closely affected. Building the plant will put thousands to work but will also burden residents somewhat in the short-run. These payments would be intended to compensate people for any potential disruption to their lives.
  • Local scholarships. Elmore County would receive scholarships to study sciences at colleges of their choice. We hope these promising young people would come back to Elmore County and maybe even work at our plant. But our main incentive would be to fulfill the responsibility of technology industries to help the next generation of engineers and scientists.
  • Job training. Most jobs at a nuclear plant don’t require a college degree, but they require specialized training. We propose to pay the full costs of Elmore County residents who earn training certification, or college degrees, and who commit to work at our plant.
  • A community center. County residents would need to discuss where this could be constructed. I think Hammett could be a good location if people there want it. This would be a place for neighborhood meetings, youth programs, training and local government meetings. For security reasons, access to nuclear plants is highly restricted, so this could be a place where neighbors could meet with plant representatives to discuss problems and opportunities.

America currently has 104 nuclear reactors, most of them in rural areas, where they are quiet, clean and compact. American nuclear plants bring jobs, greater prosperity and preserve the rural way of life. For example, In 2005 – after nearly 50 years of commercial nuclear power – a Bisconti poll found 83 percent living close to nuclear plants favor nuclear energy. The survey only questioned residents within 10 miles of an operating nuclear plant also found that 85 percent give the nearest nuclear power plant a “high” safety rating, and that 88 percent are confident that the company operating the power plant can do so safely.

Thank you for your time and please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, 939-9311 or info@aehipower.com. We look forward to seeing you at the County Commission meeting on Wednesday, April 22, at 6 p.m. in the Mountain Home Junior High School auditorium. If any of you are interested in learning more about jobs at the plant, we will be taking letters of interest and resumes. You can also see our site at http://www.alternateenergyholdings.com or http://www.cleanidahoenergy.wordpress.com.

Don Gillispie


The Simco Road designated industrial zone recommended by Elmore P&Z cannot accommodate nuclear plant January 16, 2009

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in AEHI, approval process, economic benefits, Elmore County, Energy policy, Greenfield nuclear development, rural nuclear, Water policy.
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On Jan. 12, I was invited to make a presentation before the Mountain Home City Council on our efforts to develop a large advanced nuclear reactor in Elmore County.

In November, the Elmore County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended against rezoning approximately 1,400 acres of land to accommodate our plant, saying heavy industrial development should be located in a zone near Simco Road, even as wind, solar and natural gas power are permitted elsewhere in the county.

In response to a Mountain Home City Council member’s question regarding siting of the plant in the Simco Road area, the following is my reply:

After some research we have concluded the Simco Road site does not qualify for a nuclear plant and even if it did, there does not appear to be any property available. The following are some of the reasons.

The Simco Road site has no water supply so a dedicated water line of more than 20 miles would need to be constructed. A large safety-related pipeline would add hundreds of millions in expense and create security and right-of-way concerns; the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would disapprove the Simco Road site for the water supply security issue alone. Our current site is one mile from the Snake River, an ideal location for water access without a security issue.

Elmore County's proposed Simco Road industrial site is closer to Boise development than it is to Mountain Home

Elmore County's proposed Simco Road industrial site is closer to Boise development than it is to Mountain Home

The Simco Road location has geologic issues that could make qualification expensive, if it is possible at all, on account of strict NRC requirements regarding geologic stability. Preliminary geologic testing confirms our existing site has no such potential issues.

Key parcels along the Simco Road site are under option by other parties,

Our proposed location will ensure many economic benefits stay concentrated in Elmore County

Our proposed location will ensure many economic benefits stay concentrated in Elmore County

making it unavailable for a nuclear plant site. Our current proposed site is optioned and ready for the development process.

The Simco Road area is 7 miles from Boise’s industrial area and 21 miles from Mountain Home, along the Ada-Elmore county border. Elmore County would lose much of the employment revenue as employees would likely live in Boise, as suggested by our economic study. Elmore County would lose in housing starts and commercial and other economically beneficial opportunities. Our existing site is 12 miles from Mountain Home, thus in a better position of supporting economic development in Elmore County.

Elmore County’s comprehensive plan is well-intentioned, but it did not foresee the development of such a major economic benefactor like our proposed plant and the associated regulatory requirements. We look forward to our presentation before the Elmore County Commission in April for the final word on if our plant – and the economic benefits it will bring – will become possible in Elmore County.

We aren’t the only ones with this belief. One of our critics agrees the Simco Road site is lacking for our kind of development.

Clearing the water October 30, 2008

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in AEHI, approval process, Elmore County, Energy policy, Greenfield nuclear development, nuclear industry, Politics and nuclear, reactor types, Snake River Alliance, Water policy.
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There are several misconceptions about the water usage for the Idaho Energy Complex –  misconceptions actively promoted by our opposition. Stuck in out-of-the-mainstream environmentalist thought, their knowledge about nuclear energy technology is just as outdated.

Here are several of the myths eagerly promoted by our opposition

  • The Idaho Energy Complex will completely drain the Snake River and deny existing farms their water.
  • All nuclear plans necessarily must consume tens of millions of gallons of water a day.
  • Hybrid cooling technology doesn’t exist, can’t exist, or is untested.
  • Our plant will need new water rights for cooling water and of course no new water rights exist.
  • We will put radioactive water in the river.

I’d like to deal with the fourth point first. It is intentionally misleading to say our plant can’t work because new water rights are unobtainable. It is true the Snake River is over-allocated and new water rights are hard to get. But any water our plant uses will have to come from existing water rights; the water is out there and it will be our responsibility to negotiate water rights transfers from willing parties. The land we are proposing to build upon already has existing water rights. We will keep water in a reservoir on our land for agricultural re-use as well (see Oct. 22 and Sept. 29 blog entries).

Unlike a solar plant or wind farm, a nuclear plant has a relatively small geographic footprint and doesn’t need to displace much farm land. In fact, we will help agriculture by providing low-cost power. There are many acres of prime farmland that cannot be farmed due to power costs.

Also, not all water rights are seasonal and there are winter water rights. True, winter water levels are much lower, but in cold weather, power plant cooling works more efficiently and we will need less water.

Another myth is that nuclear plants necessarily must consume tens of millions of gallons a day for cooling and that hybrid cooling that can’t and won’t work. True, the old-style plants consume that much (those giant waisted cooling towers with steam coming out the top), because they put out enormous amounts of power and are situated in water-rich areas. But any kind of power plant that creates steam to turn turbines (“thermal” plants) need water. In fact, 90 percent of the non-hydro power plants worldwide produce power in this way and most of them consume large amounts of water for cooling.

The Idaho Energy Complex will use a hybrid cooling system, described here. While traditional wet plants consume huge amounts of water, hybrid plants use water very conservatively, using what amounts to a very large radiator to blow away heat. When water is scarce, a hybrid plant can throttle back its consumption greatly. Dominion Generation has applied to build a third reactor North Anna plant in Virginia with a hybrid system.

A hybrid nuclear plant may spend an extra one-half to 1.5 percent of its power output to cool itself, making it less efficient than a wet-cooled plant, but using only 10 percent or less of the water of a wet-cooled plant. Not only do dry-type plants conserve water, they are also more benign to aquatic life.

Arid environments force new approaches and the few nuclear plants in dry places sometimes use innovative solutions. The Palo Verde nuclear plant in Arizona is the country’s largest, located a state that’s even more parched than Idaho. As the only nuclear power plant in the world not next to a lake, river or ocean, its cooling method is highly unusual – it is cooled with municipal wastewater.

So, when our opposition says hybrid-type cooling is unproven, they are very wrong. Even more radical cooling methods are used successfully (i.e., municipal wastewater), hybrid cooling is used on fossil plants and a hybrid wet/dry system is in the process in Virginia.

Another misconception is that we’ll consume all the water we use. We are looking to acquire rights up to 10 million gallons a day for cooling, but with a hybrid cooling system, we will keep our net consumption of water to around 100,000 gallons a day (see Sept. 29 entry). This is fully in line with Areva’s third-generation European Production Reactor that we are considering using; depending on the cooling system, these reactors use anywhere from under one million gallons per day to 41 million gallons a day.

As for putting radioactive water in the river, that claim is either mindless or mendacious or both. The river water that goes through the plant for cooling has no contact with anything radioactive. It is the same cooling process used for fossil steam plant cycles. The Snake River naturally has high levels of tritium, a radioactive gas, but we won’t be contributing to it.

Conservation and “renting” water September 29, 2008

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in AEHI, Agriculture, economic benefits, reactor types, Water policy.
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I have been in preliminary discussions with landowners in Colorado about the possibility of building nuclear reactors in that state (yes, I’m pretty busy for someone who just turned 65). Like Idaho, Colorado is chronically dry Western state.

Unlike Idaho, in Colorado, water rights are separate from the land. Land is relatively cheap, but water rights are expensive. In discussions with these landowners, we hit upon the idea of “renting” their water.

A traditional nuclear reactor uses about 30 million gallons a day for cooling (those giant waisted towers you see in pictures with steam coming out the top). That’s a huge amount of water, more than Idaho has to spare. These reactors are typically built back East, where water is more plentiful. Their cooling method is akin to pouring water directly on your auto engine. Effective, but wasteful.

We will be using low-water reactors, optimized for dry environments, with cooling systems that will function much like very large automobile radiators. Hot water from the reactor will be pumped through a large system of heat sinks and fans, dissipating heat. Instead of 30 million gallons a day of water consumed, we will wind up consuming no more than 100,000 gallons a day, about as much as a small farm and a fairly small water right. While we have not finalized our reactor choice, examples of suitable reactors include GE’s Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR), Westinghouse’s Advanced Passive 1000 (AP1000), GE-Hitachi’s Economic Simplified Boiling-Water Reactor (ESBWR), Areva’s U.S. Evolutionary Power Reactor (U.S. EPR) and Mitsubishi’s U.S. Advanced Pressurized-Water Reactor (US-APWR)

Nevertheless, we will need to move several millions of gallons of water through the reactors daily to cool them. But we won’t actually consume this water – we just need it temporarily, for cooling. After that, it could go back to productive use.

“Thermal pollution,” or dumping hot water into lakes and streams, is a legitimate concern, one faced by any power plant that boils water to drive turbines, whether it’s coal, natural gas or thermal solar. Often, this water is held in cooling ponds before being returned to a lake or waterway, but we propose returning it to productive use. We could return the water to the farms that “rent” the water to us. This water is destined for these farms with or without our plant; we simply propose the water take a detour to us before going to the farmers, and we would pay the farmers for allowing us to make use of this resource.

We also propose a biofuels complex and we will invite local entrepreneurs to build greenhouses. These uses will absorb some of the reactor heat, generate jobs and business and put the water to other agricultural uses.

Under this scenario, all the water we “rent” would eventually wind up back in the Snake River in about the same quantity as if we had never existed (less our 100,000 gallons consumption and any additional agricultural uses the hot water may be put to). In the process of running through agricultural fields, the heat in the water will be thoroughly dissipated and will wind up in the Snake River will minimal extra heat. In any case, we will be required to abide by strict Environmental Protection Agency limits on what we put back into rivers and streams. Specifically, plants are not allowed to put water into rivers and lakes that is above the average natural temperature of the waterway and violators face heavy fines and shutdown.

I don’t think we’re the first ones to have ever thought of “renting” water like this and we will need to research the concept more thoroughly. But we have an idea that we will be able to refine as our application moves forward.