Truckee residents blast nuclear power proposal | SierraSun.com

Truckee residents blast nuclear power proposal

More than a dozen members of the Truckee community showed up to voice their disapproval of a proposed power sales contract between Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems for its Carbon Free Power Project in Idaho, and the Truckee Donner Public Utility District.

The district held a board meeting with public comment on Wednesday concerning joining the project, which will use small modular nuclear reactors.

The project, according to UAMPS, will consist of up to 12 50-megawatt reactors located at the Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls, Idaho. The board has been evaluating the Carbon Free Power Project since 2015, but moved to table the project following a round of comments from roughly a dozen members of the community, condemning Truckee's involvement in the project.

Truckee Donner Public Utility District General Manager Michael Holley set the table following the presentation, laying out the three key issues in regards to the project — safety, cost, and waste disposal.

“ ... right now in this country, we have the ability to create the waste, but there is no place that can take it to treat it or reprocess it.”

— Michael Holley, Truckee Donner Public Utility District general manager

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Holley said he was satisfied with safety issues regarding the reactors, but was skeptical on the cost of the project, which is projected to come in around $3.8 million by the time its completion in June of 2023. UAMPS estimates the cost of the resource to be between $45 and $65 per megawatt-hour.

Holley's main concern, however, was with waste disposal.

"I think I've told the board in the past that I'm not a big fan of dry cast waste storage," said Holley. "I think it's safe. I don't think it has a significant downfall to it, except it's not permanent … right now in this country, we have the ability to create the waste, but there is no place that can take it to treat it or reprocess it. Those options exist in Europe, but they don't exist here."

The board then opened up the floor to public comment, and one by one, Truckee residents lined up to lambast the proposal.

Jim Ritchie attacked the price of the power the project would generate, showing the board information on more than 300 bids that are currently before Colorado, which are sustainable, noncarbon, and nonnuclear.

"All of these bids' medians are well below the UAMPS' median bid," said Ritchie. "These median bids range between $19 and $38, compare that to $45 to $65."

Most residents questioned nuclear waste disposal, while highlighting Truckee's image as an environmental and outdoor mecca in the Sierra.

"I heard about this a longtime ago, I was hoping this was going away," said Kaitlin Backlund, who formerly ran Citizen Alert, a Nevada-based nuclear watchdog group.

"There is no permanent repository. Currently, Yucca Mountain is a shuddered, single 5-mile exploratory tunnel into an earthquake-prone mountain."

Backlund further attacked the practice of mining uranium, saying mines disproportionality affect minorities, and low-income communities.

"Small modular reactors rely on uranium for fuel which must be mined and has deleterious affects on people, communities, and the environment," she said.

The Sierra Club's Toiyabe Chapter also sent a representative to voice concerns over the proposed project.

"The Toiyabe Chapter along with our Mother Lode Chapter of California, in which Truckee actually lies, wishes to record our opposition on behalf of 250 Sierra Club members in this area to the TDPUD's entering into an agreement for the Carbon Free Power Project. The Sierra Club is opposed to the construction of new nuclear power plants."

Following public comment the board agreed to table any plans of entering into an agreement with UAMPS.

"This project will be over with, and I want the staff to look into alternatives to this project — not this project — don't pursue this project at all anymore, to be clear," said Director Paul Warmerdam. "It is over, we're not going to sign the agreement, we're not going to be a part of it. We will, instead, just look to other sources to fulfill the needs of the district."

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Truckee Sun. Contact him at jscacco@truckeesun.com.