Energy policy — nuclear: New plant for Pueblo County?

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With Japanese reactors in trouble it turned out to be bad timing for Don Banner to be pitching a plant for Pueblo County. Here’s a report from Peter Roper writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

So many came [to protest the proposed plant], in fact, that the Pueblo County commissioners listened to more than four hours of testimony before recessing the public hearing until tonight, when the final speakers will get their turn. Banner will also be given time to offer rebuttal of the criticism. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m…

And they focused hard on why the county was allowing Banner to try to rezone land through a planned-unit development process to give it faster consideration. Several speakers quoted a letter from Banner to county officials urging the county to “bend the rules” if necessary to give the zoning request fast consideration. “When you bend the rules, somebody gets rich and they leave the waste behind,” charged Suzanne Morgan, one of the speakers who argued that taxpayers end up paying to decommission nuclear power plants…

The commissioners have indicated they will not make an immediate decision, but will take time to consider all the information provided by both supporters and critics. Joseph Leniham, a local attorney, offered them one easy out, saying Congress is considering hearings and a possible two-year moratorium on nuclear plants pending an investigation of the failure at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in Japan. “I suggest you punt for two years,” he advised the commissioners…

Water for the proposed nuclear plant also came under scrutiny. Banner had said in earlier presentations that one source of water would be the Welton Ditch, but Larry Trujillo, former state lawmaker, told the commissioners that Banner’s project has no claim on the Welton Ditch…

Doug Wylie, a Boone dairy farmer, said the nuclear plant would be a direct threat to his livelihood. “Our produce would be branded. Pueblo chile would have a new kind of heat added to it,” he said, getting a laugh from the audience. “To build water-intensive industries in a desert is beyond foolish.”

More coverage from Peter Strescino writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Banner is careful with his words, lawyerly you might say, but he has made public meeting comments at least twice that people one mile from the 1945 American atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan, were not badly injured, and that the 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl, which was then part of the Soviet Union, was not as bad as nuclear opponents and some scientists made them out to be.

Those claims struck a chord with Tatiana Floka-Cosyleon and Larrisa Bourgeault, who lived with the world’s worst nuclear accident and came to the meeting Wednesday night, along with about 500 others, to dispute Banner’s ideas. “I was living in St. Petersburg (now in Russia) and I remember that Sunday it happened with Chernobyl,” said Bourgeault. “It was raining in St. Petersburg, as usual, and my friend was walking under that rain. She was pregnant…

The women did not speak to the audience, but there was plenty of passion on display. Banner sat stoically with his wife and a few supporters while his proposal, his ideas and at times his integrity were pilloried. Many called Banner’s application to the county arrogant. Some termed it as vague. Banner has asked for a series of variances to the standard application process, and has asked to forego fees others pay for the same considerations.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“It would take at least a magnitude 7 earthquake to damage a plant. A smaller quake near a nuclear plant would trigger an automatic shutdown mostly as a precautionary measure,” said Tony Crone, a scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Earthquake Center in Golden. There are earthquakes in Colorado, with at least one magnitude 4 earthquake each year, Crone said. A USGS map lists Southeastern Colorado as an extremely low-hazard area for quakes, meaning the probability for a damaging quake occurring is very small. Magnitudes are determined on the Richter scale. Each point of magnitude represents 10 times the shaking motion and 32 times the release of energy…

the largest measured recent earthquake in Colorado was magnitude 5.3 in the Denver area in 1967. It was believed to be induced by pumping waste fluids into deep wells at Rocky Mountain Arsenal. There was an estimated magnitude 6.6 quake in either Colorado or Wyoming that was felt in Denver in 1882. There have been numerous earthquakes reported in the Trinidad area south of Pueblo since the 1970s. There was a swarm of 11 earthquakes near Trinidad in 2001 between magnitude 2.8-4.6, with a magnitude 5.0 quake reported in 2005. There was a magnitude 3.4 quake near La Junta in 1998, and several earthquakes in the Upper Arkansas Valley in the past 25 years, including a magnitude 3.1 quake near Texas Creek in 2008. The only earthquake reported in the immediate Pueblo area came in 1870 at Fort Reynolds, located 20 miles east of Pueblo. The details were insufficient to determine the size, but a man reported it was strong enough to knock together two bottles that were sitting about an inch apart, according to USGS historical information.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

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