Transition Power tells the NRC it will file a reactor license application by 2010
[Update 05/02/08; below][Update 07/29/08]
Utah State Rep. Aaron Tilton is jolting some neural neutrons in Utah with a letter he sent to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) this week. In it Tilton, the nominal head of a shell corporation called Transition Power Development, sent a letter to the nuclear regulator to keep his place in line for review of a reactor license application should he ever submit one. According to a report in the Salt Lake City Tribune, Tilton says in the letter that Transition will apply for early site approval and a full reactor license by April 2010. There are plenty of challenges ahead for the project and some of them are of Tilton's own making.
The letter sparked speculation week about the location for the proposed reactors. Based on Transition's name for it, "the Blue Castle Generation Project," the newspaper said some guessed "the site is near Blue Castle Butte on the southern edge of the Book Cliffs, east of Route 6, north of Interstate 70 and the town of Green River, and west of the take out for Desolation Canyon river trips." That's pretty specific so the trib's reporter must know the area! Given the spectacular landscapes, the likely controversy over siting a nuclear reactor there will probably make national headlines.
Tilton, who also serves as a Republican state legislator representing Springville, told the Tribune, "It would be a mistake to assume that's the location." He said there are two favored sites, one in Emery County and the other "down by the border." "We're trying to finish some negotiations on a location." The border location was previously reported by the Trib as being in the Kanab area.
The NRC called the letter routine and said they would add it to their job jar if Tilton ever files the paperwork for a reactor license. [Update - On 3/10/08 NRC dutifully added Transition Power to its list of expected license applications for 2010.] That said the Feds may privately, if not officially, have good reason to be skeptical about the UTah application.
Discontinuities abound with Transition Power
Credibility issues have dogged the project including Tilton's lack of business experience especially with large energy projects. Transition Power is not listed on any stock exchange, but has a web page hosted by another energy firm in North Carolina called EnergyPath. It identifies itself as a consulting firm and is not a utility or developer of nuclear power plants. However, the listed credentials of its principals and associates are impressive so maybe they can help Tilton make his case.
Utah legislators and their constituents have been divided over how the rate base will support investment in a new nuclear reactor. Tilton and Rep. Mike Noel took a fair amount of heat last fall when the project was first announced because of their advocacy for changes to Utah laws affecting new nuclear power plants. The primary change, based on a Florida law, would provide a regulated revenue stream to cover costs while the nuclear plant was under construction.
Hearings on the power bills were contentious and one witness, David Freeman who is a former TVA director, promoted fear, uncertainty, and doubt. During the legislative hearings last September, one of the nominally pro-nuclear speakers, Nils Diaz who is a former NRC Commissioner, turned out to also be a consultant to Transition Power, a detail Tilton neglected to mention to the news media.
Also, Tilton's firm signed up to buy water rights from a Kanab, UT, water district where Noel is the director of the district. The water rights issue had the paradoxical effect of adding fuel to fire metaphorically speaking. After the uproar over these discontinuities, Tilton and Noel amended their conflict of interest filings with the Utah Legislature. Apparently no laws were broken, but the perception of conflict of interest was emphasized by anti-nuclear groups who after all did have a point.
So readers are advised to keep their baloney detectors handy because this show is just getting on the road, and where it goes nobody knows.
Rep. Aaron Tilton of Springville won't have to worry about conflict of interest charges after November over his role as the head of Transition power, a company planning to bring a nuclear power plant, or two, to Utah. He was upset in the Utah County Republican convention by former Mapleton City Councilman Francis Gibson who beat Tilton decisively with 60% of the vote.
However, the nuclear energy issue isn't what sent Tilton's first elected term in the legislature into the dustbin. According to U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon, also a republican, Tilton got on the wrong side of a developer's plan to build a residential subdivision and angered the neighbors and in a sparsely populated mountain bench area; as in rich, republican neighbors.
Tilton may not cry very much since he's the paid front man for a shell company that has as yet unnamed "investors," but no assets. At least he won't have to resort to selling nutritional supplements on the Internet to make ends meet.