Planning & Zoning Commission votes 4-2 against rezoning for 1,600 MW nuclear power plant
P&Z Commissioner Alan Sobtzak said the proposed plant is not in line with the county's 2004 comprehensive plan. The application will next be considered by county commissioners. They can accept the recommendation or overrule it. State planning law requires them to review the hearing record from the P&Z commission as part of their decision process.
Alternative Energy Holdings, Inc. (AEHI) requested the land use change after moving the site to Elmore County from Owhyee County earlier this year.
This vote is the latest in a series of setbacks for the thinly capitalized nuclear developer. Earlier this year it abandoned the first site, which was three times larger, due in part to conflicts with the county commissioners over $50,000 in filing fees. The firm eventually paid the money, but also gave up trying to site the plant on a 4,000 acre parcel south of the Snake River. It cited as reasons geotechnical issues and the costs of building a bridge across the river to deliver reactor components and construction materials to the site.
AEHI said to be confused about Elmore County action
The Twin Falls Times News reported that AEHI said it was "confused" about the vote by the commission. Don Gillispie, CEO of AEHI, said in a press release sent to the newspaper that if county commissioners reject the rezone, it will mean the end of the company's efforts in Idaho. AEHI, he said, would instead focus on projects in Colorado and Mexico. AEHI is looking at potential sites near Pueblo, Colo.
Reportedly, Elmore P&Z commissioners were not willing to zone the site chosen by AEHI for heavy industrial use. Instead, they focused on the county's comprehensive plan which designates an area around Simco Road as a heavy industrial zone. That area is 20 miles west of AEHI's preferred site.
Gillispie said that he found the argument "puzzling," and he thought other forms of heavy industrial power plants - including wind, solar and natural gas facilities - have been given preferential treatment in the comprehensive plan. He also stated that the Simco area didn't make any sense as a site for his plant.
"Any industrial plant at the Simco Road location will get most of its employees from Ada County, not Elmore, and there are no water sources nearby vital to most all industry."
He's got a point. According to Google Maps, the site is a long way from the Snake River. It is high desert scrub land with little water and no infrastructure. However, it is near a low-level radioactive waste dump operated by American Ecology west of Grand View, ID.
County hearings next but not scheduled
Bonnie Sharp, administrator for Elmore County's Growth and Development Department, told the Times-News she expects county commissioners to hold their own hearings on the application. However, the commissioners have not set a date for the hearings.
In July 2007 AEHI announced it had an agreement with Unistar to build an Areva EPR in Idaho. AEHI also notified the NRC of its intent to file a COL for the plant, but never raised the money to paid for the license application. A COL for the plant, at a greenfield site, could cost as much as $50 million.
While the NRC still lists AEHI's project as an expected license application, Unistar does not include it on its web site of planned new nuclear reactor projects.
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