It's still a long way from a COL and breaking ground for a 3,000 MW site
The Blue Castle nuclear reactor project in Utah announced this week it is on schedule to submit an early site permit to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in 2013. Tom Reston, COO, said in a press statement the firm is completing its site characterization work. Reston, a former nuclear energy executive with General Electric, is the driving force in terms of technical expertise behind the project.
Blue Castle's project is reported to be aiming to create a power plant capable of generating 3,000 MW of power most of which will be sold to utilities in Southern California. The City of Los Angeles cancelled its investment in a 900 MW coal-fired power plant a few years ago because green groups forced through a ordinance that prohibited new energy projects that significantly added to greenhouse gas emissions.
It's another example of California's "nuclear colonialism" in which the state cheerfully imports nuclear generated electricity from other states while banning new reactors within its borders. The primary example is Palo Verde in Arizona. It looks like Blue Castle is going to be another.
The proposed reactor site is in Green River, Utah, 180 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, UT. It has long been sought after as a site for uranium mills, natural gas and coal fired power plants, and other economic development projects because of its location on I-70 and the available water from the Green River.
The plant is requesting 53,600 acre feet of water per year to cool the reactors. The Early Site Permit will not reference a specific reactor design.
The Green River site is also noted for being seismically stable sitting on Mancos shale . It is located east of the Wasatch Fault that splits the state north to south.
The economic development agency of Emery County is offering an industrial park site for the reactors leased from the Utah Schools land trust.
The anti-nuclear group HEAL Utah told the Salt Lake City Tribune last June it would prefer to see the site developed as a natural gas power plant. Matt Pacenza, a spokesman for the group, told the newspaper this week he thinks the area's water should be reserved for melon farmers in the region and tourism trade in national parks.
As part of its long standing opposition to the project, HEAL Utah published an unflattering profile of Blue Castle CEO AaronTilton (right) in 2007. Other environmental groups have also lined up with HEAL Utah to oppose the plant based on its request for water.
License then sell
Blue Castle is not positioned to actually build the reactors. CEO Aaron Tilton has said in an interview with this blog in 2008 the firm plans to get a Combined Construction and Operating License, following the Early Site Permit, and then sell it to the highest bidder who would then seek to build several reactors.
Image left of 1,080 MW reactor pressure vessel. Note relative size of people to the component. Image source – World Nuclear News
Another is the town of Green River lacks the infrastructure to support a workforce of 5,000 people over the six-to-eight years the project would be under construction. Just about everything needed for the plant, including food for the workers, would have to be trucked in from Salt Lake City.
Similar challenges face a project in Idaho being touted by penny stock firm Alternative Energy Holdings Inc. (PINK:AEHI). The firm is proposing to build its reactor at a greenfield site in rural Payette County which has few good roads and only modest transmission and distribution infrastructure to get the power to customers. AEHI has been the subject of scrutiny by the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), but so far the firm has fended off efforts by the agency to shut it down.
Private equity stake
The Blue Castle Project is privately held and has not revealed the names of its principal investors. In June 2010 Blue Castle announced it had inked a $30 million private equity funding deal with a New York firm – Lead Dog Capital L.P. – which is positioned as a hedge fund and tied to the Carlton Companies. The arrangement is for an equity line of credit which Blue Castle says it will draw on as needed over time.
The lead executive for the hedge fund is Chris Messalas of New York according to a profile in Forbes. In addition to energy firms, according to several stock listings at Edgar Online, he appears to be involved with investments in Shelby racing cars, healthcare products, and music entertainment firms.
The Blue Castle firm has a website that lists other relevant information. One of the executives of the firm is Reed Searle who previously was General Manager of the Intermountain Power Agency who's 900MW coal plant was ditched by Los Angeles. Nils Diaz, a former NRC Commissioner, is also a member of the executive team.
Aaron Tilton, the CEO, is a former Utah state legislator. He served one term and in April 2008 was ousted by the Utah Republican party in a fight over school vouchers which Tilton noted at the time has nothing to do with nuclear energy.
Prior coverage on this blog