A look at plans for the Mancos Hills Industrial Park
Green River has become a spot of interest for the potential development of nuclear power resources. A nuclear power company is looking at Green River as a possible location for their plant and Mancos Resources, a uranium milling company is looking at a site near town as well.
Carnotite, LLC, is in the process of opening a new uranium mine about nine miles west of town and several other uranium mining companies are currently doing drilling projects in the area around Green River to prepare for mining operations. Chad Hemelstrand, a college student has been in Green River this past week interviewing Green River citizens and getting an idea of the sentiment of Green River citizens on the power plant.
Hemelstrand said most of the people he has talked to have been in favor of a nuclear power plant near Green River. Hemelstrand is a student at Utah Valley University and his research is part of his senior project along with Lauren Roderick who is partnering with Hemelstrand.
On this hot Green River day, the students caught up with economic development director, Mike McCandless at the site for the new Mancos Hills Industrial Park location just outside of Green River. They put McCandless on camera and he explained the site and the plans for the park to the students.
The nuclear plant has expressed interest in the site and could lead to the economical diversification of Green River. This is different than on the west end of the county where Emery County is trying to get away from being so economically tied to energy and its boom and bust cycles.
Green River is tied to tourism and agriculture and often people have to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet. McCandless said the key is to develop, but not to destroy the assets we already have in place. The motels during the winter months have a very low occupancy rate, hardly enough to keep the owners going. This is despite the fact that tourism is on the increase as people along the Wasatch Front drive to the San Rafael to recreate.
McCandless said those interested in the nuclear power plant have already secured water. "They have a significant amount of water secured that they plan to use at their proposed facility, wherever they locate it. Keep in mind that the use of this water has its own separate regulatory process. If the power plant chooses the Green River site, then they would have to develop a water delivery solution that is independent of any other projects that are working to locate at the industrial park. The plant is such a large user, they simply have a unique water development plan they will have to execute," said McCandless.
McCandless said as people become more educated on nuclear power the more supportive they become. There are a few groups in opposition to the proposed nuclear power plant. Some of these opposition groups come from the outside the county. These environmentalist groups are exerting pressure on local residents. Nuclear power can be a very good complimentary energy source to what is in place today.
McCandless pointed out coal life expectancy in the county is 15-30 years, the good and easy coal has already been mined and coal is being mined deeper and deeper. The infrastructure and transmission lines are already in existence for the transportation of the nuclear power. The argument many people have against nuclear power is exposure to radiation.
McCandless pointed out that walking in the sun over the desert you would receive more radiation exposure than all the nuclear power plants in the United States put out. Even the native ground near Green River is radiologically hot. Uranium is in demand and it can be managed safely. McCandless believes if the county jumps in early on all proposed projects for the industrial park that they can be partners in all the decision making. The industrial park covers 2,457 acres and there are 800 acres under private control. "This site is tied to Green River, but is outside the community far enough to avoid problems," said McCandless. The site has a built in buffer zone with the mancos shale hills in the area that separate the site from the community. The remoteness of the area works to the advantage of the industrial park. The industries that come to the industrial park won't be affected by close neighbors. Some of the businesses looking at the industrial park are being pushed out of more populated areas and relocating in Green River is looking very good to them," said McCandless.
McCandless envisions the industrial park becoming a home for the uranium milling plant and the nuclear power plant. The park is a multi-use facility. Water lines will be installed on site as well as roads and telecommunications. Electricity already exists at the site and the railroad runs through the proposed industrial park. "I see it becoming a hub for Southeastern Utah," said McCandless.
Part of the interest from the uranium milling operation comes because of the thick 1,000 feet layer of mancos shale in the region. Although the shale has a tendency to swell and move on the surface when wet, the formation is ideal for the types of operations required at the mill. Very little seismic activity goes on in the area. "It is a good, geologically stable area," said McCandless.