Alarmed by plans for nuclear reactors and long-term storage of highly radioactive fuel rods just four miles from the majestic Green River, more than a dozen organizations and Indian tribes will assemble in Green River, on May 19 at 6 p.m. to protest the plan and launch a national campaign to save the Green and Colorado Rivers from nuclear contamination.
"This issue affects more than just southern Utah residents," said Sarah Fields, director of the citizen group Uranium Watch. "That's why we're seeing involvement from downriver residents like the Fort Mojave and Colorado River Indian Tribes, along with those who live downwind in Colorado and points beyond. The effects of nuclear power are farther reaching than the reactor site and stretch decades if not centuries into the future."
Protestors will assemble at Green River's east end, Exit 164 on I-70, at 6 p.m. on May 19 for a march to "Celebrate and Protect the Green and Colorado Rivers and the Colorado Plateau." The parade will be set against the backdrop of the Book Cliffs and the proposed construction site for the reactors.
Those organizing the protest are motivated by a number of concerns, including finances of the company (Blue Castle Holdings, LLC), the secondary impacts of mining and milling radioactive minerals, and potential threats to regional safety. However, the biggest issue is water. As the Green River flows directly into the Colorado River, the proposed nuclear plant threatens the drinking and agricultural water for people in the Southwest.
"It's foolish to build thirsty nuclear reactors in a desert like this," says John Weisheit, Conservation Director of Moab-based Living Rivers. "The Green River is unreliable. Even the state engineer, when granting the project rights to nearly 48 million gallons of water a day, recognize there will not always be enough water to operate the plant."
To further highlight themes of water, on May 18, at 7 p.m., organizers are also hosting "A Celebration of the Colorado River System: Discussion of Threats and Actions." This event, held at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center, will include traditional singing and dancing from members of Native Nations along the Colorado River, a panel discussion on threats to Colorado River Basin water, and a documentary film about the long-term impacts of nuclear accidents like Fukushima.
Barbara Galler, a Moab resident and spokeswoman for No Green River Nuke says, "It's true everywhere, but especially in the desert: Our survival is dependent on rivers. Granting so much precious water to a company with no experience or credibility in the energy business, for use in the riskiest form of power production, is an enormous mistake. That's why I'm marching."
The company behind the reactor proposal, Blue Castle Holdings, is currently seeking permits from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to site and build the 3,000-megawatt reactors, a process expected to take at least several years. Meanwhile, a coalition of groups, small businesses and individuals opposed to the reactor proposal, many of whom are involved in the protest, has filed a suit in Utah District Court to have the decision to grant the project water rights overturned.
Protest organizers include: Canyonlands Watershed Council, Canyon Country Rising Tide, Colorado River Indian Tribal Members, Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice, HEAL Utah, Living Rivers, No Green River Nuke, Sierra Club, Peaceful Uprising, Uranium Watch, the Utah Rivers Council and others.