Utility examines possible nuclear site in Idaho

PAYETTE COUNTY, IDAHO - A large utility is considering building its first nuclear power plant in Payette County, northwest of Boise, a company official says.

"We're in a very preliminary due-diligence process to look at a potential energy project in Payette County," Bill Fehrman, president and chief nuclear officer for MidAmerican Nuclear Energy Co., told the Idaho Statesman.

The company is a subsidiary of MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., based in Des Moines, Iowa. That company owns Rocky Mountain Power, which serves eastern Idaho, and PacifiCorp, Oregon's largest utility.

The company has built fossil fuel plants and renewable-energy projects, but not nuclear power plants.

Fehrman said the site in Idaho could provide power to MidAmerican's customers in Oregon and Idaho. He said there also is a good supply of workers in the area, and that Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter supports nuclear power.

"I'm glad to see there is an interest in Idaho," said Paul Kjellander, administrator of Otter's Office of Energy Resources. "If you look at our energy future, nuclear has the potential to play a significant role. The governor supports the concept of nuclear energy, and that may make Idaho a little more attractive."

MidAmerican Nuclear Energy Co. has been doing geologic testing on 3,300 acres of private land about 70 miles north of Boise near Paddock Valley Reservoir.

Fehrman said the company hasn't bought the land, and the person who owns it doesn't want to be identified.

This is the second nuclear power plant being considered in Idaho. Alternate Energy Holdings has said it wants to build a nuclear plant on 4,000 acres in Owyhee County near Bruneau, about 65 miles southeast of Boise.

Fehrman said the land for the proposed plant north of Boise is being tested for seismic activity. He said the company also will need water for the project and transmission lines to distribute power.

He said the company will likely decide whether to buy the land late in 2008. Fehrman said that if the company decides to build a nuclear plant, it could take up to 12 years before it's running.

"This is a lengthy and detailed process and we understand that there might be questions from people who live in the area, and we will do the best we can within the process to keep Payette County residents informed," he said. "As soon as a formal announcement is made on what direction we are taking, we will be communicating and having meetings with residents."

He said the size of the plant would likely be between 1,100 and 1,600 megawatts.

The Snake River Alliance, an Idaho-based nuclear watchdog group, has come out against the proposed plant in Owyhee County but hasn't yet said whether it opposes the latest nuclear plant.

Ken Miller, an energy specialist with Snake River Alliance, said the plants will produce radioactive waste.

"We take a position that we should be developing renewable energies and getting serious about energy conservation before going down that road," Miller said.


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