Nuclear power proposed near Boone

Sep. 18--If it becomes reality, the 21,000-acre Colorado Energy Park will be the biggest, most different energy producing complex in the country.

Backers of the $83 million park want to turn the large BX Ranch into an industrial park of clean and renewable sources of power, and perhaps attract other companies that want to be near power sources.

Thorne Davis, a real estate broker who helped engineer the Walking Stick development near Colorado State University-Pueblo, said he's joined with the ranch's owner to start negotiations with Alternate Energy Holdings Inc. of Texas on the project.

Alternate Energy will look at the land and determine if it can win a permit for nuclear power.

Nuclear is just part of what will make the park a winning project, Davis said. The land is also perfectly situated to produce several kinds of renewable energy, and has the water and other infrastructure to make it happen. "We can create energy sources here in the Arkansas Valley," Davis said. The project will increase the tax base, boost enrollment and financing for renewable energy studies at the university and Pueblo Community College and provide well-paying jobs in an industry with a future.

Davis said he envisions the park having a nuclear power plant with as many as four reactors. The reactors will use a waterless "dry" design to avoid the large cooling towers and water used of older reactors.

Part of the reactors' heat will be used to cook any number of biomass commodities to make ethanol, Davis said. The commodities could be anything from switchgrass to municipal waste to cow manure.

Additionally, the bright sunshine in the area makes it perfect for a solar energy farm, Davis said, and wind turbines may also be feasible.

The land is situated on top of one of the larger natural-gas pipelines in the region, so a natural gas-fired power plant is also a possibility, he said, as is a small hydroelectric dam. Water for the project would come from the Weldon Ditch and perhaps the Huerfano/Cuchara Irrigation Co. Davis said water storage space is available both on the site and at the Cuchara Reservoir, which will have to be rebuilt.

The water is part of what makes the ranch a perfect location, Davis said. The Weldon Ditch's owners approached him to help sell their water rights in the Huerfano River. When they couldn't interest any cities, the group decided a power park would be even better.

The ranch has plenty of solitude because no one lives on it or even very close, Davis said. The natural gas pipeline passes underneath, the solar-power rating is high, there is wind power and plenty of water and water storage.

Additionally, there are two large electrical power transmission lines passing through the property and the BNSF railroad is only seven miles away.

Farmers who use the nearby water, and even other farmers in the Arkansas Valley, may profit by growing low-labor crops for the ethanol plant, Davis said.

This obviously is the right time to be pursuing alternate forms of power, Davis said.

"We're closing down (coal-fired) power plants and not building new ones," Davis said. "And within five years, we're going to start having rolling blackouts. Demand is growing and supply isn't."

But the project creates huge economies of scale for the power-producing aspects and other companies that want to participate, Davis said. A solar-panel manufacturer or an aluminum producer may want to locate in the park because of the available power.

Davis said he knows some people will oppose the project, especially the nuclear aspect of it.

"I'm sure there's a NIMBY (Not In My Backyard)" Davis said. "There's always a NIMBY somewhere."

But today's nuclear power is better and safer than what was being used in the 1970s, when a leak at Three Mile Island made nuclear power the butt of jokes about glowing in the dark. Even then nuclear power was very safe, as shown by the fact that no one was injured at Three Mile Island, he said.

In fact, Davis said nuclear power is far safer and healthier than coal-produced power.

When you consider the emission of mercury, sulphur and other chemicals, as well as the environmental impact from the smoke and carbon emissions of burning coal, nuclear is by far the better choice, he said.

One study has shown that it's "100 percent more hazardous to health and the environment to live near a coal-fired plant than a nuclear plant," Davis said.

Clearly there are many hurdles to jump before the project becomes a reality, he said.

But "there could be several billion dollars worth of energy infrastructure," at the park, Davis said. "And it would be clean and green."