Elmore Nuke Plant Developer Sends Regrets to Legislative Committee
Snake River Alliance Release
June 26, 2008

Contact: Andrea Shipley
(208) 344-9161 (office)
Email: [email protected]

A state legislative energy committee meeting took a bizarre twist Thursday when the developer of a proposed Elmore County nuclear power plant left the Capitol Annex moments before his scheduled testimony, leaving word that he would e-mail his testimony in instead.

Alternate Energy Holdings, Inc., President Don Gillispie had been on the agenda for the Interim Energy, Environment and Technology Committee for more than a week and was scheduled to give lawmakers an update on his proposed 1,600MW nuclear power plant south of Mountain Home. He was scheduled to appear before the committee after its lunch break, and was outside the committee room until shortly before his turn to speak. When his name was called, Mike Nugent of the Legislative Services Office tried without luck to find him, so the committee jumped ahead to the next witness, Susan Burke of the Department of Environmental Quality’s office that works on Idaho National Laboratory and nuclear waste issues.

While she was testifying, Nugent passed a note to the chairs of the interim Energy Committee.

“Mr. Gillispie has had to leave,” Committee Co-Chair Rep. George Eskridge said after she finished testifying. “He’s going to e-mail his presentation” to the committee. At that point, Sen. Elliott Werk asked if anyone in the committee room could answer questions about why Gillispie and AEHI abruptly moved the proposed power plant from Owyhee County 15 miles upstream on the Snake River to Elmore County. Former Owyhee County Planning and Zoning Commissioner Joe Weatherby, who is familiar with the circumstances surrounding the “nomad nuclear power plant” of Southwest Idaho, volunteered and was invited to the podium.

“Very strange,” Snake River Alliance Executive Director Andrea Shipley said after Thursday’s conclusion of the committee’s two-day meeting. “The committee was obviously looking forward to hearing from Mr. Gillispie about his proposed power plant, and committee members must have had plenty of questions for him, and now they have even more. And he sends a message saying he had to leave just before testifying? One thing is certain: E-mailing his testimony to the committee and not standing for questions may work in Virginia where he’s from, but it doesn’t cut it here in Idaho.”

In Gillispie’s absence, and with the committee having questions about the AEHI’s sudden and often varied reasons for moving from Owyhee to Elmore County, Weatherby became the sudden pinch-hit witness.

He said AEHI not only abruptly changed the location for its nuclear plant, but also announced it had chosen another vendor for the reactor. Even in Owyhee County, he said, officials had a hard time processing the power plant application because such a plant had never been certified for U.S. production by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“The problem we had in Owyhee County,” Weatherby said, “is what is the real proposal and how can you analyze something that hasn’t been designed yet?” He told committee members that AEHI’s claim it would use 100,000 gallons of water a day conflicted sharply with statements by Dr. Robert Bennett of the Idaho National Laboratory and Dr. Arjun Makhijani of the Maryland-based Institute for Energy and Environmental Research at an energy summit last December in Owyhee County. Gillispie was also to speak at that meeting, which was organized by Weatherby while Weatherby was still on the P&Z Commission, but notified sponsors at the last minute he was ill and instead sent an AEHI spokesman. The experts have placed the amount of water needed for the power plant at about 80 cubic feet per second, Weatherby said, far greater than the amount claimed by AEHI.

Weatherby also said Gillispie has long claimed his nuclear plant could produce power for the unheard-of price of 1.7 cents a kilowatt hour, when recent studies, including one analyzing a proposed nuclear plant for the Florida Department of Power and Light, put the cost of new nuclear power closer to 30 cents a kilowatt hour.

“There’s a huge difference between what’s been said and the true cost of nuclear power,” Weatherby told the committee Thursday.

Meanwhile, the DEQ representative was asked by Sen. Werk about Gillispie’s claims before the same committee last year that he hoped to “recycle” his nuclear waste rather than ship it to the proposed Department of Energy nuclear repository at Yucca Mountain, NV., which many now believe may never open.

“There is no national reprocessing right now of spent nuclear fuel,” she told Sen. Werk.

“It’s unfortunate Mr. Gillispie was unable to appear before the committee to answer these and other questions,” Shipley said. “This is an extremely important issue and a huge threat to Idaho and its residents. At least the committee was able to secure some answers to its questions.”

The Snake River Alliance is Idaho’s nuclear watchdog and advocate for clean energy, promoting sustainable solutions for energy challenges in Idaho for nearly 30 years.