Nomad Nuke Plant Ditches Owyhee County; Targets Elmore
April 4, 2008

Ken Miller, Snake River Alliance Clean Energy Program Director
(208) 344-9161 office

BOISE – Friday’s announcement by the Idaho Energy Complex that it’s bailing out of Owyhee County in favor of adjacent Elmore County should send chills through the new target for the proposed merchant nuclear power plant, the Snake River Alliance said.

“The last thing Idaho needs is a nomad nuclear power plant developer bouncing from county to county, looking for the best deal for his outrageously bad idea,” Alliance Executive Director Andrea Shipley said. “Moving this scheme 15 miles upstream on the Snake River and across the county line doesn’t make it any more acceptable. It was a horrible idea at C.J. Strike Reservoir and it’s an equally bad idea outside of Mountain Home.”

The Idaho Energy Complex, owned by Alternate Energy Holdings, Inc., and developer Don Gillispie, said it was leaving Owyhee County for a 1,400-acre site in Elmore County “near the north shore of the Snake River.” Scrambling for excuses, Gillispie said the results of geologic studies “are adding significantly to analytical and construction expense.” That, along with high land costs, made the Owyhee site less attractive than Elmore County, he said.

Less than a month ago, Mr. Gillispie wrote an opinion piece in The Idaho Statesman in which he said: “We know our site is the perfect place for a reactor. Preliminary studies show our site has stable geology and we have more than enough water rights for our dry-type reactors. Mountain Home Air Force Base is nearby, making it quite secure.”

Now it seems the geology was one reason for the move. It’s unclear how Mountain Home Air Force Base will react to a reactor as a next-door neighbor. Or those who run the observatory at Bruneau Sand Dunes, where the immense light pollution caused by a huge power plant would devastate the observatory’s operations.

“Mr. Gillispie says his project’s costs were increasing in part due to the geologic nature of the old site, and we’re supposed to believe things will be any different 15 miles away?” Shipley said. “Besides, other issues remain that made this plant a non-starter, including the Snake River water crisis, insurmountable problems with highly radioactive waste that will now be stored in Elmore County, the lack of any utility interest in buying the power, the lack of transmission, and others.”

Shipley said billionaire investor Warrant Buffett spent $13 million to study a nuclear plant site in Payette County for his utilities before pulling the plug on that project, citing soaring costs of building a nuclear plant.

“We said then that if Warren Buffett and one of the nation’s largest utility companies can’t make a merchant nuclear plant in Idaho work, there is no way a tiny startup from Virginia can pull it off,” Shipley said. She also said the AEHI Owhyee project caught Idahoans by surprise when it was surfaced in 2006, but that won’t happen again.

“The opposition to AEHI’s ill-conceived merchant nuclear plant is far stronger today than it was when Mr. Gillispie came to Idaho in 2006,” Shipley said. “AEHI is now starting from scratch and its proposal will meet even greater and more formidable opposition in Elmore County. We guarantee officials there will soon be made aware of his company’s dismal record in Owyhee County. In fact, we encourage Elmore County officials to give their colleagues next door a call to see what they’ll be dealing with in the months ahead – assuming of course that AEHI doesn’t pack up and move to another county first.”

Shipley said opposition to the AEHI plant was not limited to Owyhee County residents – in fact many opponents live in Elmore County. Changing the site will have no impact on the growing campaign to prevent construction of AEHI’s plant in Elmore County or anywhere else in Idaho.

“We’ve said all along that AEHI was pulling the wool over the eyes of Owhyee County officials. We will make sure it does not happen in Elmore. This company has a record of building structures without permits and not responding to county demands to pay its permit fees. It has not been a good corporate citizen of Owyhee County or of Idaho.”

The Alliance attended the March 12 Owyhee County Planning & Zoning meeting at which the Idaho Energy Complex was seeking a permit for the two meteorological towers and two trailers the company had already – and illegally – installed at its site. At that meeting, IEC and AEHI representatives told Owyhee County: “It is the applicant’s objective and purpose to have a sincere good-faith effort” in dealing with the county. That meeting was 23 days ago. AEHI had to have known at the time it was preparing to move its proposed plant to Elmore County, since it now claims it has access to a 1,400-acre site there.

The Snake River Alliance is a nonprofit organization working toward energy solutions for Idaho and dedicated to serving as Idaho’s nuclear watchdog.