Nuclear Meeting Meltdown: Chaos at Glenns Ferry Nuke Meet
Snake River Alliance News Release
June 17, 2008

Contact: Andrea Shipley
(208) 344-9161
Email: [email protected]
Tuesday night’s so-called “open house” to discuss the proposed Idaho Energy Complex nuclear power plant south of Mountain Home melted down into a raucous meeting after the plant’s developers sought to silence critics of the energy scheme.

The Elmore County Sheriff’s Office arrested one nuclear plant opponent and nuclear developers threatened others would be arrested as well simply for handing out brochures that set the record straight on a litany of misinformation and prevarications being dished out by Alternate Energy Holdings, Inc., the chronically underfunded proponent of a power plant the company is shopping around southwest Idaho.

“Elmore County residents and their elected officials saw first-hand last tonight how AEHI and its representatives behave and how they treat the public,” Snake River Alliance Executive Director Andrea Shipley said after Tuesday night’s meeting. “Despite AEHI’s attempts to quash any criticism of its hopelessly ill-conceived nuclear project, tonight’s performance by AEHI CEO Don Gillispie and his associates only showed how factually and scientifically bankrupt his nuclear plant scheme is.”

As is his practice, Gillispie disallowed any public questions from anyone not living in Elmore County. Even so, all but two or three questions came from local residents who either outright opposed to the AEHI nuclear plant or from those who had serious concerns over such things as water consumption, how it will impair the rural county’s quality of life, and Gillispie’s oft-repeated claims that his power would be sold to Idaho utilities.

“It’s clear now that the people of Elmore County see through AEHI’s misinformation campaign,” Shipley said. “We can only hope their elected officials are equally circumspect in asking the difficult questions officials in Owyhee County failed to ask before Mr. Gillispie abruptly moved his plant from Owyhee County 15 miles upstream to Elmore County.”

Tuesday night’s meeting began as AEHI’s past presentations have, with a slide show overstating the power plant’s economic benefits to Elmore County and grossly understating its environmental and other impacts. Just as Gillispie was showing a slide blaming environmentalists for everything from $4-a-gallon gasoline to global warming and “high prices for most products,” sheriff’s deputies entered this historic Glenns Ferry Opera House and handcuffed Twin Falls podiatrist Peter Rickards. According to the Mountain Home News, Rickards had been distributing material outside the Opera House (as was the Snake River Alliance, which was also threatened with arrest), and was told not to enter the meeting. He did, and was arrested shortly thereafter to a chorus of objections from those in the packed meeting hall.

The meeting ground to a halt as nuclear plant critics demanded an explanation from Gillispie, whose response to those shouting “What’s the charge?!” and “He was doing nothing!” was: “I’m paying for this meeting. I’m paying for this building.”

Then Boise City Councilman Jim Tibbs, who has been working with AEHI to “moderate” the nuclear plant meetings in Glenns Ferry and in Mountain Home last week, chimed in: “It’s been sponsored by a company that invited the public to come in. Have your own meeting.” According to the Mountain Home News, Glenns Ferry Mayor JoAnne Lanham pitched in with, “I’m the mayor of this town. Sit down.”

Once calm was restored, Gillispie was peppered with tough questions from a dubious public. One man said the nation has a 60-year history with nuclear power, “But we still don’t have an acceptable nuclear waste program,” to which Gillispie insisted that the proposed Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada is already built. In fact, it is not built and a license application was recently submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Funding for Yucca has been cut dramatically, and the odds of it ever opening are shrinking. “It’ll be full by the time you get there,” the man told Gillispie, who cut him off: “You call it waste; I call it spent fuel.”

Another woman raised several questions about the plant’s water use, after which Gillispie once again repeated his long-ago debunked claim that his plan would only use 100,000 gallons a day and said, “It’s not much water.”

Nancy Blanksma told Gillispie she has lived for 30 years on property that’s adjacent to his plant site. She reminded him his site is surrounded by agricultural land and said, “You’re building it across the street from my front yard.” To which Gillispie responded: “It’s not hard, actually. It’s going to be my yard.” He then added, “That was a little joke. Lighten up.” She then told him his site is surrounded by the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, to which he said: “Birds love nuke plants.”

Pressed for answers on where the power from his proposed 1,600MW plant will go, Gillispie repeated unfounded claims he has made in past meetings, that “The majority of the power will be consumed in Elmore and the state of Idaho.” In fact, no Idaho utility has shown serious interest in buying his power, mostly because it would be priced far above what Idaho ratepayers are currently paying, and because out-of-state utilities might be willing to pay far more than Idaho utilities.

“What we heard Tuesday night is that the people of Elmore County have legitimate questions and very serious reservations about this project, and what they received in response was attitude and misinformation,” Shipley said. “The people of Elmore County and of Idaho now realize what they’re dealing with. The more they hear from AEHI and the more they learn about its project, the more doubts they have about tolerating this nuclear plant as a neighbor.”

The Snake River Alliance has a long history of advocating for the cleanup of the radioactive legacy from the Cold War at the Idaho National Laboratory and protecting the Snake River Aquifer that lies underneath the contamination. It also advocates clean energy alternatives to nuclear and fossil fuel power generation.