Nuclear power plant cooling towers, big chimneys beside Wheat field with partly cloudy sky.

BOCC backs effort to assess nuclear power potential

July 20, 2022

Garfield County is backing an application by the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado (AGNC) to participate in a community engagement program with the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Nuclear Energy that assesses communities as locations for potential nuclear energy generation. AGNC is touting northwest Colorado as a desirable location for a nuclear energy facility, helping to offset impacts of decommissioning the coal-fired power plant in Craig that is poised to close by 2030.

The DOE’s Constituency and Community Engagement Program provides funding for communities looking to engage with the agency to provide a home for nuclear energy development. According to a DOE press release, “these communities have a unique perspective vital to developing nuclear energy projects …. The Office of Nuclear Energy will work with partners to connect and interact with underserved communities that could benefit from nuclear energy projects to ensure that the growth produced by clean energy projects is equitably delivered to all.”

Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson said the board’s letter supports facilitating coordination between the DOE and northwest Colorado energy communities.

“For us, that’s namely Moffat County and Craig specifically,” he said. “There is a meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 2, to assess the feasibility of placing a mini-nuclear power plant in the same location as the old coal-fired plant. It is a prime location because of the skilled workforce that is looking for new jobs, as well as the existing transmission lines.”

“While wind and solar have shown their potential, they clearly lack baseload capacity and 24/7 reliability,” the board’s support letter reads. “These circumstances beg several questions; How do we keep the highly skilled workforce from Northwest Colorado in their respective communities? How can we assure that there is a sufficient tax base to support critical local services? Can we leverage northwest Colorado’s energy infrastructure for new technologies? Moreover, as these communities have done for decades, is there an opportunity to provide the baseload capacity and energy reliability that Colorado needs through northwest Colorado?”

Samson added that a new nuclear facility would be a “great blessing” to northwest Colorado. The letter of support was approved unanimously, 3-0.