Emery/Carbon County Economic Development Group Discusses “Adding Nuclear to the Mix”


By Julie Johansen

The Emery/Carbon County Economic Development group met on Nov. 28 to continue its discussion and coordination purposes of economic development in the Carbon and Emery areas. The group consisted of PacifiCorp leaders, a USU Eastern representative, elected officials, the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity personnel, representatives from the Association of Local Governments (AOG), media personnel and business leaders, both in person and virtually.

The main item on the agenda was a report from Brad Watson, director of community and campus engagement at USU Eastern, who had been asked to attend a Gateway for Accelerated Innovations in Nuclear (GAIN) workshop in West Virginia. The workshop, ”Adding Nuclear to the Mix,” was hosted by the Idaho National Laboratory and federal Department of Energy.

Other attendees at this workshop included utility leaders, coal-fired plant workers, local and state government officials, federal personnel from the Department of Energy, the project director of the Natrium Project in Kemmerer, Wyoming, Electric Power Research, and personnel from the Idaho National Laboratory.

When Watson inquired what was the most important thing to do to move forward in getting nuclear power in Carbon and Emery counties, the reply was to apply for the Community Local Energy Actions Program (LEAP) grant by Dec. 14. He reported that Geri Gamber and Jade Powell with the AOG are working on this.

Watson added that this could help in making an analysis on the economic impact nuclear power would have in Southeastern Utah. It would also help identify the infrastructure (powerline grid) capabilities for transmission. Next, it would be important to quickly form a “Coal to Nuclear Task Force.” It was suggested that this could be the economic group, but it would be more advantageous if it was just six to 10 members who would be interested in serving on this task force. An invitation was extended to find these members as soon as possible. Watson also suggested that a process map regarding transitioning from coal to nuclear power be identified.

Additional information coming from Watson included that Christine King, director for GAIN, is organizing an intermountain coalition, including Utah, Colorado, Arizona and Wyoming. These states all seem to be facing the same hurdles. Tay Stevensen will work to educate and train power plant workers about nuclear power generation. Emphasis was given to educate K-12 students about nuclear power as they will be the leaders.

The Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity spoke virtually about Manufacturing Modernization grants for rural areas. Also, the Governor’s Office of Energy Development had Emery County Commissioner Lynn Sitterud provide an update. Commissioner Sitterud addressed the possibility of the San Rafael Research Center being purchased by the State of Utah to be used as a lab for university study with possible expansion in the adjoining industrial park.

There was also discussion about carbon capture and the possibilities of power produced with this method. President Joe Biden has announced funding for five carbon capture plants in the United States. Laren Huntsman of PacifiCorp stated the Hunter Plant had the geological formation needed to be able to use this method. This method just means that emissions of CO2 are captured and put back into the ground in soil able to store and hold these by-products. The group discussed ways to get the federal delegation involved in trying to implement carbon capture at the existing plants in Emery County.

There was also discussion about expanding the USU Eastern programs, and how to involve more local input into the development of such programs.

Merlin Rushton provided an update from Rocky Mountain Power, announcing a commitment to help the counties and local governments apply for grants through funding for a grant writer. Kassidee Oakson gave an update from the consultant Emery Telcom is funding to implement an interagency working group to assist in identifying such grant opportunities. It was stressed that the group is meeting for information and coordination purposes, and not to make any binding decisions on the local governments.

scroll to top