Is there nuclear power plant potential in Northeastern Montana near Fort Peck? That is one of the issues rising to the top as the Army Corp of Engineers conducts MRAPS, short for Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study.
The Army Corps of Engineers has been directed by Congress to review the original project purposes established by the 1944 Flood Control Act. MRAPS is the first-ever review of the legislation that created the system of dams and reservoirs on the Missouri River and major tributaries. The study will determine if changes in these purposes and the existing federal water resource infrastructure managed by the Corps and Bureau of Reclamation may be warranted. The Act affects tributaries to the Missouri, including the lower Yellowstone.
At one of the scoping meetins last week in South Dakota, John Cooper spoke. Cooper is the former secretary of South Dakota’s Fish, Game and Parks and is now a commissioner. However, his role at the MRAPS scoping meeting was as senior consultant for the Bipartisan Policy Center which is a resource utilized by the Army Corp of Engineers. Cooper has studied and provided consultancy work on the Missouri River System for 35 years in various capacities.
During the meeting, he referenced nuclear potential of the Fort Peck Dam.
Montana East asked Cooper for clarification about that potential. He said “In several of the meetings that I have attended, the subject of nuclear power and a renewed effort to establish nuclear power as one of the cornerstones of America’s energy supply has been debated in detail. It is certainly “on the table” as our energy strategy and policy is being debated at the highest levels. When nuclear power is discussed, one of the principle issues that always comes up is ‘Where do we construct the plants and how do we get the energy on the grid?’ Supporters of Nuclear power have frequently pointed out that the Missouri River Reservoirs have a reliable supply of cooling water, are not heavily populated and have locations where a Nuclear Plant(s) could be built along the reservoir, possibly even in partnership with Tribes, and much of the existing hydro-power transmission lines could be enhanced within the existing corridors to carry the new loads of electricity to towns and cities across the midwest.”
In terms of the Fort Peck Reservoir specifically, Cooper said
“One of the reasons we need to complete this Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study is so that we can make good decisions on how water is stored and used in the Missouri River Reservoirs. Does it make sense to continue to run water in accordance with the original 1944 Flood Control Act for a use like navigation, which never has fulfilled it’s original beneficial use, when serious discussions about using Missouri River water for contemporary energy needs, like nuclear power supply, fits much more inline with modernizing the operation of the River for now and into the future. Establishing nuclear plant(s) in the upper basin merits serious consideration as one of the tools we should be looking at for water storage, energy supply and energy independence. Of course the officials in the state of Missouri won’t like it because they think that all the water belongs to them and they feel that they have all the political power to keep it that way.”
The Flood Control Act of 1944 which is being reviewed through the scoping process, according to Cooper, centers around complex issues and topics related to energy development such as coal gasification, renewable fuels, natural gas extraction, oil sands, wind power, transmission lines, etc. and debates on what are the best future choices for America’s energy supply in light of things like climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, future demands and costs, and proximity to energy supply resources.
Just one scoping meeting will be held in eastern Montana, at Fort Peck, on June 15th from 5 to 8pm at the Fort Peck Interpretative Center. A list of scoping meetings throughout the Missouri River System can be found at MRAPS.ORG.