Washington state

Firm to buy land for nuclear power plant

BOISE, Idaho - An alternative energy company has announced an agreement to buy 4,000 acres of remote land along the Snake River to build a proposed nuclear power plant.

Virginia-based Alternate Energy Holdings Inc. in December announced plans to build a 1,500-megawatt nuclear plant in southwestern Idaho. The company, created last year, also said it was considering the possibility making the facility a co-generation nuclear and ethanol plant.

The company signed the land purchase agreement with a farmer Feb. 1. The purchase price was about $20 million, Alternate Energy Holdings CEO Don Gillispie said Thursday. The agreement should be finalized by the end of March.

Gillispie declined to identify the farmer.

"We believe that nuclear power is one of the cleanest sources of energy, and one of the large-scale sources of energy," he said. "We're very excited about this opportunity."

If built, the plant would be the first commercial nuclear power plant in Idaho. The closest community to the proposed plant is Bruneau, south of the city of Mountain Home and west of the popular Bruneau Dunes State Park.

Jeremy Maxand, executive director of the nuclear watchdog group Snake River Alliance, said any community where a project like this has been proposed deserves full disclosure up front on issues such as water use and waste management.

"Idahoans should be very wary of any company that seeks to purchase thousands of acres of land to build a nuclear reactor before a full open discussion with the public and elected officials," Maxand said in a statement.

The only commercial nuclear plant in the region sits near the Hanford nuclear reservation in southeastern Washington. Electricity ratepayers in the Northwest also are still repaying the costs associated with a series of nuclear plants proposed in the 1980s but never built.

However, Northwest states have some of the cheapest power rates in the country because of their reliance on hydropower.

Idaho and Washington ranked among the top five states for low rates last year, while Montana and Oregon were tied for 12th.