SALT LAKE CITY -- Nuclear power must be an important part of Utah's future energy portfolio, Gov. Gary Herbert said Friday as he unveiled a 10-year plan that emphasizes the need for nuclear energy alongside traditional fossil fuels and renewable sources.
The disaster at a Japanese nuclear power plant, where workers are trying to avert a meltdown after a huge earthquake and tsunami, highlights the need for serious study about nuclear power, Herbert said.
Still, nuclear power cannot be discounted as an option, he said.
"The practical reality is that, going forward, the demand will increase and the equation doesn't work without nuclear," he said.
Matt Pacenza, policy director for the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah, said the danger should be enough to persuade the governor to oppose nuclear power.
There are also waste and water problems to consider, he said.
"Even in a technologically advanced country like Japan, and with a well-designed plant, things can go wrong," Pacenza said. "With nuclear, it becomes a major disaster."
There are 104 nuclear power plants in the United States -- none in Utah. One plant has been proposed for eastern Utah, near Green River.
Water demands in the arid region have posed the biggest roadblock to development.
In addition to nuclear power, Herbert's decadelong plan addresses a host of other energy goals for the state.
For example, the plan calls for the creation of a Utah energy office by consolidating existing energy functions currently fragmented throughout state government.
Another recommendation is the development of a "research triangle" made up of the University of Utah, Utah State University and Brigham Young University.
The research triangle would expand interaction with regional technology leaders through collaborative efforts led by the governor's senior energy official and senior energy research officials from each university.
The plan also recommends the implementation of a statewide program aimed at reducing energy consumption and transportation planning that promotes nonmotorized and public mass-transit infrastructure.
Utah's 10-year plan was put together by a committee of energy executives, government officials and environmental groups.
The state has one of the lowest energy costs in the country, which makes it easier to attract businesses, Herbert said.
Utah has two major coal-fired power plants, plus multiple smaller municipal power plants. Geothermal plants have been running in Southern Utah, and the federal government has designated a region in the West Desert as a prime spot for solar power.
Sara Baldwin, senior policy director with Utah Clean Energy, said if cheap power is the goal, the plan fails because it overestimates the cost of renewable energy and doesn't consider the potential cost of climate change.
"We need a more balanced and diverse portfolio."