|The Energy Net|
A few years ago, Ward wrote for Tomdispatch about various plans to dump radioactive waste, including 40 years worth of "spent fuel rods" from nuclear reactors, in his Utah backyard. People who lived downwind were alarmed. They had been exposed to radioactive fallout during the era of atomic testing in the 1950s and feared more of the same -- cancer for "downwinders" and obfuscation and denial from federal regulators. Since Ward wrote his account, local activists have successfully blocked the projects. Score one for the little guys.
Uranium Mining Politics (under consruction sept 22 2008)
The nuclear industry launched a global campaign to promote nuclear power as the world's energy savior in 2005. Uranium will be needed to fuel this new industry, where there have been calls to build over 1,000 nuclear reactors worldwide. Here are the politics in play and what's in store for us if this agenda goes forward.
The uranium mining industry in the U.S. collapsed completely at the end of the cold war. Bush's attempt to restart both the nuclear weapons and commercial power infrastructures started with Cheney's Energy Task force, which was quickly followed by their May 2001 National Policy Act, which was died due to Enron's invasion of California and the now infamous Phil Gramm-Enron waiver. The real commercial reboot came with the August passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 where over $4 billion was given to the nuclear industry to mount a massive campaign to promote nuclear power as the Climate Change savior. The act was soon followed by the Katrina disaster that flooded New Orleans and the country in high gas prices, which in turn brought up our dependence on foreign oil.
All of a sudden Greenpeace and environmentalists who had been staunchly opposed to nuclear power were the new media stars in promoting nuclear power. Well, actually, not. The Nuclear Energy Instittue (NEI), the trade association for the industry had created a front group with Patrick Moore, A Greenpeace renegade, who had been doing PR for the plastics, logging and pro-nuclear industries since the early 1990's along with Bush's scandalous former EPA head Christine Todd Whitman. No real major environmental groups that had been opposed had changed its position, although a number of groups led by EDF and NRDC had formed an alliance with the industry around climate change issues. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists created a sensation when it ran a pronuclear ad on the back of its magazine. Harvard's John Holdren, formerly a strong opponent of nuclear power had changed sides, but still held serious reservations about security and fuel-cycle issues.
Rather than take a skeptical approach to Bush's Renaissance, the mainstream media openly let the PR industry led by Hill and Knowlton mount a campaign that shut down any serious public discussion about the real issues underlying nuclear power. On cue, the global nuclear industry mounted campaigns across Europe and Australia to reopen the nuclear option. Organized opposition that helped play a key role in stopping nuclear power a generation before had melted away as the Clinton era had mostly defunded the once sacred cow of nuclear funding at the R&D levels. The really big subsidies to nuclear power are all hidden away in the fuel-cycle that has long been managed by the Department of Energy(DOE).
It would be under Clinton that the DOE would face its biggest battles where estimates of cleaning up the nuclear legacy would mount into the hundred's of billion's of dollars. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, there were real hopes of a peace dividend, where money once spent on making nuclear bombs could be used elsewhere. Battles to cleanup Hanford, Rocky Flats, Oak Ridge, and other DOE facilities was set in motion. After years of censorship and militant opposition the hundred's of thousands of DOE workers who had been contaminated, losing their lives and health were to be given modest sums of money to help offset the tragic impacts from working around the most dangerous substances ever produced.
Attempts to to resussitate the industry was mostly put on hold during the Clinton years. However, industry advocates have focussed on censoring the impacts from the 1986 Chernobyl dissaster . The accident played a central role in the collapse of the nuclear industry in Europe and sealed any further development in the U.S.
Work Break is here
Speculators have driven the price of uranium up to nearly 10 times what it was worth prior to the Bush administration, creating a false appearance that uranium mining could once again be viable. It will only be a matter of time before the major international mining corporations like Rio Tinto or the French government sponsored Areva, Cameco or EDF move in and buy up the most lucrative options.
The Bush Administration and the quasi private U.S. Energy
Co. (USEC is the former DOE uranium enrichment infrastructure that was
privatized during Clinton) are currently waging a legal battle to stop
the use of Russian weapons grade uranium (MOX Fuel) to supply commercial
reactors. If they win, there will be a huge new demand for uranium.
Surprise! Another strategic motivation underlying Bush's reopening of
a new cold war front with Russia!
As detailed elsewhere, an extinct industry is being brought back to life, and done so under one of the most scandalous of histories. Until the Waxman hearings in October of 2007, all cleanup of the thousands of long abandoned uranium mines across the southwest had all but ceased under Bush. The EPA's job of coordinating the cleanup of Dineh AUM's ceased after a dispute over its refusal to hand over documents to the tribal government. After spending nearly $1.5 billion to clean up just 26 major contaminated sites by 1999 was projected to start work on another 100 cleanup projects, but has failed to do a single site under Bush. But what is probably the biggest scandal of all is what happened to the $8 Billion in federal money the private industry was given in 1988 that has all but dissappeared from sight.
So, even though there are far high quality uranium mining operations in other parts of the world, fully capable of selling uranium to the U.S. commercial market, there are now thousands of new mining claims being staked, using the monsterous 1872 Mining Act that allows private speculators to lay claims to minerals on federal lands at a huge loss to the public.
This is a work in progress. If you have comments please email me at abalone "@" energy-net.org.
The issues they fear
Need for Additional Uranium Production;
Inadequate Radiation Safety Training & Personnel
Inadequate Financial Assets for Ongoing Licensed operations
Another round of public bailouts for failed companies