Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Does Domestic Uranium Mining Have a Future?

April 22nd, 2009

Continuing our look at the supply markets for metals used in alternative forms of energy, we turn to a father and son team who happen to sit on billions of dollars worth of uranium underneath their rural Piedmont VA farm and neighboring lands.

Today, the US imports most of its uranium from countries such as Russia and Kazakhstan, according to this Economist article. The question the article raises – will Virginia allow uranium mining – opens an enormous Pandora’s box in terms of the growth of the nuclear power industry in the US market.

The current Virginia law prohibits uranium mining anywhere in the state. Ironically, according to the Economist article, if Virginia lifts its ban, it will, along with proposed oil and gas wells, become a net exporter of energy. In addition, the DOE will announce $18.5b in loan guarantees for two to three nuclear reactors at the behest of the White House. However, nuclear remains a hot potato.

At issue – NIMBY (not in my backyard) politics – both in terms of uranium mining and disposal of nuclear fuel rods. On the mining side, plenty of opposition exists both in Virginia and elsewhere (Hydro Resources Inc just lost a federal appeal to mine on Navajo Nation lands) and I have been told by industry experts the opposition to waste disposal is led by the powerful Senator Harry Reid of Nevada (over the Yucca Mountain site). Obama, who needed Nevada from an election standpoint said, “I believe a better short-term solution is to store nuclear waste on-site at the reactors where it is produced, until we find a safe, long-term solution that is based on sound science,” according to this article.

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