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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

Canada pushing Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, but the outlook for uranium/nuclear industry is bleak

Nuclear power, and Canada’s uranium industry, are struggling to find their place in a green energy future, CIM Magazine, 23 Mar , 2020 NuScale Power submitted its small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) design to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for a pre-licensing vendor design review. This came just over a month after the leaders of three Canadian provinces – Ontario premier Doug Ford, New Brunswick premier Blaine Higgs and Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe – signed a memorandum of understanding to develop SMRs in their respective provinces.

 …….Canada entering into a collaboration with the United States to secure supply lines for several critical minerals, uranium included reinforces that idea.
That would be good news for the uranium industry, as Canada is the world’s second-largest producer of the fuel source for these powerplants. But Cameco, the country’s largest uranium company, suspended production indefinitely at its flagship MacArthur River/Key Lake mine in July 2018, and the spot price of uranium is one-third of what it was back in 2011. That was before the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi reactor in Japan, when an earthquake and tsunami triggered the release of radioactive materials.
In 2018, supply and demand became more balanced, but only as a result of “substantial production cuts, cuts to some secondary supplies, reductions in inventories and an increase in demand for uranium,” said Rachelle Girard, vice-president of investor relations for Cameco. “Despite these improvements, it is no secret that today’s uranium market remains discretionary.”
Many nuclear reactors in Japan remain shut down following the Fukushima meltdown and countries such as Germany and South Korea are proceeding with nuclear phase-out programs in favour of alternative sources of energy, such as natural gas. The IEA agency projects that without a major turnaround in plant construction and refurbishments, nuclear power generation will continue to decline, making the share of energy required from renewable sources even larger than it would otherwise be……..
“The main problem with nuclear… is that it’s too slow and too costly,” said Gordon Edwards, co-founder of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. “It takes too long to get new nuclear implanted. You’re looking at 10 to 20 years, even with one of these small modular reactors – and the cost is prohibitive. Other [options] are both much faster and much cheaper, the first and foremost of those being greater energy efficiency.”……..
shifting public sentiment might help lower resistance to nuclear projects, other trends are not as encouraging.  The average age of the nuclear fleet in advanced economies is 35-years-old, according to the IEA, and 25 per cent of that existing nuclear capacity is expected to shut down by 2025.
Canada has invested in multiple programs aimed to promote the use of nuclear energy domestically and internationally. “… Canada is also a participant in “Mission Innovation,” a global initiative to accelerate public and private clean energy innovation, and unveiled its “SMR Roadmap,” a 10-month engagement process with the industry and end-users, in December 2018.  …..

March 24, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, Uranium | Leave a comment

This week’s uranium report- prices fall again, Australia’s “nuclear future” going nowhere

Uranium Week: The Nuclear Debate   https://www.fnarena.com/index.php/2020/03/11/uranium-week-the-nuclear-debate-3/ Mar 11 2020

Moves are afoot once again in Australia to lift bans on both uranium mining and nuclear power. The uranium spot price has slipped once more.

-U3O8 spot prices fall again
-Nuclear debate reopens in Australia
-History suggests it will be no easy road

By Greg Peel   This week’s uranium report could simply be left as “nothing happened”. At least nothing of major uranium industry implication. The same issues remain in place, so rather than rake over old ground yet again, as to why uranium prices are in the doldrums, this week we’ll zoom in Australia’s nuclear dilemma.

For the record, industry consultant TradeTech reported ten transactions completed in the uranium spot market last week totalling 1mlbs U3O8 equivalent. As buyers were again largely MIA, prices fell gradually during the week. TradeTech’s weekly spot price indicator has fallen -US50c to US$24.40/lb.

Term price indicators remain at US$28.25/lb (mid) and US$33.00 (long).

How to React?

The nuclear power debate has heated up in Australia once more. Driving fresh debate is the pending shutdown of ageing coal-fired power stations that provide Australia’s base load electricity. The federal government wants to build new coal-fired power stations. This policy already had its critics but as a result of this season’s bushfire disaster, an electoral groundswell is calling for the government to recognise climate change and act accordingly before it’s too late.

Australians are now generally opposed to both coal-fired power and new thermal coal mines. But not all Australians. The country is the world’s largest exporter of coal. The coal mining industry employs thousands, and thousands more are supported indirectly by that industry. The surprise victory for the coal-friendly Coalition at last year’s federal election was in part due to support from Queensland-based electorates, Queensland being Australia’s premier coal producing state.

Nuclear power has long been proposed as an alternative source to meet Australia’s electricity needs, if for no other reason Australia boasts the world’s largest known reserves of uranium. But from Three Mile Island to Chernobyl and Fukushima, successive governments have considered nuclear power to be electoral suicide. The debate is now back on again nevertheless, to lift bans on uranium mining and build nuclear reactors.

Australia is a federation of six sovereign states and two federal territories. Of those six states, four have bans on uranium mining. Tasmania has no known commercial uranium deposits, leaving South Australia as the only state with operating uranium mines. Of those four operating mines, two are currently under care & maintenance pending improved uranium prices, leaving only BHP Group’s ((BHP)) Olympic Dam and the foreign-owned Beverley in operation. A fifth mine – Ranger in the Northern Territory — is currently producing uranium but only from stockpiled ore.

Over a decade ago, the then Queensland premier decided to lift the state’s ban on uranium mining. So swift and brutal was the backlash from the coal lobby, the premier very quickly changed his mind. In the interim, one Western Australia state government lifted the ban on uranium mining, only to have the next government ban it again. Two mines under construction on the basis of the prior policy were exempted.

The Australian federal government previously limited the number of allowable uranium mines, but that policy has since been abandoned. The federal government is currently content to restrict the number of countries Australia can export uranium to.

Last week the New South Wales deputy premier supported a bill in state parliament to overturn a nuclear power ban, after a parliamentary inquiry recommended that the law prohibiting uranium mining and nuclear facilities should be repealed. The bill has the support of the Minerals Council of Australia, and the Australian Workers Union, which supports uranium mining and nuclear power for the jobs both will create. But the AWU’s stance puts it at odds with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, which has long been anti-uranium for what we might call Fukushima reasons.

And support for uranium mining and nuclear power is not split down party lines at either federal or state level. The debate is splitting parties.

A lifting of state uranium mining bans would likely not achieve much in the near term. The marginal cost of new production well exceeds current uranium trading prices. To not build nuclear reactors, on the other hand, when the issue of Australia’s future base load power and electricity prices is paramount, and Australia has abundant uranium resources, is seen by supporters as pure folly.

The debate will rage on, but in the short term at least, likely go nowhere.

March 14, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, politics, Uranium | Leave a comment

Protesters call for Capenhurst Urenco nuclear plant to be closed down

March 6, 2020 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, UK, Uranium | Leave a comment

Uranium prices at rock bottom- doesn’t help the struggling nuclear industry

Uranium Week: The Nuclear Conundrum https://www.fnarena.com/index.php/2020/02/11/uranium-week-the-nuclear-conundrum/

By Greg Peel, Lack of demand continues to drag on uranium prices despite ongoing production curtailments, yet nuclear energy remains a matter of cost.

-Uranium spot prices drift lower
-Production curtailments ongoing
-Nuclear power a costly option

he world’s largest mining investment conference, now in its 26th year, began in Cape Town last week. Given the tenuous state of South Africa’s energy supply, the focus this year of the “Investing in African Mining Indaba” is on a transition from coal toward renewable and clean energy resources to deal with power shortages across the African continent. (Indaba means meeting.)

The five-day conference brought together representatives from 94 countries and regions, including more than 38 ministers, under the theme “Optimizing Growth and Investment in the Digitized Mining Economy.”

The CEO of the Minerals Council South Africa said at the conference the Council fully supports a transition from coal to non-fossil fuel forms of power generation such as wind and solar power and, where cost is not prohibitive, nuclear power.

“Where cost is not prohibitive” underscores the dilemma facing the global nuclear power and uranium mining industries at present. The US experience is one of US uranium miners being unable to compete with cheaper imports from the likes of Canada and Kazakhstan, with uranium prices near historically low levels. Yet the US nuclear power industry cannot compete with gas-fired and renewable power, despite historically low uranium prices.

 

February 13, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, Uranium | Leave a comment

World’s first public database of mine tailings dams aims to prevent deadly disasters

World’s first public database of mine tailings dams aims to prevent deadly disasters https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-01/g-wfp012320.php

Previously unreleased data offer unprecedented view into mining industry’s waste storage practices

GRID-ARENDAL 24 JAN 2020 ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANIZATION GRID-ARENDAL HAS LAUNCHED THE WORLD’S FIRST PUBLICLY ACCESSIBLE GLOBAL DATABASE OF MINE TAILINGS STORAGE FACILITIES. THE DATABASE, THE GLOBAL TAILINGS PORTAL, WAS BUILT BY NORWAY-BASED GRID-ARENDAL AS PART OF THE INVESTOR MINING AND TAILINGS SAFETY INITIATIVE, WHICH IS LED BY THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND PENSIONS BOARD AND THE SWEDISH NATIONAL PENSION FUNDS’ COUNCIL ON ETHICS, WITH SUPPORT FROM THE UN ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME. THE INITIATIVE IS BACKED BY FUNDS WITH MORE THAN US$13 TRILLION UNDER MANAGEMENT.

Until now, there has been no central database detailing the location and quantity of the mining industry’s liquid and solid waste, known as tailings. The waste is typically stored in embankments called tailings dams, which have periodically failed with devastating consequences for communities, wildlife and ecosystems.

“This portal could save lives”, says Elaine Baker, senior expert at GRID-Arendal and a geosciences professor with the University of Sydney in Australia. “Dams are getting bigger and bigger. Mining companies have found most of the highest-grade ores and are now mining lower-grade ones, which create more waste. With this information, the entire industry can work towards reducing dam failures in the future.”

The database allows users to view detailed information on more than 1,700 tailings dams around the world, categorized by location, company, dam type, height, volume, and risk, among other factors.

“Most of this information has never before been publicly available”, says Kristina Thygesen, GRID-Arendal’s programme leader for geological resources and a member of the team that worked on the portal. When GRID-Arendal began in-depth research on mine tailings dams in 2016, very little data was accessible. In a 2017 report on tailings dams, co-published by GRID and the UN Environment Programme, one of the key recommendations was to establish an accessible public-interest database of tailings storage facilities.

“This database brings a new level of transparency to the mining industry, which will benefit regulators, institutional investors, scientific researchers, local communities, the media, and the industry itself”, says Thygesen.

The release of the Global Tailings Portal coincides with the one-year anniversary of the tailings dam collapse in Brumadinho, Brazil, that killed 270 people. After that disaster, a group of institutional investors led by the Church of England Pensions Board asked 726 of the world’s largest mining companies to disclose details about their tailings dams. Many of the companies complied, and the information they released has been incorporated into the database.

For more information on tailings dams, see the 2017 report “Mine Tailings Storage: Safety Is No Accident” and the related collection of graphics, which are available for media use.

About GRID-Arendal

GRID-Arendal supports environmentally sustainable development by working with the UN Environment Programme and other partners. We communicate environmental knowledge that motivates decision-makers and strengthens management capacity. We transform environmental data into credible, science-based information products, delivered through innovative communication tools and capacity-building services.

January 27, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, Uranium, wastes | Leave a comment

Kyrgyzstan bans uranium, thorium mining

Above – radioactive tailings mountain in Central Asia

December 21, 2019 Posted by | ASIA, environment, politics, thorium, Uranium | Leave a comment

The global uranium industry is really on the skids

Uranium bulls ‘as rare as white unicorns’ Jim Green, Online Opinion, 26 November 2019, https://onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=20623&page=0

Uranium bulls are “as rare as white unicorns” according to a commentary in FNArena in September 2019, and the market is “sick and dying” with uranium “quickly becoming a dinosaur of a commodity”.

Canadian company Cameco recently said it cannot see any case for construction of new uranium mines for some years to come. Chief financial officer Grant Isaac said that new mines will not win financial backing without a far stronger recovery in demand for uranium than is currently on the horizon.

“It’s pretty hard to say you’re going to take the risk on an asset … that isn’t licensed, isn’t permitted, probably doesn’t have a proven mining method, when you have idle tier one capacity that’s licensed, permitted, sitting there,” Isaac said.

Moreover, Cameco has no plans to restart mines put into care-and-maintenance in 2016 and 2017: McArthur River (and the Key Lake mill) and Rabbit Lake in Canada, and the Crow Butte and Smith Ranch-Highland in-situ leach mines in the US. Plans to expand Crow Butte were abandoned in March 2019.

Instead, Cameco will continue to meet its contracts by purchasing uranium on the spot market. Delivering the company’s third-quarter results (a small loss), chief exec­utive Tim Gitzel said that only 9 million pounds of uranium oxide will be produced from its mines next year, with the remainder of its requirement of 30‒32 million pounds supplied from spot market purchases.

Cameco’s workforce in Canada has halved. Before the Fukushima disaster, the company employed more than 2,100 people in Saskatchewan. Since then, 810 mine and mill workers have been sacked, along with 219 head office employees in Saskatoon. Continue reading

November 26, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, Reference, Uranium | Leave a comment

New type of uranium nuclear fuel has safety risks

November 16, 2019 Posted by | safety, technology, UK, Uranium | Leave a comment

Toxic effects of uranium mining on indigenous communities

Coconino Voices: Solving Our Toxic Nuclear Legacy, https://azdailysun.com/opinion/columnists/coconino-voices-solving-our-toxic-nuclear-legacy/article_b8e2ef35-31fe-5cb0-a844-6c0fba973c19.html, BRYAN BATES, 30 Oct 19, 

    • When creating any system, whether a building, a community or an energy system, waste products need to be safely managed. This should be true if we’re building an energy system where the waste products can cause cancer and genetic mutations in humans or any organism within range of long-lived radioactive particles. However, it  hasn’t been.

First discovered in 1895, radiation was shown to kill bacteria in 1898; however, with a high energy potential and money-making promise, radioactivity was not linked to cancer and genetic change until much later and even then its true health effects were hidden from miners and the public.

Because the geologic Chinle Formation on the Navajo Nation is rich in Uranium, Navajo men were put to work without protection from known hazards. Several hundred Navajos became sick from radiation exposure, many at the same time that other Navajos enlisted in the Marines to become Navajo Code Talkers.

Health effects from mining Uranium persist on the Navajo Nation with numerous pit mines still open and potentially affecting water, plants, livestock and Navajo. The amount of pain, illness, death and cost are still unknown. (See Judy Pasternak, 2011, Yellow Dirt.)

With the geologic uplift of the Grand Canyon upwarp, it’s hypothesized that numerous vertical shafts eroded allowing broken rock carrying Uranium from the Chinle Formation to fall into these “breccia pipes”. Left alone, the Uranium and other metals remain isolated from the biotic world; drilled into, these metals can migrate into interconnected aquifers that discharge into the Colorado River, water often used to grow food. The Grand Canyon upwarp has the greatest concentration of Uranium containing breccia pipes in the world.

This region is sacred to the Hopi, Navajo, Pai and other native people. The Canyon Mine has promised to create jobs; however, tourism and outdoor activities “support over 9,000 jobs, contribute over $938 million annually to (local) economies, and generate over $160 million in annual state and local tax revenues. Uranium mining threatens these economic drivers while possessing little capacity to support the regional economy.” (www.grandcanyontrust.org).

Under President Obama, a twenty-year moratorium on Uranium mining was instituted to allow for compilation and review of scientific information and energy policy. President Trump has requested and will receive a proposal from the nuclear industry to assess opening up mining on the Grand Canyon upwarp.

Mined Uranium would be used to generate nuclear electricity in reactors that are at or nearing their engineered lifespan. Building new nuclear reactors is massively expensive and concrete, the primary component of reactors, is the second largest emitter of climate changing CO2. (United Nations, IPCC report). Claims that nuclear energy is climate neutral only look at the internal nuclear reaction and ignore the entire fuel cycle necessary to keep the nuclear system functioning. Currently, nuclear waste is stored on-site at numerous reactors, several of which have moderate security and leaky infrastructure. The one national nuclear repository, Yucca Mountain, has been mothballed after expending $15Billion of taxpayer money.  

To be sure, mining engineers are very intelligent people, and if they can pull Uranium out of breccia pipes, they can pull Uranium out of 1940’s open mining pits and then close off any radiation leakage. These same engineers could pull nuclear fuels from corroding storage bins on-site at nuclear reactors across the country. If a future President decides we need fewer nuclear weapons, future engineers could pull those radioactive elements, though it is questionable whether nuclear power will even be necessary given energy conservation and emerging sustainable energy sources.

In short, our country is not at lack of energy, but our current leadership is at lack of offering practical energy options. The best option is to leave the Uranium in the ground and clean up our country’s toxic nuclear legacy.

October 31, 2019 Posted by | environment, health, indigenous issues, Uranium, USA | Leave a comment

High levels of uranium in some Navajo women and infants near old uranium mining sites

US official: Research finds uranium in Navajo  women, babieshttps://apnews.com/334124280ace4b36beb6b8d58c328ae3?fbclid=IwAR2UqarRiUTIPwnRCA_DGkjKuahfFO4T_l9iFrXxb1P8qL5AnmrTc1m61W8By MARY HUDETZ, October 8, 2019, ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — About a quarter of Navajo women and some infants who were part of a federally funded study on uranium exposure had high levels of the radioactive metal in their systems, decades after mining for Cold War weaponry ended on their reservation, a U.S. health official Monday.

The early findings from the University of New Mexico study were shared during a congressional field hearing in Albuquerque. Dr. Loretta Christensen — the chief medical officer on the Navajo Nation for Indian Health Service, a partner in the research — said 781 women were screened during an initial phase of the study that ended last year.

Among them, 26% had concentrations of uranium that exceeded levels found in the highest 5% of the U.S. population, and newborns with equally high concentrations continued to be exposed to uranium during their first year, she said.

The research is continuing as authorities work to clear uranium mining sites across the Navajo Nation.

“It forces us to own up to the known detriments associated with a nuclear-forward society,” said U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, who is an enrolled member of Laguna Pueblo, a tribe whose jurisdiction lies west of Albuquerque.

The hearing held in Albuquerque by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, Haaland and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, all Democrats from New Mexico, sought to underscore the atomic age’s impact on Native American communities.

The three are pushing for legislation that would expand radiation compensation to residents in their state, including post-1971 uranium workers and residents who lived downwind from the Trinity Test site in southern New Mexico.

The state’s history has long been intertwined with the development of the nation’s nuclear arsenal, from uranium mining and the first atomic blast to the Manhattan project conducted through work in the once-secret city of Los Alamos. The federal Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, however, only covers parts of Nevada, Arizona and Utah that are downwind from a different nuclear test site.

During the hearing, Haaland said one of her own family members had lost his hearing because of radiation exposure. At Laguna Pueblo, home to her tribe, the Jackpile-Paguate Mine was once among the world’s largest open-pit uranium mines. It closed several decades ago, but cleanup has yet to be completed.

“They need funds,” Haaland said. “They job was not completed.”

David Gray, a deputy regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said the mine illustrates uranium mining and milling’s lingering effects on Indian Country.

On the Navajo Nation, he said, the EPA has identified more than 200 abandoned uranium mines where it wants to complete investigation and clean up under an upcoming five-year plan, using settlements and other agreements to pay for the work that has taken decades.

Udall, who chaired the hearing, acknowledged federal officials had shown progress but that the pace of cleanup has proven frustrating for some community members.

“They feel an urgency,” Udall said. “They feel that things need to happen today.”

In her testimony, Christensen described how Navajo residents in the past had used milling waste in home construction, resulting in contaminated walls and floors.

From the end of World War II to the mid-1980s, millions of tons of uranium ore were extracted from the Navajo Nation, leaving gray streaks across the desert landscape, as well as a legacy of disease and death.

While no large-scale studies have connected cancer to radiation exposure from uranium waste, many have been blamed it for cancer and other illnesses.

By the late 1970s, when the mines began closing around the reservation, miners were dying of lung cancer, emphysema or other radiation-related ailments.

“The government is so unjust with us,” said Leslie Begay, a former uranium miner who lives in Window Rock, an Arizona town that sits near the New Mexico border and serves as the Navajo Nation capital. “The government doesn’t recognize that we built their freedom.”

Begay, who said he has lung problems, attended the hearing with an oxygen tank in tow. The hearing held in the Southwest was especially meaningful for him after traveling in the past to Washington to advocate for himself and others, he said.

Associated Press reporter Felicia Fonseca in Flagstaff, Arizona, contributed to this report.

October 21, 2019 Posted by | children, Uranium, USA, women | 1 Comment

Trump grants extension for nuclear fuel recommendations

Trump grants extension for nuclear fuel recommendations SFChronicle 

Oct. 17, 2019 FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A U.S. task force has been given more time to recommend ways to revive domestic uranium mining as it lags amid low prices and global competition.

The Nuclear Fuel Working Group had been expected to deliver recommendations to President Donald Trump last week. But the Commerce Department says Trump granted a 30-day extension.

Uranium mining interests say the global market for uranium ore is vulnerable to political turmoil.

They want Trump to boost U.S. demand to help domestic suppliers. But the president rejected a requested quota during the summer and gave the task force 90 days to come up with other ideas….. https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/us/article/Trump-grants-extension-for-nuclear-fuel-14541894.php

October 19, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, politics, Uranium | Leave a comment

Uranium industry in permanent collapse? And thorium industry probably no better

Uranium Sector Won’t Catch A Break, Share Cafe, By Rick Mills September 23, 2019  One week ago Cameco announced it will maintain low output levels until uranium prices recover. The Canadian uranium miner also said it might cut production further, having already closed four mines in Canada and laid off 2,000 of its workers in the uranium mining hub of Saskatchewan.
News like this has stalked the uranium market for years, and while 2018 was a great year for the nuclear fuel, hope for a price pick-up is dim; once an important commodity at resource investing shows, uranium is now mostly ignored. Uranium bulls are as rare as white unicorns, having switched allegiance to metals that support Ahead of the Herd’s electrification of the transportation system thesis, like lithium, nickel and cobalt.  ….
No end to supply glut“We are not restarting mines until we see a better market and we may close more capacity, although no decision has been taken yet,” Cameco CEO Tim Gitzel told Reuters recently at the World Nuclear Association’s annual conference.

Just over a year ago Cameco made the difficult decision to close its MacArthur River and Key Lake mines, in response to low uranium prices, leaving the company’s flagship Cigar Lake facility as its only operating mine left in northern Saskatchewan, home to the world’s highest grade uranium deposit.

The mine closures by Cameco were preceded by 20% production cuts in Kazakhstan, the number one uranium-producing country. The former Soviet bloc country has said 2020-21 output will not rise above 2019 levels. In Canada, the second largest U producer, 2018 production was cut in half to 7,000 tonnes.

An estimated 35% of uranium supply has been stripped from the market since Kazakhstan’s supply reductions in December 2017…..

Eight years later, only nine of 33 remaining reactors have been re-started, and Japan’s nuclear operators are reportedly starting to sell their uranium fuel, as the chances fade of more reactors coming online, and adding to the six currently operating. Long-term contracts are also being canceled.

In another blow to the industry, Japan’s new environment minister, Shinjiro Koizumi, has said he wants all reactors shuttered to avoid a repeat of the Fukushima catastrophe that leaked radiation and forced 160,000 people to flee the area, many of whom have not returned.

As reactors close in the United States, Germany, Belgium and other countries, “traders and specialists say the market is likely to remain depressed for years,” Reuters reported in August.

Germany has pledged to shut down all its reactors by 2022 and the Belgian government has agreed to a new energy pact that will see nuclear power phased out over the next seven years…….

(makes case for thorium)….As far as disadvantages, thorium takes extremely high temperatures to produce nuclear fuel (550 degrees higher than uranium dioxide), meaning thorium dioxide is expensive to make. Second, irradiated thorium is dangerously radioactive in the short-term.

Detractors also say the thorium fuel cycle is less advanced than uranium-plutonium and could take decades to perfect; by that time, renewable energies could make the cost of thorium reactors cost-prohibitive. The International Nuclear Agency predicts that the thorium cycle won’t be commercially viable while uranium is still readily available………… https://www.sharecafe.com.au/2019/09/23/uranium-sector-wont-catch-a-break/

September 30, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, thorium, Uranium | Leave a comment

Environmental, health, threats of USA’s zombie uranium mines

When toxic waste piles — either solid rock or liquid confined behind earthen dams — are left unaddressed, the potential increases for “catastrophic failure

WHILE ‘ZOMBIE’ MINES IDLE, CLEANUP AND WORKERS SUFFER IN LIMBO As the governor of West Virginia and other mine owners warehouse their operations and avoid cleanup, the Trump administration stifles attempts to write rules that could restrict the practice. Center for Public Integrity, 8 Sept 19

…….RADIOACTIVE LEGACY

Remnants of America’s nuclear past litter the Grants Mining District in northwest New Mexico: signs warning of radioactivity, a spiked drill bit outside the New Mexico Mining Museum in Grants, businesses offering to help retired miners get U.S. Department of Labor health benefits.

Mount Taylor — “Tsoodzil” to the Navajo Nation — towers over the landscape. At the base of the 11,305-foot-tall inactive volcano sits the Mount Taylor Mine, idled in 1990 and allowed to flood.

The heyday of Southwestern uranium mining lasted just 30 years. Much of the industry, including this mine, has since remained in standby.

The country’s last operational underground uranium mine shut in 2015, and  open-pit mines haven’t produced in decades. Only one mill in Utah and four in-situ-leach operations, in which ore is dissolved belowground and pumped up, are still active. Two other mills and 15 in-situ-leach sites are either officially in standby or not producing. The American uranium industry employed only 372 people last year, down from 1,120 two decades earlier. Production from U.S. uranium mines fell 85 percent during that period, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

At current prices, mining uranium in the Four Corners remains untenable.

But now the Mount Taylor Mine is reopening, at least on paper. 

…  the Jackpile-Paguate Uranium Mine, once the world’s largest open-pit uranium mine, is now a Superfund site. In the broader Four Corners region, the U.S. Department of Energy is supposed to clean up more than 20 such Cold War relics, from former mills to waste piles. Some leak arsenic, lead, uranium and other toxic substances into groundwater. Recently, hoofprints were found leading from an unfenced pollution control pond near Slick Rock, Colorado, indicating that cattle likely drink from it.

Just inside the southeastern corner of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, an unsettling sign hangs from barbed wire: “DANGER. ABANDONED URANIUM MINE,” a pile of mine waste looming behind it. Residents here in the Red Water Pond Road Community are surrounded by two abandoned uranium mines and a mill…….

Living around or working in uranium mines can worsen, or even trigger, autoimmune disorders, kidney disease, respiratory issues, hypertension and cancer. A study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the University of New Mexico and Navajo agencies found that Navajo Nation citizens, including infants, had elevated levels of uranium in their bodies.

Paul Robinson, Southwest Research and Information Center’s research director, has tracked the industry for more than 40 years. While the New Mexico Mining Act mandates that waste rock and other infrastructure be stabilized before entering standby status, it allows operators to delay reclamation while mining is paused, he said.

Leaving the wastes that are generated at a mine uncovered is one of the ways to ensure airborne or waterborne release,” Robinson said.

Thompson Bell, a member of the Navajo Nation who spent five years as a mechanic in a uranium mine, grew up here and returned for the study. He said many of his mining coworkers died from lung cancer. The sheep and cattle that used to graze here have all but disappeared, the flocks given up for fear of contamination.

The thing about uranium, we found out: It destroys humans and land,” Bell said.

Opinion remains split locally about whether the return of relatively high-paying mining jobs — if that ever happened — would be worth the human and environmental consequences. Christine Lowery, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna and a commissioner for the county where the Mount Taylor Mine is located, said she welcomes a cleaner economy.

Those mines were open for one generation,” she said. “The legacy lasts forever…….

The federal government leaves it to the states to impose limits on uranium-mine idling. The resulting patchwork of state rules are largely anchored on a 147-year-old federal law aimed more at promoting mining than managing it.

Over time, uranium production has dropped, stockpiles remained large, nuclear power’s share of the country’s electricity production fell, and power plants bought more uranium from overseas. Still, mine owners hope for a revival…….

 Modern surface mining in Central Appalachia has been linked to health problems ranging from cancer to birth defects. And in a 2012 study, Bernhardt estimated that surface mining impaired about one in three miles of southern West Virginia’s rivers.

But idling poses other risks, Bernhardt said. When toxic waste piles — either solid rock or liquid confined behind earthen dams — are left unaddressed, the potential increases for “catastrophic failure,” she said, even as opportunities to use the land for new purposes are delayed…..

Regulators in Virginia have few options. Justice mine cleanup liabilities in Virginia total as much as $200 million, and taxpayers could get stuck with a large share of that if the state takes over. That’s because those companies have put up only about $51 million for cleanup if the operations are abandoned. Half of that amount would likely be worthless in that scenario because, state records show, it is backed against the value of the companies. A pool of money Virginia set up to close gaps like this at 150 permits across the state, including some of Justice’s, has less than $10 million in it. ……..https://publicintegrity.org/environment/while-zombie-mines-idle-cleanup-and-workers-suffer-in-limbo/?fbclid=IwAR1PsslGwAV0UPxPBIn4qv1JTypoGVk1

September 10, 2019 Posted by | environment, health, Uranium, USA | 6 Comments

Trump administration still trying to prop up the nuclear industry

Try, Try Again: Trump Mulling Taxpayer Bailout of Nuclear Industry  https://www.ewg.org/energy/release/22837/try-try-again-trump-mulling-taxpayer-bailout-nuclear-industry10 Sept 19 WASHINGTON – Although previous schemes to bail out the dying nuclear industry fizzled, the Trump administration is at it again. Bloomberg reports that the administration is considering using an obscure Cold War-era law to directly purchase U.S.-mined uranium to restock nuclear power plants.In an Aug. 18 letter from the Nuclear Energy Institute to White House national security advisor John Bolton and economic advisor Larry Kudlow, the industry trade group called on the administration to use “direct payments to either a U.S. utility or domestic uranium producer for sale of U.S.-origin uranium to a utility.”

The purchases would be authorized under the Defense Production Act, enacted during the Korean War to ensure that U.S. industries have the resources necessary for national defense. The act allows the president to allocate uranium and other materials needed to power and arm submarines, aircraft carriers and warheads.

But experts say there is no military justification for the scheme.

“Frankly, we have already taken care of our naval fuel needs for the next 60 years. We are awash in enriched uranium for weapons,” Sharon Squassoni, a professor on nuclear policy at George Washington University, told Reuters.

In July, the president dismissed a Commerce Department proposal, strongly backed by the uranium and nuclear industries, to slap tariffs on uranium imported to the U.S. Instead, President Trump created a working group including Bolton, Kudlow and six cabinet secretaries to come up with other options for propping up the nuclear power industry.

The industry is struggling because of aging plants and high operating costs, which make it hard to compete against much cheaper renewable energy sources and natural gas.

This is not the first time the Trump administration has toyed with ideas to use taxpayer money to prop up the nuclear power industry artificially. Energy Secretary Rick Perry twice pursued plans to bail out both the nuclear and coal industries by requiring regional electricity suppliers to buy above-market-rate power from coal and nuclear plants, even when cheaper sources are available.

Perry’s proposals were shot down by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and top White House national security officials. In June, Perry admitted there is no federal authority for his scheme, so operators of struggling nuclear plants have turned to getting bailouts from state governments.

“The Trump administration is once again looking to prop up the dying and dangerous nuclear energy industry and squandering taxpayer dollars to do it,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “Nuclear power is a relic of the last century, too risky, too expensive and completely rejected by Wall Street investors. Instead of backing another energy loser, the administration should push to make America’s wind and solar power great again, by helping U.S. makers of turbines and solar panels recover from years of standing by while foreign competitors dominate.”

Data from the Energy Information Administration shows that since 2009, solar power capacity has grown by more than a factor of 89, and wind power capacity has increased sixfold. But production of solar panels and wind turbines is dominated by companies from China and Europe.

Reuters reported that the White House working group is expected to make its recommendations for bailing out domestic uranium mining and the nuclear power industry by Oct. 10.

Much of the U.S.’ uranium deposits are in the desert Southwest, including along the rim of the Grand Canyon. In 2012, then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar placed a 20-year moratorium on uranium mining on more than 1 million acres of land along the canyon rim.

But in November 2017, the Trump administration announced plans to reconsider the mining ban near the Grand Canyon. And in March 2018, the uranium mining lobby petitioned the Supreme Court to lift the Obama-era ban.

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The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.

September 10, 2019 Posted by | politics, Uranium | Leave a comment

Saudi Arabia Plans To Enrich Uranium

Saudi Arabia Plans To Enrich Uranium For Its Nuclear Power Reactors, Isabel Togoh, Forbes Staff, 8 Sept 19

Saudi Arabia new energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman has announced the kingdom plans to enrich uranium for its future civilian nuclear power program. The move could mark the start of a race for nuclear weapons in the Gulf as attempts by the United States and European Union to strike a new deal with Iran on its nuclear plan falter. ……

Saudi’s former energy minister said in April that Riyadh’s use of the reactors would be peaceful and in compliance with “international framework governing … nuclear energy and its peaceful use.” However, the kingdom previously said it would not sign any deal that would restrict its nuclear program. The same technology used to enrich uranium for civilian reactors can also be used to produce fuel for nuclear weapons   …… https://www.forbes.com/sites/isabeltogoh/2019/09/09/saudi-arabia-plans-to-enrich-uranium-for-its-nuclear-power-reactors/#5450c3415e2f

September 10, 2019 Posted by | Saudi Arabia, Uranium | Leave a comment