The Wonk Room recently pointed out that Sen. John McCain’s plan to achieve energy independence by doubling our use of nuclear power is a pipe dream, since the U.S. nuclear industry must import over 90% of its uranium. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) shot back on its Shopfloor blog, writing about the promise of southwest Virginia’s Pittsylvania uranium deposits:
How so, with a resource like the Pittsylvania ore available? Unless, of course, you expect environmentalists to block mining and nuclear power as they have in the past, in the process guaranteeing continued energy insecurity.
NAM quotes their friends Jack Spencer and Nicolas Loris at the conservative Heritage Foundation, who claims the Pittsylvania site has “110 million pounds of uranium,” enough to “supply all 104 nuclear reactors in the United States, which provide 20 percent of the nation’s electricity, for two years.” While NAM attacks “environmentalists,” Heritage prefers blaming “government bureaucrats” for preventing access to a “safe, affordable, clean energy source” – the language right-wing wordmeister Frank Luntz constructed to describe a dangerously toxic energy source.
NAM’s Nuclear Obsession Guarantees ‘Energy Insecurity.’ The U.S. consumes one quarter of the world oil supply, but has only two percent of global reserves. The U.S. uranium position is eerily similar: “The U.S. has about 3 percent-4 percent of the world’s known uranium and produces about 4.3 percent of the world’s supply despite operating about one-quarter of the world’s commercial power reactors.” [EIA 1/29/07, 6/9/08] [Heritage Foundation, 3/25/08]
The Threat Of Uranium Mining In Virginia Is Real. “Enormous quantities of radioactive waste are generated by uranium mining and milling, with only 2 to 4 pounds of concentrated uranium oxide yellow cake obtained from each ton of ore taken out of the ground.” “Most domestic uranium mining occurs in the arid waste, where the radioactive waste is less likely to contaminate runoff. But the Virginia uranium mining would occur in a place with four times the annual rainfall of the west – 40-60 inches annually. This rainfall dramatically increases the risk of radioactive runoff contaminating drinking water.” [Piedmont Environmental Council]
Why are NAM and Heritage promoting Pittsylvania uranium as a “safe” solution to “energy security” despite the facts? Could it be because there’s a huge pile of money at stake? The Pittsylvania deposits are worth upwards of $10 billion for Virginia Uranium, the private company that owns the mining rights — and is selling the project with an army of lobbyists as a “safe” solution for “energy independence.”
UPDATE: Jack Spencer writes in: Read more