Paradox Valley: Energy Fuels Corp. formally applies for uranium mill state permit

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From the Cortez Journal (Joe Hanel):

The mill, proposed for the Paradox Valley west of Naturita, would be the first new uranium mill in the country in 25 years. It has caused heated debate in the Paradox Valley, in part because it could restart the uranium mining industry in Southwest Colorado. Montrose County commissioners approved zoning for the mill, known as the Piñon Ridge mill, in September…

This week’s application to the state triggers a 10- to 15-month process that will include two public hearings. State regulators will zero in on health effects of the mill in both the short- and long-term, said Steve Tarlton, radiation program manager for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “Colorado has the most stakeholder-focused review process for uranium licensing in the United States,” Tarlton said. Tarlton’s office has 30 days to determine if the application is complete. Once it does, Energy Fuels has 75 days to hold two public hearings. Those hearings probably will happen in Montrose and the Nucla-Naturita area, said Energy Fuels spokesman Gary Steele. After the hearings, state law gives regulators nine to 12 months to approve or deny the permit. Energy Fuels CEO George Glasier said he is confident his application will pass muster with the state.

Travis Stills, a Durango lawyer who represents mill opponents, said Energy Fuels can expect plenty of opposition. “There will be considerable technical, grassroots and legal scrutiny of whatever it is they have proposed there,” Stills said. Stills filed the lawsuit in state court in Montrose against the county commissioners on behalf of Sheep Mountain Alliance. In the suit, mill opponents claim the county commissioners should not have approved the permit, because in the middle of the process, the company cut the amount of ore it intended to process in half and doubled the projected life of the mill to 40 years. The suit also claims that the mill should not have been approved in the Paradox Valley because it would carry much higher environmental risks than uranium mines, which are common the in the valley.

More coverage from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Once the radiation program determines the application is complete, Energy Fuels must conduct the first of two required public meetings within 45 days. It must conduct a second public meeting within 30 days of the first. Montrose County, meanwhile, has 90 days from the first public meeting to submit to the state its review of the environmental report included in the company’s application. The state Health Department can act on the application within 270 days of the county’s response or within 360 days of the second public meeting, if the county has no response. Energy Fuels’ application is available on the Web at http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/hm/ rad/rml/energyfuels/index.htm and at the Nucla Public Library, 544 Main St., and Montrose County Planning and Development, 317 S. Second St. Public comments will be accepted throughout the review process. People may comment about the application at public meetings, by e-mail to cdphe.hm energyfuels@state.co.us or by writing to Steve Tarlton or Warren Smith at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Radiation Program, 4300 Cherry Creek Drive South, Denver 80246-1530.

More on nuclear energy and Colorado’s role in the industry, from Hope Nealson writing for the Cortez Journal. From the article:

In 2006, 6.5 billion people used 14 trillion watts, or terawatts, of energy, [nuclear expert and former senior manager for the U.S. Department of Energy Dave Nulton] said. It will take all types of energy, including solar, wind, hydro and coal power, to satisfy the projected increase of demand for normal growth to 45 terawatts by the year 2050. Nulton said to achieve that kind of power, 66 wind turbines would have to be built every day until 2050, or two nuclear reactors every three days. “These numbers are extreme and really unachievable,” he said. “If you could build 66 windmills per day or two nuclear reactors every three days, you still wouldn’t get there without the help of other energies like coal, solar, etc.” Furthermore, Nulton said with atmospheric levels of carbon jumping from 228 ppm (parts per million) before the industrial revolution to 386 ppm today, using cleaner sources of energy like nuclear will help the world avoid approaching “catastrophic climate change by 2050.”

Nulton said the Four Corners – and Cortez’ role in general – would be to provide the uranium needed for nuclear power. “This area served the uranium supply (for nuclear power in the U.S.) for a number of years – now we’re second,” he said. “If you look at the available uranium in this country, Wyoming has more and the Four Corners is second.” Nulton said worldwide, there is a lot more uranium in Canada and Australia. “If we want to be energy independent, we don’t have to rely on another country like we do for oil – we can produce it in our own country,” he said. With no harmful releases, essentially no carbon footprint, low operating costs and minimal land requirements, Nulton said nuclear power is also an option that helps dispose of nuclear weapons. Other countries already reprocess the old fuel in nuclear war heads.

China has the most reactors at 16. There are 440 operating reactors in 31 countries, satisfying approximately 15 percent of electrical needs. Thirteen countries have plans to build reactors and 50 are currently under construction, he said.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

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