Energy policy — nuclear: Piñon Ridge Mill permit a long way off

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From the Montrose Daily Press (Dick Kamp):

Four more public hearings will be conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said spokesman Warren Smith. They’re not required by law, “but these are our opportunity to gather local input on the mill.” Montrose County commissioners are to comment by April 21 on an Energy Fuels environmental report submitted to the Health Department, and the department’s public hearings likely would come afterward.

A decision on the state license could be made by Feb. 14, 2011, said Marilyn Null, spokeswoman for the department’s Hazardous Material Waste Management Division.The department will be accepting written comment from the public throughout the licensing procedure.

Here’s a report from a recent meeting, from Karen James writing for The Telluride Watch. From the article:

Colorado is among 37 “agreement states” to which the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission transfers authority to regulate and license uranium. As a result the [Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment] is in the process of conducting a 12-14 month comprehensive technical review of the 15-volume license application, submitted in November 2009 by Energy Fuels Resources Corp…

Frank Filas, environmental manager for Energy Fuels, gave a presentation about the proposed facility. Afterwards about 70 speakers provided their input with 40 percent opposed to and 60 percent in favor of the mill.

As during the January meeting mill, advocates spoke largely about economic development and the need for jobs in the West End of Montrose County. Energy Fuels has said that the mill would create up to 85 new jobs averaging $40,000 to $75,000 a year plus benefits, and 80 percent of which would come from the local population, in addition to supporting 200 ancillary mining and trucking jobs at nearby mines and generating tax revenues for public services and infrastructure if built.

“This is more than just 85 jobs in the west end,” said Mathew Burtis, business manager for the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 145 in Grand Junction, who said he spoke on behalf of local membership and the national organization. “The big picture for us is this is going to help steer the full industry for our 320,000 members…” he said, later adding, “We have a lot of people who have been out of work for a long, long time.”

The need for America to produce its own nuclear energy for reasons of national security, and to address climate change, ran a close second to job creation for mill advocates, who seemed delighted that, just one day before, President Obama had announced that the federal government would guarantee $8.3 billion in loans for the construction and operation of two new nuclear reactors at a plant in Georgia – signaling a resurgence of the nation’s long dormant nuclear industry…

But mill opponents continued to voice concerns about the potential negative impacts of the mill, in particular the long-term health effects of radiation exposure they fear could leak from the facility no matter how well designed or regulated. Janet Johnson of Grand Junction, who said she has lived in proximity to a uranium mill for all but four years of her life when she went away to college, gave poignant testimony about her brother and cousin’s early deaths at the ages of 53 and 43, respectively. She noted that both had worked in uranium mills, to which she seemed to attribute their demise. “I have cancer, as do many of my classmates and many of the people I grew up with,” she added. Speaking of the radiation that is inherent to uranium, she said: “I know that you can’t keep it all out of the water, out of the air or out of the things we eat,” going on implore the CDPHE panel to consider that future jobs in the area could also be lost as a result of the mill…

With an operating life of 40 years the proposed Piñon Ridge mill would initially use 144 gallons of water per minute to process 500 tons of ore per day, seven days a week, 350 days per year. At that rate it would produce 770,000 pounds of uranium oxide annually – enough to produce 1,500 megawatts of electricity each year, according to the company, which hopes to expand its operations to eventually process 1,000 tons of ore per day. At 500 tons per day it would also produce 2.7 million pounds of vanadium oxide annually for use in steel production.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

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