Energy policy — nuclear: The Japanese disaster played a role in Powertech’s decision to put their Weld County ‘Centennial Project’ on hold

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The company plans to focus all its efforts on getting its Dewey-Burdock uranium mine permitted and producing uranium in South Dakota before moving ahead with the Centennial Project, Powertech USA President Richard Clement said…

Powertech plans to mine uranium there and at Dewey-Burdock using a process called in situ leaching, requiring the company to inject a baking soda-like solution into the ground, dissolve the uranium ore and pump it out as a liquid. “Dewey-Burdock is the most advanced project the company has, therefore, we’re concentrating our efforts on Dewey-Burdock to get permitted,” Clement said. “Especially in the post-tsunami financial environment, we need to concentrate our efforts as much as any other company.”

The March 11 Tohoku earthquake in Japan and nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant that followed sent uranium prices plummeting. Just before the earthquake, uranium prices had topped out around $75. By Tuesday, the price had dropped to $55.25, according to TradeTech, a Denver-based uranium market analysis firm. “This is about as bad a story as you can imagine for the U.S. nuclear power industry,” said Charles Mason, True Chair of energy economics in the economics and finance department at the University of Wyoming, who is writing a book about uranium exploration and its impacts. “It certainly is bad news.”[…]

Dewey-Burdock, planned for South Dakota’s Black Hills on the Wyoming border west of Wind Cave National Park, is in the middle of a complex U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Comm-ission permitting process. NRC spokesman David McIntyre said he expects the Dewey-Burdock permitting process to be complete by mid-2012 unless federal budget cuts affect the agency. The future of Centennial is “going to be dependent upon what the results are going to be and how fast we get operating at Dewey-Burdock,” Clement said. Uranium production at Dewey-Burdock will generate enough cash flow to help finance Centennial, he said…

Powertech’s report also says a new Colorado law requiring complete cleanup of the groundwater at Centennial could affect the project’s profitability. For now, Powertech will continue with Centennial’s state and federal permits already in process, but the company will wait to pursue any additional required permits, Clement said.

From the Associated Press via the The Greeley Tribune:

The Coloradoan in Fort Collins reports that Powertech Uranium Corp. plans to focus on getting permits for a mine in South Dakota before moving forward with the proposed mine near the town of Nunn. Powertech USA President Richard Clement said Wednesday that the company will concentrate on the Dewey Burdock project near Edgemont, S.D., because it is further along. Clement says Powertech will move forward in Colorado only when the mine in southwestern South Dakota starts producing.

From Windsor Now! (Bill Jackson):

The Canadian company announced earlier this week it was putting its plans to mine uranium in northern Weld on hold indefinitely and would focus its efforts on a mining project in South Dakota. The effects of the Japanese nuclear disaster played a part in that decision, company officials said…

Weld County Commissioner Dave Long, who represents that area of the county, said while the decision in the short term is good for residents in the area, “it still doesn’t resolve the cloud that remains over them on the long term” concerning their quality of water. Although the county was asked to take a stance one way or another on the proposal, Long said it could not because it would have to conduct the permitting process for the proposal and a resolution either way would have presented many legal problems.

Jay Davis, who lives about 8 miles northwest of Nunn, is a member of two groups that oppose the project. “There are a lot of people who are pretty excited right now,” Davis said. But he, too, is concerned about the future. “I think what this shows is the volatile market (for uranium) and that’s subject to change overnight,” he said. He noted that when the uranium market crashed in the 1980s, it stayed that way for nearly 30 years before rebounding and that could happen again.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

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