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A uranium free-for-all

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

According to The New York Times, a private enrichment company is asking the federal government to hand over an old stockpile of partially processed uranium, worth between $750 million and $3 billion. The United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC) doesn’t have the technology to process the uranium efficiently, and they don’t know how to scrounge up the necessary cash to modernize their processing facility. USEC also has a history of mismanaging finances. Still, they insist that the government should give the uranium to USEC to ensure that any new enrichment technology remains in the United States. USEC spokeswoman Elizabeth Stuckle claims that “it would be a win-win situation for everybody.”

Indeed, the nuclear power industry would win killer deals on uranium, the cost of which has risen dramatically in the past decade due to volatile oil prices and surging interest in energy “alternatives." Uranium mining is rapidly expanding in response to these price changes, with new extraction sites mushrooming throughout the western states.

But I don’t see anyone else winning from nuclear expansion. Mining activities are polluting water sources and encroaching upon public lands, and the debate about what to do with radioactive waste rages on. Subsidizing nuclear power might sound like a good idea to USEC, but blindly handing over precious resources on the backs of US taxpayers sure doesn’t sound like a winning solution to me.

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