Uranium mill needed for electricity growth

Now that a state hearing has been scheduled for November on Energy Fuels Resources planned Piñon Ridge uranium mill near Naturita, we expect both opponents and proponents will have ample opportunity to once again state their cases about the mill.

And barring any surprising new evidence, we hope the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reissues the radioactive materials handling license for the mill that it issued early last year.

The United States is going to need a variety of energy sources, including nuclear generation, to meet the increasing demand for electricity over the next quarter century. And uranium processed at the Naturita mill could be an important component of that energy requirement.

Of course, it’s not as if proponents and opponents of the mill haven’t already had a chance to state their views on the mill. There were public hearings before the Montrose County commissioners that accepted significant amounts of public input, as well as public meetings on the mill sponsored by Energy Fuels.

However, opponents of the mill, including the Telluride-based Sheep Mountain Alliance, objected, arguing the state committed procedural errors during the licensing process, including failing to allow adequate public comment after a draft of the license was released.

They sued, and a Denver district judge ordered the hearing now scheduled to begin in October in Naturita, with public testimony set for November.

That’s fine, but it probably won’t change the conclusion that with the mitigation measures required by the license, the mill is not expected to have significant impact on air quality or water quality in the region.

Meanwhile, it’s important to remember that nuclear energy plays an important part in meeting our nation’s electricity needs.

Electricity demand in the United States is projected to grow 22 percent from 2010 to 2035, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s 2012 Annual Energy Outlook.

Coal will still be the largest source of fuel for electric generation during that period, the EIA said, with natural gas generation growing rapidly but not quite overtaking coal. However, the EIA also projects 10 percent growth in nuclear-generated electricity during those 25 years.

That means more uranium will be needed, and with major contracts for foreign uranium soon to expire, that will require more domestically produced and processed uranium.

That’s why the Energy Fuels mill — which would be the first new uranium mill approved in the United States in the past 30 years — is so important.

Those facts need to be part of the calculation when the hearings on the state license for the mill are held later this year.


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