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Is the world going nuclear?

16 July, 2010

Everyday, the consumer is advised to “go green” (recycle, compost, put up wind turbines or solar panels, and buy “smart cars, etc) so that we might save the climate and the environment.  Unfortunately, these exhortations are not meant for the wealthy (or our so-called representatives in government) who live in big houses, throw lavish parties, drive limos, fly in jumbo jets and spend thousands on “bling.”  Nor does any of this advice have any significant meaning for our energy companies or their regulators.

We have seen the results in the Gulf of Mexico where despite assurances that Deepwater Horizon would be safe and monitored, the exact opposite happened.   Lives have been lost, both human, aviary and marine; an ecosystem has been destroyed, temporarily we hope, and thousands are now without their livelihood.  Regulators failed us.  BP certainly failed us, but no one in their right minds ought to have assumed that they cared.  As I mentioned in an earlier post the result might have been foreseen by having a look at BP’s history of accidents and spills.

A new crisis between the need for energy and the need to protect the environment has been slowly emerging in the past few years, this time between the uranium mining companies and the Native Americans of New Mexico.  Evidently there is a massive deposit of uranium under the state and it had been mined until the bottom dropped out of the value of uranium during the 1980’s, but  times and prices have changed and a Canadian mining company has determined that

“The world is going nuclear whether the US wants to or not,” says David Miller, chief executive of Strathmore Minerals…


[and] is currently in the middle of the long process of obtaining mining permits and has already spent more than $12m on the project. BBC News

The promise of jobs and money is meant to outweight the rights of the Natives who live on land granted to them or designated as endangered.

Last year, the US national trust for historic preservation listed Mount Taylor as one of the 11 most endangered historic sites in the country. Meanwhile, New Mexico has designated the mountain and its surroundings as a “traditional cultural property” and added it to a register of historic cultural lands. A coalition of mining companies and landowners are challenging that designation in court. (Italics emphasis mine)

Strathmore Minerals has promised to preserve the integrity of all archaeological sites in the area of its mining operations (assuming it can overturn the  “endangered” ruling.  Still there are more dangers than the direct ones as we ought to have learned from the Gulf spill.

“Even if the archaeological sites are avoided by direct impacts from construction, they could be adversely affected by indirect impacts from erosion, drainage, water run-off, etc,” Michelle Ensey wrote to state mining regulators in a letter obtained by the BBC.

We know how well the protections offered by mining operations have worked for the areas around coal mines and oil wells.

In some parts of the area, groundwater remains contaminated from old uranium processing.


The Navajo nation, for instance, banned uranium mining from land under its control, only to see a court rule last month that uranium extraction could resume on disputed territory near Church Rock, New Mexico, an area devastated by a 1979 nuclear waste spill.

So, it’s a “puzzlement” isn’t it?   Do we preserve the environment, the archaeological history, and the rights of the Native Americans living in New Mexico or do we put another environment in danger  for another source of fuel – this time uranium?  Is the world going nuclear, after all?

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