A bad week for the uranium industry

There were a bunch of uranium mining stories this week, all bad news for backers of the Nuclear Renaissance.

1. The New York Times reported on Monday:

USEC, the sole American company in the uranium enrichment business, said Monday that it would file for bankruptcy early next year, although it hopes to keep operating.

The company, which has received $257 million in Energy Department aid in the last two years, is a former government enterprise that the Reagan administration privatized. But like Amtrak and the Postal Service, other quasi-private entities created by the government, USEC has found life in the private sector rough going.

Most of USEC problems can be traced to the economics of nuclear power:

It plans to complete testing on prototype centrifuges and build more of them to offer enrichment on a commercial basis. USEC is aiming to compete with technologies developed in Western Europe and Russia.

But the market for enrichment has gone soft as many nuclear reactors have closed. Now, the company says that effort will cost $6.5 billion and will not be finished until 2017. Initially, it was supposed to cost $1.7 billion and be completed by 2005.

Here’s a link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/17/business/energy-environment/usec-enricher-of-uranium-for-us-seeks-bankruptcy.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1387380015-WZrjBMQ3876bkOiN+pcgDQ

2. The Roanoke Times reported today:

Merely a few weeks before the start of the 2014 General Assembly session, Virginia Uranium announced it has suspended plans to back legislation that would have pushed its goal of mining a uranium deposit in Pittsylvania County.

Here’s a link: http://www.roanoke.com/news/2459191-12/state-uranium-mining-still-on-hold.html

3. This followed a September report on World Nuclear News about a Texas uranium project:

Uranium Energy Corp (UEC) will reduce output at its Palangana mine in Texas while it focuses efforts on developing its nearby Goliad and Burke Hollow projects. The move is in response to low uranium prices.

Here’s a link to that story: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/ENF-UEC_slows_Palangana_development-0609134.html

4. Farmington, New Mexico’s Daily Times had this legal news yesterday:

The Navajo Nation is among those hoping a recent court decision will provide millions of dollars to clean up areas impacted by uranium mining and milling activities.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Allan Gropper decided last Thursday that Anadarko Petroleum Corp. is liable for billions of dollars in environmental cleanup costs, including uranium mines and mills that were once operated on the Navajo Nation by the Kerr-McGee Corp.

Read the story at: http://www.daily-times.com/four_corners-news/ci_24745579/company-held-liable-uranium-clean-up-costs-navajo

5. More bad news from New Scientist last week:

A million litres of radioactive acid sludge has spilled inside the Ranger uranium mine, which lies within the Kakadu National Park in northern Australia. The site has long been plagued by water-management problems, but an independent expert says it should be possible to contain the current spill.

The sludge came from a leaching tank containing uranium ore and acid. Such tanks are used in the first stage of extracting uranium from the ore. At first a hole in the tank prompted a staff evacuation. Then the tank split at 1 am local time on Saturday, spilling about one million litres over the mine area with such force that the flowing slurry damaged a nearby crane.

Read the full story at: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn24723-radioactive-acid-spill-in-australian-national-park.html

6. And Business News Americas had this on another leak on another continent:

Miners’ union Sindmine has denounced another alleged uranium leak at facilities of Brazilian state-run uranium company Indústrias Nucleares do Brasil (INB) in the city of Caetité in Bahia state.

Read it at: http://www.bnamericas.com/news/mining/miners-union-denounces-alleged-uranium-leak-at-inb-plant

7. Science Daily reported yesterday the results new study funded by the Swiss government:

EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne) researchers studying a natural wetland near a decommissioned uranium mine in Limousin, France, have shown that under certain circumstances the uranium present in the wetland could be more mobile than previously believed.

Because they are known to mop up pollutants, artificial wetlands are considered to be an efficient strategy to contain waterborne uranium. But studying a natural wetland near a former uranium-mining site in the French region of Limousin, researchers have found that under certain circumstances, uranium can be partly remobilized into the surrounding water. In a recent publication in Nature Communications, they show how it becomes mobile again by binding to tiny metallic and organic compounds with a little help from ambient bacteria.

Read that report at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131217123903.htm



About Robert Singleton

By day, I work for a call center. In my spare time, I try to save my hometown (and planet) from a nearly constant onslaught of greedheads, lunatics and land developers. I live in a fictional town called Austin, Texas, where I go to way too many meetings.
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