Uranium mill opponents blast rosy new economic report on nuclear power

The scenic Paradox Valley would be home to a new uranium mill if Toronto-based Energy Fuels prevails against a pending legal challenge.

A Canadian company hoping to revive the long-dormant uranium mining hotbed of southwestern Colorado is touting an economic report prepared for Montrose County showing world uranium demand is expected to double in the coming year, according to the Telluride Daily Planet.

But opponents of Energy Fuels’ proposed Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill – what would be the nation’s first new processing facility in nearly three decades if it’s ever built – don’t put much stock in the new economic report produced for Montrose County by Economic & Planning Systems, Inc.

“A report commissioned by the promoter of an unfunded uranium mill and a county who’s trying to tie up water rights by claiming the need for three uranium mills — it doesn’t provide much basis to lend credibility,” Energy Minerals Law Center attorney Travis Stills told the Daily Planet. “It certainly will be read as a proponent’s document.”

EPS is a national consulting firm with offices in Denver, Sacramento and Berkeley, Calif.

“World uranium demand is expected to double, assuming the planned and proposed reactors are built. Uranium production in the United States, including production in Montrose County, will increase to satisfy future levels of demand and fill the gap from dwindling stockpiles,” the EPS report reads. “The Four Corners Region (Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona) includes the Uravan Mineral Belt, one of the richest uranium deposits in the United States. The region is estimated to contain between 31 percent and 36 percent of the nation’s uranium resource.”

Energy Fuels President and CEO Steve Antony sent out a press release touting the EPS findings: “This report highlights that there is little milling capacity to bring that resource to market. These factors, combined with uranium demand projections, give further justification for the construction of the Piñon Ridge Mill.”

But environmental groups challenging the mill in court say a revival of the area’s uranium mining industry would seriously impact the tourism and outdoor recreation economy that has become a way of life for many people in the area since the last uranium boom tailed off in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They also argue Colorado should be very cautious in the wake of past cleanup disasters in the area and the recent nuclear power scare in Japan.