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Be skeptical in weighing uranium Print

by Brenda Rader Mross This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
Fort Collins Coloradoan (Community Column)
January 23, 2008

It has been dubbed the "New Gold Rush," but is not to be confused with a more youthful-looking, blonde-haired radio personality, a.k.a. Mr. Limbaugh.

Some refer to it to as "uraniumania."

Still others call it crazy, dangerous.

"It" is the revival of uranium mining "out West," and now perhaps just northeast of where you and I live. Because Powertech's proposed Centennial project is so close to home, I got an e-mail from the Waverly Advisory Committee inviting interested parties to a public forum on the subject at Harmony Library.

When it comes to energy, we're all interested, right? And heaven knows what with gasoline prices continually threatening to cross the $3 per gallon threshold and natural gas bills over $200 a month, well, there isn't much to celebrate, let alone any money left over for partying.

While I admired the Fort Collins City Council's resolutely just saying no to uranium mining, the lack of energy city staff expended on research effectively rendered said resolution powerless. Worse, the city's inaction in taking this action inadvertently gave Powertech more fuel for its fire, evidenced by the company's full-page newspaper ad in mid-December berating the council for what I agree amounts to bad public policy.

Since I likewise know next to nothing about uranium mining, I decided to attend the Jan. 14 forum. I wasn't the only one; it was standing room only. Which is saying something considering it was cold, dark, windy and Monday.

The good news is the Fort Collins Regional Library District achieved its objective in providing "a dialogue for civil discourse around a controversial subject." Dr. Paul Alexander, director of the Institute on the Common Good, did a fine job moderating. His ground rules were uncommonly good and worth repeating: "We are here ... to model civil discourse, not public debate. It's OK to disagree, but we will do so with curiosity, not hostility. We will be brief ... so everyone can participate; follow agreed-upon time guidelines; encourage and welcome diverse perspectives; listen to understand not to reload; and speak honestly and respectfully."

Other than some mostly muffled muttering and mirthful mocking in the back, the audience was well-behaved. Panelists on both sides of the table were cordial, and although there was noticeable friction, there was more reason than rhetoric (but still too much of the latter).

The bad news is that there remains a number of unknowns, the most important of which I think is will the Canadian company resort to open pit mining should its "safer" in-situ leach methods fail? Also, as of this writing, the Powertech people have failed to answer my two calls asking for more clarity as to just what they considertheir "considerable profit" to be. At current uranium prices, which have gone from single to triple digits per pound in the last six years, the purported economic benefits touted for Weld County may indeed be a mere drop in a proverbial bucket overflowing with U.S. bucks.

During this so-called nuclear renaissance, please, please pay heed to who is behind the renewed interest and why, and remember most of the "facts and sound science" are published by those with the resources - and reasons - to do so.

I'm not a card-carrying member of CARD (Coloradoans Against Resources Destruction), but I am quick to pan the pursuit of nonrenewable resources over renewable sources.

Brenda Rader Mross promises in her column to "call 'em like she sees 'em," and invites you to do the same at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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