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Uranium plan raises concerns Print

Uranium plan raises concerns

NUNN - "Watch Nunn Grow."

That bold invitation on the rural Weld County town's water tank helped Robin Davis express her frustration at a company's plan to mine uranium in her neighborhood.

"We don't want to watch Nunn glow," Davis, 43, said, holding out a yellow placard Thursday afternoon outside the Nunn municipal building - venue of a public meeting held by the company, Powertech (USA) Inc.

About 300 to 400 people attended, including officials from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and state lawmakers, to get answers from Powertech executives. But the informal structure of the meeting, with executives scattered around the room answering individual questions, angered some attendees.

"This is like taking a jar of marbles and pouring it on the floor," said Alex Rovang, 26, who drove from Fort Collins to attend. "The information is so scattered, there is no central focus."

The main concern, Nunn board member Dan Rapelje said, is whether the proposed uranium mine would contaminate the aquifer that runs through a big swath of northern Colorado into Nebraska. About 27,000 agricultural wells depend on the aquifer for their water supply.

Uranium mining could free other radioactive elements, such as thorium and radium, and toxic metals, such as lead and cadmium, which could find their way into the aquifer and make the water too radioactive to use, Rapelje said.

Powertech CEO and President Dick Clement said the company's technology is designed to be safe. The technology, to be used in the northern section of Powertech's 6,000-acre mining area in Weld County, is extensively used in Texas and Wyoming. It involves pumping uranium from underground deposits instead of surface mining.

"We'll have multiple monitoring wells to observe everything from water flow to water chemistry to air quality," Clement said.

Critics say the recent jump in uranium price, fueled by growing demand for nuclear energy, is prompting more metal mining, despite the risks associated with the activity.

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