WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar today announced a 20-year ban on new hardrock mining claims on one million acres surrounding the 1.2 million-acre Grand Canyon. The region is rich in uranium deposits. Following is a statement from the Nuclear Energy Institute’s Senior Vice President for Governmental Affairs, Alex Flint:
“Because there is no scientifically verified threat to the Grand Canyon’s environment from uranium mining, the nuclear energy industry opposes the prohibition announced today. Without scientific justification, the administration’s decision prevents mining for some of the nation’s best high-grade uranium deposits.
“This decision actually makes more challenging the difficult struggle to reduce America’s dependence on imported sources of energy. The land covered by this prohibition contains as much as 375 million pounds of uranium, seven times current U.S. annual demand. Our nation’s ability to realistically pursue energy independence hinges in part on our ability and willingness to produce uranium supplies domestically. Thirty years ago, reactors here used U.S.-mined uranium for all of our electricity production, but the level today is less than 10 percent.
“The nuclear energy industry prides itself on our record of environmental stewardship at facilities across the nation. This commitment includes programs certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council, collaborative efforts with organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and the Audubon Society, and activities endorsed by myriad state departments of environmental conservation. These programs protect manatees, blue birds, bald eagles, crocodiles, wetlands, and much, much more.
“There is nothing in the environmental impact statements evaluating this mining prohibition to suggest that the uranium mining would compromise our record of ecological excellence. Phantom fears do not a reasoned, successful energy policy make.”