WASHINGTON, D.C.—Uranium exploration and development in northern Arizona can be done in a manner that protects the environment and bolsters America’s energy security by ensuring a reliable and diverse supply of a strategic, domestic resource, a Nuclear Energy Institute executive told Congress.
Testifying today before the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, Richard Myers, NEI vice president for policy development, expressed industry support for H.R. 3155, the Northern Arizona Mining Continuity Act of 2011, and its companion Senate legislation, S. 1690, as necessary to prevent the withdrawal of one million acres of land in northern Arizona for 20 years proposed by U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
“The secretary’s decision to withdraw the land ignores the department’s draft environmental impact statement (DEIS), which concluded that uranium mining in this area would have no impact on the region, or that any impact would be minor, temporary and easily mitigated,” Myers said. “There was also nothing in the final environmental impact statement to justify the proposed withdrawal and this conclusion was echoed by the Arizona state agencies responsible for environmental protection and management of state lands.”
The high-grade uranium resources in northern Arizona are found in compact formations that can be developed with minimal environmental impact. In its comments on the Interior Department’s draft environmental impact statement, the Arizona Land Department said: “[T]he DEIS reveals nothing in the recent history of mining the breccia pipes in northern Arizona … that would appear to justify any withdrawal. Going back to the start of the Hack Mine complex in 1981, there has been no incident or event during this 30-year period that would … warrant a withdrawal.” In addition, an Arizona Geological Survey analysis of water found no cause for concern over water resources as a result of uranium mining.
“Since the early 1980s, mining in this part of Arizona has been conducted well, with minimal environmental impact, and given the relatively small number of mines likely to be developed in the coming years decisions about whether to permit new mines can, and should be, handled on a case-by-case basis,” Myers said.
Myers noted that the withdrawal of this land would foreclose access to some of the highest-grade uranium deposits in the world at a time of increasing demand. Worldwide there are 150 new nuclear plant projects in licensing and advanced planning stages with 65 reactors currently under construction.
“Nuclear energy is the only proven technology that can provide emission-free, affordable baseload electricity,” Myers said. “Adequate uranium supply is a strategic priority and bringing new uranium mines into production requires careful, time-consuming planning and permitting well in advance of exploration and production of uranium. We cannot afford to remove high-quality uranium reserves from consideration without good cause. There is no good cause in this case.”