Nuclear Fuel's Dirty Beginnings
Environmental Damage and Public Health Risks from Uranium Mining in the American West
Uranium mining anywhere poses significant environmental, economic, and social risks. In the high plains, Rocky Mountains, and intermountain West, however, where water resources are already scarce, it is inevitable that water-intensive uranium extraction poses significant risks to the region's environmental and public health. Nonetheless, domestic and international mining companies are showing renewed interest in recovering uranium that lies beneath the iconic landscapes and fragile ecosystems of the American West.
Projections of a U.S. and global "nuclear renaissance" sparked forecasts of a uranium supply shortfall and, for a period, rising uranium prices, spurred by the prospect of significant public subsidies for new nuclear power generation, and ultimately prompting a flood of uranium mining claims and applications for exploration permits in water-limited states such as Colorado and Wyoming. The majority of proposed uranium mines are "in-situ leach" (ISL) solution mines, which typically use large wellfields of hundreds of wells, diesel-powered pumps, and huge volumes of groundwater to dissolve the uranium from the ore bearing rock and bring it to the surface.
last revised 3/21/2012
Sign up for NRDC's online newsletter
- Studying Severe Weather Impacts on U.S. Nuclear Plants
- posted by Corinne Hanson, 3/25/13
- Global Nuclear Reactor Database Developed by NRDC
- posted by Jordan Weaver, 3/15/13
- U.S. Nuclear Safety Progress Remains Sluggish Following Fukushima Disaster, Part I
- posted by Jordan Weaver, 3/12/13
Nuclear Document Bank
- NRDC's Amicus Response in Support of Friends of the Earth
- An Evaluation of the NRC Response to the Fukushima Nuclear Accident
- Post-Fukushima Hardened Vents with High-Capacity Filters for BWR Mark Is and Mark IIs
Related NRDC Press Releases
- NRDC Senior Nuclear Scientist Unveils Radiation Dosage Data at Senate Hearing
- Nuclear Security Summit Fosters an Illusion of Achievement, Says NRDC
- NRDC Reacts to the Obama Administration's Nuclear Posture Review
NRDC Gets Top Ratings from the Charity Watchdogs
- Charity Navigator awards NRDC its 4-star top rating.
- Worth magazine named NRDC one of America's 100 best charities.
- NRDC meets the highest standards of the Wise Giving Alliance of the Better Business Bureau.