Uranium mining booms in Western U.S.

The Alta Mesa uranium recovery operation in Texas.

TEXT OF STORY

Scott Jagow: Record prices for uranium have sparked a mining boom in the Western U.S. Uranium, of course, is used for nuclear power. Some people love nuclear energy as a future alternative. But a report out today from an environmental group says runoff from this mining could contaminate the Colorado River. And the river supplies 25 million people with their drinking water. Jeremy Hobson has more.


Jeremy Hobson: Richard Wiles, who directs the Environmental Working Group, says health effects of mining runoff should be of concern even if you don't live in the Southwest.

Richard Wiles: The Colorado River is a source of irrigation water for a huge portion of the winter vegetable crop in this country. Contaminating that irrigation water with uranium would be a very bad idea.

Researchers have linked uranium to cancer. But the government appears powerless to stop the mining because of an 1872 law that makes it easy and cheap to mine public lands. The House has passed a bill to reform the law.

Lauren Pagel: There'd be a sort of regulatory framework set up to make sure the mining was done correctly and that there was a fair return to the taxpayer.

Lauren Pagel of Earthworks says a companion measure has stalled in the Senate. The mining industry says the reforms would cripple business. And lead to an increased dependence on foreign metals and minerals.

In Washington, I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

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