Monday, May 9, 2011

Conference Notes: Uranium Fuel Cycle, Chpt. 2

Note that these are, well, notes. The value is in gaining an indication of the presentations. Being notes, this material is far from complete.
Conference presentation materials are available at

Dr. Virginia McLemore, Professor of geology, New Mexico Tech: Provides whirlwind tour of geology. Will post the slides. See:
“Today we’re looking at a mine as a life. No longer (just) explore, mine and walk away. Closure and post-closure are actively part of the equation. We do have a cycle now.”
“There’s uranium everywhere, but it’s not in a concentration that can be mined.” Mineable deposits are not conveniently located. Hydrology (water) has much to do with uranium deposit locations.
Unconformity related deposits are much of the Canadian resource. Very high grade. Must use underground mines. Prone to flooding.
Sandstone uranium deposits: Found worldwide. Much of U.S. resource is in sandstone.
Some drinking water resources in NM have uranium well over EPA standards, such as in the Espanola Valley. The uranium can be extracted.
Rare Earths may be concentrated in uranium deposits.

Mark Pelizza, Uranium Resources, Inc., of Texas: “New Mexico has the largest and best grade of uranium ore reserves in the United States.”
The reserves are in the Grants Uranium Belt, from Albuquerque to Gallup and north of I-40. The area can produce from 15 to 20 million lbs/year, “sustained.
NM Tech has a huge geologic library. There is a huge data base about the Grants Belt due to past exploration. Existing infrastructure such as shafts gives NM a jump in (re)starting production.
In-situ is becoming one of the major uranium production technologies in the world.”
If a uranium ore body is present in water, then the water is by definition, not drinkable.
The industry has a huge need for people—engineers, scientists, miners.

Jon Indall, attorney, Santa Fe: Represents the Uranium Producers of America and the Uranium Producers of New Mexico.
The World War II bomb uranium came from the Belgian Congo and from the vanadium on the Colorado Plateau.
“Nuclear is the only no-carbon option.”
Back in the 1950s, there were no regulations, no requirements. Then showed a slide listing the federal-level permits required, perhaps 20 or 30. The next slide showed NM permits required, maybe another 20 or 30.
In-situ is considered a milling process, not a mining process. Thus, there are different regulations and regulators.
The legacy issues are now part of the process before any mining is done. The means a reclamation plan with a bond. This includes measuring the conditions of the site before anything is done. The measuring provides a baseline for reclamation.
In Ambrosia Lake, there was no premining site condition measurement because such things were no in the process at the time. Thus, we don’t know the pre-mining conditions.
Hope to see production in NM within one year. (HM: The URI Churchrock project?)

Former U.S. Senator Pete Domenici: He would like to see two or three firm commitments from large banks to finance a nuclear power plant. During the next year, not only must we address the financing, “a commitment must be made by the United States Government, presumably) to dispose of the waste.”
Cite Wipp as something that works. Three months ago Domenici got eight members of the federal Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (Domenici is a member) to visit WIPP. None had been the salt beds. The group was hugely impressed. “The science has proved that this salt has not moved for 300 million years.”
“We ought, as a nation commit to do the research” to figure out what is needed to do to put high level waste into salt as a permanent repository. (One problem, he indicated, is that a stronger container is needed than the ones used for the WIPP waste.)
Then we should commit to an interim repository in a central location for high level waste. The problems can be confronted by “intelligent, knowledgeable people.”
He is very unhappy that a nuclear power plant loan guarantee program was sabotaged by the Bush administration. People are working to revitalize the program with the Obama administration.

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