You are on page 1of 10

Push to lift uranium mining ban revives tension over nuclear activities - Las Vegas Sun Newspaper 11/17/17,

11/17/17, 11&31 AM

LAS VEGAS SUN


Push to lift uranium mining ban revives
tension over nuclear activities
By Daniel Rothberg (contact)
Monday, June 19, 2017 | 2 a.m.

In 2012, then-President Barack Obama issued a 20-year ban on mining claims near the Grand Canyon. The move
halted future uranium extraction projects in the region, a win for environmentalists and local tribes that had fought
against the industry for years. But some elected officials in Arizona and Utah disputed their claims of
contamination risk, arguing that the ban would unnecessarily sacrifice jobs for overblown environmental concerns.

With President Donald Trump swinging the pendulum toward economic development, opponents of the ban are
asking the administration to lift it.

Their request and Trump’s reconsideration of nuclear policy in the West have stoked debate over how
environmental concerns should be weighed against economic potential. That tension underlies discussions about
everything from increasing nuclear testing to storing nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain, only 90 miles from Las
Vegas. And it highlights the inescapable nature of the West’s nuclear legacy.

Nonprofit magazine High Country News put it this way in a recent story: “When you’re dealing with elements …
that take billions of years to decay, the past is never really past.”

Andrew Kirk, a history professor at UNLV, studies the relationship between Western states and the federal
government’s nuclear activities going back to the Manhattan Project. Kirk, who recently wrote “Doom Towns,” a
graphic history on atomic testing, said that Westerners had often felt “conflicted” about nuclear activities,
especially as people became more aware of the effects of radiation. At the same time, federal funding for nuclear
activities helped stimulate the economy.

“The federal government built the American West, and atomic developments greatly enhanced that relationship
between region and nation,” Kirk wrote in an email. “Westerners have a love-hate relationship with the federal
government. They know they gain much by hosting critically important programs but always do so with a loss of
power and control over an environment they love.”

In March, the Trump administration drew the ire of many Nevada officials when it proposed to revive plans for a
nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain. Heavyweights from both parties, ranging from Republican Gov. Brian
Sandoval to Democratic U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, have long opposed the plan. They worry about safety and the

https://lasvegassun.com/news/2017/jun/19/tension-in-west-environmental-concerns-economic-po/ Page 1 of 10
Push to lift uranium mining ban revives tension over nuclear activities - Las Vegas Sun Newspaper 11/17/17, 11&31 AM

environment — about seismic activity at the mountain and nuclear waste seeping into the water table.

They also offer an economic argument. They worry that siting a nuclear waste dump near Las Vegas could hurt
tourism, the lifeblood of the region. But others disagree with the consensus among Nevada politicians. Nye County,
where the project would be sited, hasn’t taken a position on the project. The chairman of the county commission,
Dan Schinhofen, remains neutral, arguing that science should dictate whether the project moves forward. Though
the state and federal governments have studied Yucca, often reaching different conclusions but both noting some
inherent risk, he says the concerns might be exaggerated. And he argues that there are economic benefits for the
county.

“While many in the West embrace and celebrate the region’s role in atomic history, there is also widespread
concern that atomic activities caused significant environmental and human health issues,” Kirk said of the recent
developments in the budget. “Many still chafe at the ‘wasteland’ designation and will never support a resumption
of the level of activity that occurred during WWII and the Cold War, despite the economic benefits that might
come with the deal.”

According to Kirk, during nuclear site-selection trips to parts of Nevada, Arizona and Mexico, government
officials described the areas as ‘empty,’ ‘unpopulated,’ worthless,’ and ‘wastelands.’

“These assumptions explain much about where nuclear activities were located and how the new experimental
landscapes and the people who lived throughout them were treated,” Kirk said.

And they continue to loom over discussions today. In Arizona, environmentalists and tribes are concerned about
future uranium mining because of past contamination. They worry that it could damage sacred land or contaminate
groundwater and streams that feed into the Colorado River.

“We’ve seen some problems associated with mining, historically,” said Sandy Bahr, the Sierra Club’s chapter
director for the Grand Canyon region. “More recently, mines that were not covered by the withdrawal have had
contamination issues — air and water issues.”

Buster Johnson sits on the Mohave County Board of Supervisors, the political body in Arizona asking the Trump
administration to reconsider the uranium moratorium. Johnson concedes that lax oversight in the ’40s and ’50s led
to contamination. But he said today’s regulations would prevent that kind of pollution from occurring. “I don’t
think we’re solving any problems by not removing it. There are monetary benefits to everybody. We have stringent
regulations here in the U.S.,” he said.

The Sierra Club and other environmental groups disagree with his assessment.

In 2010, the U.S. Geological Survey released a report on uranium contamination in the area. Environmentalists and
the mining industry highlighted data to prove their respective sides of the argument. The study found high uranium
concentrations in 20 springs and wells but said they could have been the result of natural contamination. Opponents
highlighted uranium concentrations — about 10 times the natural level — in water near a mine that operated under
old environmental standards. The USGS report said of this partially mined site: “Mined waste rock, uranium ore,
pond sludge and local wind and water dispersed fine particles on the unreclaimed mine site … (that) were exposed
to the ambient environment for about 20 years.”

13 Comments Las Vegas Sun !


1 Login

Sort by Best
# Recommend 12 ⤤ Share
https://lasvegassun.com/news/2017/jun/19/tension-in-west-environmental-concerns-economic-po/ Page 2 of 10
Push to lift uranium mining ban revives tension over nuclear activities - Las Vegas Sun Newspaper 11/17/17, 11&31 AM

# ⤤

Join the discussion…

LOG IN WITH OR SIGN UP WITH DISQUS ?

Name

360dunk • 5 months ago


'Nye County's Dan Schinhofen, remains neutral, arguing that science should dictate
whether the project moves forward.'

What a spineless stance that is, Schinhofen. Science, schmience....your goal is to get your
greedy mitts on federal money to help the county economically. By doing so, you are
okay with mortgaging the safety of future generations in the entire region. Nothing and
nobody can guarantee with absolute certainty that Yucca won't end in disaster.

It may be 50 years down the road, it may be 3000 years....but when an accident does
happen, history will show that a select few political hacks like Shinhofen played a major
role. Nice legacy to leave, Dan.
4△ ▽ • Reply • Share ›

Wally Marshall • 5 months ago


If its not mined, its grown. Drill baby drill!! Please lift all unreasonable mining bans of
all forms. Don't allow the State Department to sell our minerals either.
1△ ▽ • Reply • Share ›

bananashaped > Wally Marshall • 5 months ago


wally hates the grand canyon and doesn't want you kids or grandkids to see it.
4△ ▽ • Reply • Share ›

disqus_3Y0OC9q11x > bananashaped • 5 months ago


that about the dumbest statement I have heard in a while. There is a
Uranium mine within a half mile from the south rim village, it doesn't
seem to stop anybody from visiting. You drink water that is filtered thru it
and other deposits.
△ ▽ • Reply • Share ›

bananashaped > disqus_3Y0OC9q11x • 5 months ago


thanks for the awesome science breakdown professor.
△ ▽ Reply Share ›
https://lasvegassun.com/news/2017/jun/19/tension-in-west-environmental-concerns-economic-po/ Page 3 of 10
Push to lift uranium mining ban revives tension over nuclear activities - Las Vegas Sun Newspaper 11/17/17, 11&31 AM

△ ▽ • Reply • Share ›

LookOnGoodInUSA > disqus_3Y0OC9q11x • 5 months ago


No, I'm sure you win the prize for Dumb statements. "Drink water
filtered (through) it ." You ignore logic and maybe, too stupid to
care. Difference, visiting with questionable exposure at all. Or risk
polluting waters of Lake Mead with more of the stuff. Then we will
have the chance that we could get unmeasured doses daily, in our
drinking water and food throughout our immediate southwest
region. Right wingers forget we need clean water and unpolluted
land to survive on this planet. There has already been uranium
poisoning on land, mined for many years, right at the edge of the
Colorado River and some of it's tributaries.
△ ▽ • Reply • Share ›

Thom Rasmussen • 5 months ago


Leave it all alone. Kick that POS tRump out of office along with his kids and friends. All
NEXT
they want to do is profit from raping
Don't Miss! - 11/13 ! the land. If they need more uranium, refine it from
old spent fuel rods. If they can't do that, figure out how.
△ ▽ • Reply • Share ›

nancy pirsig • 5 months ago


why do we need the Uranium?Why do we want to mine the Grand Canyon? Is this
mining company owned by the Russian co.?
△ ▽ • Reply • Share ›

disqusted702 > nancy pirsig • 5 months ago


It could be Rosatom or Uranium One. I'm sure Hillary could tell you.
1△ ▽ • Reply • Share ›

bananashaped > disqusted702 • 5 months ago


donald trump won the election for president 7 months ago...
it's time to stop regurgitating false political rhetoric.

be more concerned what the current administration is doing than


something that never really happened to a person that was never
president.

i know it's tough for you to let it go because without these party approved
"talking points" you have very little to say.
2△ ▽ • Reply • Share ›
https://lasvegassun.com/news/2017/jun/19/tension-in-west-environmental-concerns-economic-po/ Page 4 of 10
Push to lift uranium mining ban revives tension over nuclear activities - Las Vegas Sun Newspaper 11/17/17, 11&31 AM

2△ ▽ • Reply • Share ›

disqusted702 > bananashaped • 5 months ago


Never really happened? So Russia doesn't control 20% of our
uranium and the Clinton's didn't bag millions of dollars in that
deal, or does it just not matter anymore since she didn't win? In
case you missed it, nancy pirsig was referring to false political and
hypocritical rhetoric implying Trump-Russia collusion and I
simply answered her loaded question with a factual answer...it may
very well be Rosatom or Uranium One that gets in on any uranium
being mined around the Grand Canyon, and as you can see, she
also believes Russia could benefit.
I guess I'll go bury my head in the sand again and wait for the daily
5pm Washington Post fake news story from anonymous sources.
See you then.
1△ ▽ • Reply • Share ›

Promoderate > disqusted702 • 5 months ago


You are tragically uninformed. Or easily mislead.
△ ▽ • Reply • Share ›

bananashaped > disqusted702 • 5 months ago


1. nope
2. nope to both

http://www.snopes.com/hilla...
△ ▽ • Reply • Share ›

✉ Subscribe d Add Disqus to your siteAdd DisqusAdd ) Privacy

https://lasvegassun.com/news/2017/jun/19/tension-in-west-environmental-concerns-economic-po/ Page 5 of 10
Push to lift uranium mining ban revives tension over nuclear activities - Las Vegas Sun Newspaper 11/17/17, 11&31 AM

Sponsored
ONLINE HEALTH & FITNESS

Student Stuns Doctors With Crazy Method to Melt Fat


Are you looking to burn belly fat, but diet and exercise is not enough? A
student from Cornell University recently discovered the fastest way to
lose weight by combining these two ingredients.

Learn More

Report ad

You May Like Sponsored Links by Taboola

Texas Drivers Uncover Brilliant Trick To Save Hundreds


Quote Wizard Insurance

Shoppers Are Getting Unbelievable Deals With This Little-Known Site


Tophatter

Texas Residents Rush to Qualify for Online Conceal Carry After Potential Full
Ban on Bump Stocks!
National Concealed

Do You Know What Your Last Name Means?


Ancestry

Homecoming King Stuns Crowd When He Immediately Turns And Gives His
Crown Away
Life Buzz

The Most Daring Emmy Dresses of All Time


Livingly

https://lasvegassun.com/news/2017/jun/19/tension-in-west-environmental-concerns-economic-po/ Page 6 of 10
Push to lift uranium mining ban revives tension over nuclear activities - Las Vegas Sun Newspaper 11/17/17, 11&31 AM

Most Popular
Viewed
Trending
Man found fatally shot in downtown Las Vegas
More than 2 feet of snow in mountains around Lake Tahoe
Las Vegas tragedy disrupts Showtime series on mass shootings
Man arrested in wife’s death claimed shooting was accidental
Metro Police to use acoustic technology to pinpoint gunfire
Complete Listing »

Connect with Us
Facebook
Twitter
Google+
Instagram
Email Edition
RSS
Scene in Las Vegas
Dining: Canter's Deli returns to Las Vegas

The Strip: 'Zumanity' performer's comeback

https://lasvegassun.com/news/2017/jun/19/tension-in-west-environmental-concerns-economic-po/ Page 7 of 10
Push to lift uranium mining ban revives tension over nuclear activities - Las Vegas Sun Newspaper 11/17/17, 11&31 AM

Dining: Talking with Iron Chef Morimoto

Featured Galleries

Crate & Barrel Downtown Summerlin

UNLV overpowers Prairie View A&M

Raiders’ Stadium Site Location Aerials


More photos »
AP Headlines
TV's 'Nashville' to end its run after upcoming sixth season
2 minutes ago
UNR official says upcoming residence halls will add 500 beds
2 minutes ago

https://lasvegassun.com/news/2017/jun/19/tension-in-west-environmental-concerns-economic-po/ Page 8 of 10
Push to lift uranium mining ban revives tension over nuclear activities - Las Vegas Sun Newspaper 11/17/17, 11&31 AM

NC fire department may lose funding over Confederate flag


3 minutes ago
3 pastors accused of luring teen girls, paying for sex
4 minutes ago
The Latest: Party chairman resigns over sexual comments
5 minutes ago
Daniela Vega, trans actress, stars in 'A Fantastic Woman'
6 minutes ago
Trump welcomes college sports champions at WH reception
11 minutes ago

Calendar
17 Fri
18 Sat

https://lasvegassun.com/news/2017/jun/19/tension-in-west-environmental-concerns-economic-po/ Page 9 of 10
Push to lift uranium mining ban revives tension over nuclear activities - Las Vegas Sun Newspaper 11/17/17, 11&31 AM

19 Sun
20 Mon
21 Tue

Adam Sandler
The Chelsea

An Evening with Paul Anka


Smith Center for the Performing Arts | 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Suicideboys
House of Blues | 7 p.m. to 11:59 p.m.
All events on Friday »

Locally owned and independent since 1950; Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service,
best news website in the nation & DuPont Award for broadcast journalism

© Las Vegas Sun, 2017, All Rights Reserved

https://lasvegassun.com/news/2017/jun/19/tension-in-west-environmental-concerns-economic-po/ Page 10 of 10