Is uranium poised for a renaissance? – by Jonathan Thompson (High Country News – January 25, 2024)

As prices climb, mining proposals proliferate. But it might just be hype.

In December, Canada-based Energy Fuels announced plans to begin production at three of its uranium mines, including the controversial Pinyon Plain (née Canyon) Mine, near the Grand Canyon, as well as two operations near Moab, Utah.

It seems like everywhere you look these days, some firm — maybe one with an unusual name (Okapi or Kraken, say) — is announcing that it’s acquiring or staking of thousands of acres of public-land mining claims, embarking on exploratory drilling or has “exciting,” if enigmatic, survey results to report. Does this mean that the long-moribund domestic uranium-mining industry is sauntering down the comeback trail?

It all brings back memories of Charlie Steen, the 31-year-old down-on-his-luck geologist who found pitchblende — i.e., high-grade uranium ore — on his Mi Vida claim in southeastern Utah in 1952. Uranium was hot in Steen’s day. The nuclear arms race was already hurtling toward the backstretch, and the U.S. government was desperate to find domestic sources of fissionable material for its warheads.

Several months prior to Steen’s strike, technicians in Idaho had whacked a uranium atom with a neutron and launched a chain reaction, generating electricity via nuclear fission for the first time and inspiring President Dwight D. Eisenhower to predict that nuclear energy would “serve the needs rather than the fears of the world — to make the deserts flourish, to warm the cold, to feed the hungry, to alleviate the misery of the world.”

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