Target: Nuclear Regulatory Commission Executive Director of Operations Victor M. McCree
Goal: Stop polluting groundwater to mine for uranium deposits with harmful leaching techniques.
A uranium mining technique is contaminating the nation’s groundwater, making it unusable for decades. Uranium, the fuel for nuclear reactors, has been mined since the end of World War II. Millions of tons of uranium were mined on Navajo tribal lands, contaminating homes and water supplies, and led to Navajo miners developing lung cancer at alarming rates.
In the 1950’s, uranium was mined from open pits. Due to advances in modern technology, uranium is now mined through a process called in-situ leaching (ISL). The uranium deposits are in roll-fronts located deep underground. They are too small to be mined with conventional methods, and so are harvested with chemicals.
Mining companies drill four or five holes and force water laden with chemicals into the holes. The chemical solution mixes with the uranium-rich earth and rises to the surface of a production well. The process is then reversed, removing the uranium from the water and the water is pumped back into the holes. Leaching the uranium out of the rocks contaminates groundwater for decades.
Uranium mining companies are not supposed to drill in aquifers that contain pristine drinking water. In fact, the mere testing of a site for uranium roll-fronts by drilling bore holes can contaminate groundwater in formerly clean aquifers. These new readings enable the mining companies to mine for uranium and further pollute water supplies which can take more than 30 years to restore to former levels.
Aquifer remediation is a two-step process. First, millions of gallons of clean water are used to pump the wells. This water cannot be used again. Next, a reverse osmosis process is utilized, rather like a filter. The reverse osmosis process generally runs for about 10 years at each site and the results are inconclusive.
As most of this uranium mining is being conducted in the West where drought conditions are rampant, contaminated groundwater is a very big deal. As the use of nuclear reactors is decreasing, uranium mining should be reduced or eliminated.
By signing this petition below, you will urge Nuclear Regulatory Executive Director Victor M. McCree to stop allowing uranium mining companies to use in-situ leaching to mine for uranium. The process contaminates groundwater and is harmful to our health and the environment.
Dear Director McCree,
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission needs to ban the use of in-situ leaching by uranium mining companies. The process contaminates groundwater and is a serious health threat, especially in the drought-ravaged western United States.
According to Physicians for Social Responsibility, “a thorough examination of the full life-cycle of nuclear power generation reveals nuclear power to be a dirty, dangerous and expensive form of energy that poses serious risks to human health, national security and U.S. taxpayers.” We should not be investing more money in building more nuclear reactors and endangering citizens and groundwater in the search for uranium to power these reactors.
I urge you to stop contaminating groundwater by allowing in-situ leaching. Please don’t let any more aquifers become contaminated and undrinkable for more than 30 years. Ban in-situ leaching immediately.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Giuseppe Porzani