April 4, 2024

A push for nuclear power is fueling demand for uranium, spurring the opening of new mines. The industry says new technologies will eliminate pollution from uranium mining, but its toxic legacy, particularly in the U.S. Southwest, leaves many wary of an incipient mining boom.

After sitting dormant since the 1980s, the Pinyon Plain uranium mine began operating in January on the Kaibab National Forest in Arizona, about seven miles south of the Grand Canyon. Thanks to new interest in expanding nuclear power, the price of uranium is on a tear, making undeveloped and long-shuttered mines viable. Pinyon Plain, which has some of the highest-grade uranium ore in the country, is one of the first uranium mines to open in the United States in eight years.

It will not be the last. In the U.S. and around the world, uranium mining is experiencing a revival. At least five producers in the U.S. are reactivating mines in Texas, Utah, Wyoming, and Arizona, all of which closed after the 2011 disaster at Fukushima sent the price of uranium plummeting. Other projects are underway internationally, including new mines planned in Canada, India, and Mongolia….