Uranium-fueled power an unnecessary risk

There are good reasons why the permitting process for uranium mining in the Black Hills has taken so long. Many local residents are not happy with the prospect of the chemical byproducts of the mining process (including lead and other heavy metals) being injected into aquifers below the mining site. Also, through a legal loophole, the underground water source of the uranium (a shallower aquifer) is considered exempt from any requirement that it be restored to pre-mining condition. Geologists have warned us that these sources of underground water may have communications with other aquifers, and not all such connections are known. As the climate changes, water resources in our semi-arid region will become ever more precious. Our Native-American fellow South Dakotans consider such mining operations a violation of sacred space, on land that was essentially stolen from the tribes, land that treaties had guaranteed would be theirs forever.

Until recent times, some have thought nuclear power plants would be necessary, because solar and wind electricity generation is intermittent. Rapid development of energy storage technologies has changed the outlook for these renewables. Many US utilities have already taken advantage of the reduced cost and increased efficiency of large battery banks. Smart grid technology makes it possible to shunt power instantly to a region temporarily low on wind or solar from regions generating excess renewable energy. In this rapidly evolving scene, further investment in uranium-fueled power seems an unnecessary risk.

Don Kelley, Nemo

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