"A moratorium on new uranium mining around the Grand Canyon expires in six weeks, and the Interior Department is under pressure from conservation groups and mining companies over what to do about it.
Conservation groups want to stop more uranium mining near the majestic Grand Canyon, a part of the American landscape that's been protected since the late 19th century and is known worldwide for its stunning vistas. Uranium mining companies already have rights on public lands in the area that the decision wouldn't affect. They're eager to expand to feed a growing demand for fuel for nuclear power in many parts of the world.
The decision will come just after Germany announced plans to close its nuclear plants and shift to more renewable energy sources. Elsewhere, however, the use of nuclear power is growing, and the price of uranium has risen in recent years. Opponents of expanded mining say the uranium wouldn't necessarily boost American energy independence because an expansion of the nuclear industry has been blocked by high prices and because many of the companies that want to mine near the canyon are foreign companies that would export the uranium.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has a July 21 deadline, when the two-year moratorium he imposed on new uranium mining on 1 million acres around Grand Canyon National Park expires. He must decide whether to ban new uranium mining there for 20 years or open up new mining on all or part of it. If he does nothing, the whole area would open again to new claims. Under an 1872 law, companies that can show valid claims have a right to mine on public land."
Renee Schoof reports for McClatchy Newspapers June 6, 2011.
"Celebrities Implore Obama: No Uranium Mining Near Grand Canyon" (ENS)