The one thing that everyone from both sides of the aisle can agree on in the current energy debate is the concept of "energy independence" -- i.e. the production of energy "in-house" rather than the reliance on foreign fuel imports, like oil, which often originate from countries that are in conflict.
It's common sense. A steady stream of fuel is necessary to keep the American economy alive and, one would hope, healthy. But when that fuel supply is threatened via an energy cartel (OPEC) or a war (Afghanistan) or a dictator (Hussein) then suddenly the very foundation of our economy is undermined.
Sen. John McCain has been one of the staunchest advocates for energy independence, so it was a bit surprising to see him so visibly lauding one particular industry that is so totally reliant upon foreign imports — nuclear energy.
The U.S. Department of Energy released an EIA report (PDF) on uranium production and trade. The findings are frightening. Since 1979...
- uranium imports have risen from 5 percent to about 60 percent while domestic production has tanked.
- domestic inventories have also dropped to an all-time low.
Meanwhile prices have skyrocketed. In the last five years, the price per pound of raw uranium has gone from about $12 to $45. That would be the equivalent of oil prices going from $60 a barrel to $200... in 5 years:
And let's not forget that uranium is often sourced from regions experiencing tremendous conflict. One of the largest mines (which France is almost completely dependent upon) is in Niger, a country whose "democracy" under Mamamou Tandja is highly in question.
Though Niger is considered a democratic country and is a candidate for EITI (an organization that ensures safe mining practices), it does not currently allow full access for inspectors to review documents related to the production and sale of uranium.
The nuclear industry is benefitting big time from ACES climate legislation. They now finally have a perfect cover story — helping the world to reduce its carbon emissions — and they will be receiving whopping paybacks both in terms of research grants and carbon credits. CEO John Rowe of Exelon, one of the largest nuclear companies in the world, estimates $1 billion in supplemental revenue related to CO2 allowances.
I got a tip on this report a few days ago from an energy expert who pointed out that my Top 6 Nuclear Myths is missing one myth... that nuclear will aid the quest for energy independence.
It's time we get the record straight on this one. If we stay on this track we may one day be trying to "wean" ourselves from foreign uranium.
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