Cattleman George Glasier sees the next nuclear era amid the blood-orange mesas of the Paradox Valley, the same western range lands that hold a darker legacy from the last rush to pull uranium from the ground.
Residents of this valley near the Four Corners region are getting an unimpeded view of the second uranium rush. Many are worried.
Glasier, the one-time mining executive-turned-rancher, wants to build a uranium mill on cattle grazing land near his spread. It would be the country's first in decades.
The land is not far from the toxic uranium mines, now mostly abandoned, that serve as a reminder of an industry born of the Cold War.
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As the third global energy shock begins to drastically alter national economies, a potential shift in U.S. energy policy has moved to the forefront of the upcoming presidential election.
Glasier believes the time to return to nuclear power is now and he believes Paradox Valley is well placed to reap the rewards.
But the nation's turn toward nuclear energy is worrisome to many, and in particular in Paradox Valley, it is the plan drafted by Glasier's Energy Fuels Inc.
The company has two mines that are close to being fully permitted, five parcels with existing but closed mines, about 45,000 acres yet to be explored plus the 1,000-acre Paradox Valley mill site.
The proposed uranium mill would cost as much as $150 million to build. The company hopes to begin by 2010.
A Web site has sprung up in opposition to the plan, and residents are forming groups.
Anna Cotter, 72, moved to the area in 1955 when the uranium industry was booming. Her husband sold mining machinery and her relatives worked the mines. But the valley has changed since then, she said.
“I personally don't want that going on again,” Cotter said.
Industry officials say new technology such as enclosed radioactive waste containers has made processing safer than in the past.
But the plan drafted by Glasier's Energy Fuels has not convinced everyone. The people of Paradox Valley have seen nearby communities saddled for years with radioactive contamination.