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Demand for Energy Fuels Rush for Uranium in Utah

Uranium mining in Utah is gaining popularity, driven by efforts to find alternative energy sources to fossil fuels. The NewsHour reports on the growing uranium industry and its impact on the American fuel economy.

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  • MINER:

    Fire in the hole!

  • TOM BEARDEN, NewsHour Correspondent:

    The Pandora uranium mine, just south of Moab, Utah, is back in business after lying dormant for more than 15 years. It's part of a brand-new uranium mining boom that is just beginning to sweep over the Western U.S.

  • MIKE SHUMWAY, Uranium Miner:

    We've got an ore heading here and one here that we're shooting.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    Mike Shumway is the contractor in charge of getting the uranium out of the mine. Both his father and grandfather were miners before him.

  • MIKE SHUMWAY:

    I guess it gets in your blood. I enjoy it. I like following the ore and seeing what it will do. You never know. You can't see underground, so when you drill the holes, it's just amazing what it does.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    Moab has seen mining booms and busts many times before, first during the '40s and '50s, when nuclear weapons were being developed, and again in the '70s, when the OPEC oil crisis re-ignited interest in nuclear power. Uranium is the fuel for nuclear reactors.

    Each of those booms was quickly followed by a bust, when the price of uranium fell. But now, the price of uranium is skyrocketing, from $40 a pound a year ago to $120 today, and still climbing. It's being driven by the search for clean alternative sources of power to fossil fuels.

    It has also spurred a frenzy of prospecting and new claims. Shumway himself has purchased more than 150 old claims because he's convinced this new boom is going to last.

  • MIKE SHUMWAY:

    We need to go nuclear, and I think people are starting to realize that, with greenhouse gases. And it's safe. It's clean. It's the best power there is that we have, that we know of, and there's abundance of it.