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Powertech Claims Based on Bad Geological Assumptions and Human Hubris

Ken Steinken writes that Powertech's in-situ uranium mining plan is based on two fundamentally flawed assumptions: geological changelessness and human infallibility.

Powertech says the millions of gallons of water it will contaminate to find uranium in the southern Black Hills won't leak out of the supposedly impervious rock strata above and below the uranium deposits. Steinken, a seasoned spelunker in Jewel Cave, knows better:

Then I think of Jewel Cave and its 166 miles of passages snaking underneath only six square miles of land, and the memory shoots holes through the “solid rock” idea. It makes me wonder how Powertech can claim that radioactive liquids won’t get into the aquifers where drinking water comes from.

I’m well aware that different strata of rock have different characteristics and that some are denser than others. But even if a rock layer has been virtually impenetrable in the past, there is no guarantee that it will continue to be so in the future.

Our planet is neither solid nor is its current form permanent. It’s in a constant state of flux. It is subject to internal and external forces. Groundwater and gravity team up to exploit and penetrate the tiniest crack or weakness in an “impenetrable” rock layer. The wells that Powertech drills will also connect previously separated layers of rock, providing a way for radioactive water to get where it’s not supposed to go. The history of in-situ uranium mines in Wyoming, Nebraska and Texas shows that this is exactly what happens [Ken Steinken, "A Uranium Mining Proposal That's Larded with Snake Oil," Post Independent (Colorado), 2013.11.10].

He sees in Powertech's wishful thinking the same hubris that has brought other profit-seekers and their neighbors to calamity:

The problem is that humans looking to turn a profit make ridiculous promises that distort or ignore science, history and common sense. Remember the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that British Petroleum claimed could not fail, or the West, Texas, fertilizer plant that couldn’t explode, or the earthquake-proof Fukushima nuclear power plant that continues to spew radioactivity today? [Steinken, 2013.11.10]

South Dakota has better ways to make a buck. We don't need to risk our water and land and people for a Canadian company's plan to dig uranium for China.


  1. interested party 2013.11.18

    Fracking for yellowcake: Hollenbeck got the tar kicked out of him today on Bill Janklow's idea of public radio.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.11.18

    Really?! Don't tell me Karl Gehrke went all Mike Wallace on him! What were the questions?

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