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Powertech CEO Clement Snared in Second Uranium Mining License Stay

The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board will hold a teleconference Tuesday, May 13, for the purpose of "Scheduling Oral Argument on Motion to Stay Powertech’s NRC License." This scheduling meeting begins at 2 p.m. (I'm guessing Eastern Time, from the Maryland area code of the contact).

The stay issued by the ASLB is another unwelcome monkey wrench in Powertech/Azarga's endless exaggerations to investors. Adam Hurlburt of the Black Hills Pioneer does some digging and finds that the ASLB has stayed an active license issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission just once before. Piling remarkable atop remarkable, Hurlburt discovers that the previous stay also involved current Powertech boss Richard Clement:

On Jan. 5, 1998, the NRC issued Hydro Resources Inc. a materials license for its proposed Crown Point and Church Rock in situ recovery uranium mining projects in New Mexico. Two weeks later the ASLB ordered a temporary stay on the license until the board held an evidentiary hearing on the project and the NRC completed the historic and cultural site reviews required under the NEPA and NHPA acts. This was in response to stay requests by a Navajo uranium mining opposition group, Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM) and an environmental group, the Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC). Current Powertech President and CEO Richard Clement served as president of Hydro Resources at the time (1996-1999).

More than a year later, on Aug. 20, 1999, the ASLB removed the stay and upheld Hydro Resources’ license. But this was not the end of the company’s troubles.

The NRC put Hydro Resources’ license back on hold in May of 2000, again at the request of ENDAUM and SRIC, along with a few additional intervenors. The Crown Point and Church Rock projects are currently still under review by the NRC and EPA, some 26 years after Hydro Resources initially applied for an NRC license to mine uranium in New Mexico through in situ recovery [Adam Hurlburt, "Judges Put Powertech Uranium’s Mining License on Hold," Black Hills Pioneer, 2014.04.30].

Crownpoint is a Navajo community that suffered groundwater pollution and high rates of birth defects and cancer following heavy uranium mining in the 1950s and 1960s. Responding to concerns that Hydro Resources Inc. would bring back those problems, Clement made the following claim in a 1999 High Country News article:

"There is no opportunity for the legacy (of uranium) to be repeated," says former company president Dick Clement.

The Albuquerque-based company uses a method called in situ leach mining, which Clement says reduces the spread of radioactive dust and contamination. After drilling underground wells, technicians inject a chemical solution into the aquifer. This removes uranium ore from surrounding rock and sucks it into a treatment plant for removal.

"We've had a perfect record in terms of restoring conditions to what they were before we began operations," Clement says. Hydro Resources' parent company, Uranium Resources Inc. operates two similar mines in south Texas [Andy Lenderman, "Uranium Haunts the Colorado Plateau," High Country News, 1999.12.06].

That last statement about a "perfect record" is complete bunk: mine—not just in Texas but also in the entire United States—has returned the post-mining groundwater to baseline for all required elements. For example, the USEPA established the MCL [maximum contaminant level] for uranium as 0.03 milligrams per liter. Ninety-five percent of Texas uranium mining PAAs [Production Area Authorization] have a baseline value above MCL and 68 percent of Texas mines show a final restoration value for uranium above this MCL. The MCL for radium is 5 picoCuries per liter in drinking water. All PAAs are characterized by baseline values and all post-restoration radium concentrations nwere reported above this MCL (Hall 2009). Clearly, there is a problem here [Ronald Sass and Cylette Willis, "The Legacy of Uranium Mining on the Coastal Plains of Texas," James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, Rice University, 2013.12.05].

Such distortions from Clement give us all the more reason to encourage the ASLB to extend the stay on Powertech's license and give South Dakota opponents and regulators more time to research Powertech's plans and claims.


  1. John Tsitrian 2014.05.04

    In my blog post that you linked I invited PT/Azarga officials to explain the discrepancies between what they were saying about the progress of the permitting process and what is actually happening. No response thus far.

  2. Tim 2014.05.04

    Any chance the state will review their previous decisions and come down on the side of the people that live here? I won't hold my breath waiting.

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