In Texas, a Company is Now Fracking Uranium

Categories: Biz

Because injecting mysterious chemical cocktails deep underground to release hard-to-reach deposits of natural gas hasn't proved controversial enough, miners are staking out a new frontier: uranium fracking.

Yep. Uranium Energy Corp., a Canadian company with extensive operations in the "uranium belt" of South Texas, is pioneering the process.

"Fracking for uranium isn't vastly different from fracking for natural gas," Forbes explains in its February issue. "UEC bores under ranchland into layers of highly porous rock that not only contain uranium ore but also hold precious groundwater. Then it injects oxygenated water down into the sand to dissolve out the uranium. The resulting solution is slurped out with pumps, then processed and dried at the company's Hobson plant."

There are some important differences between fracking for gas and fracking for uranium. On the one hand, the latter simply involves water, which poses little danger to groundwater. On the other hand, the material being extracted is the radioactive raw material used to make nuclear weapons.

It's the radioactivity that's worrying neighbors. Uranium deposits sit 400 to 800 feet under the earth, about as deep as groundwater, whereas shale gas is closer to two miles. And uranium, if ingested, can cause serious health problems, like kidney and liver cancer.

Some of the neighbors have sued. UEC argues that its process is safe and that the groundwater is already contaminated by radioactive elements. It also argues that the process is necessary as the United States competes with China and other rising powers for the uranium it needs to supply power plants and nuclear weapons.

"The U.S. is more reliant upon foreign sources of uranium than on foreign sources of oil," UEC President Amir Adnani said. His company plans to fill the gap with domestic uranium, much of it fracked from South Texas.

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RTGolden1 topcommenter

I'm not well-versed on the whole fracking debate.  I've read a lot of hype from both sides of it, with both sides presenting reams upon reams of 'factual evidence', directly contradicting one another.  The only logical assumption to make is that both sides are full of shit and keep digging for unbiased research on the topic.

Reading this though, seems a no brainer.  The uranium is at approximately the same level as ground water.  The oxygenated water dissolves the uranium for extraction.  How do they keep the uranium enriched water from contaminating the ground water?  I'm pretty sure uranium is not on the list of safe minerals to be found in drinking or irrigation water.  No, this should be stopped until more answers are available.


If only the world could be powered on the hot gas of alt-weekly writers. 


@RTGolden1 That's a lazy way not to decide about something that's coming to Dallas in a big way. You should look at where those different reports are coming from. Are they funded by one side or another? Are they scientifically valid - been peer-reviewed and journal-published? I think you'll find the vast majority of independent studies show problems with fracking - higher cancer rates near well sites, higher smog levels, etc. Moreover, if you notice, there are a lot of people living near gas facilities that can describe firsthand how their health is being adversely affected. They have no motive to lie, especially in Texas, where it's next to impossible to win a toxic tort case anymore. South Texas is already home to a couple of state Superfund sites caused by irresponsible uranium mining over the last 50 years. Looks like they're in for a few more.

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