Accuracy in Media

The Verge asks an interesting question – why does the U.S. need Russian uranium? 

But its piece fails to answer it – the answer is the U.S. government.

The Verge’s video could be argued with on tiny points of detail, but why do that? It’s that big question that isn’t answered. There’s some material about how past uranium mining has created pollution, how varied Native Americans don’t like the way it often happened on or near their land. But that’s not why there are now American sanctions on Russian energy supplies – oil and gas – but not on Russian uranium. The U.S. does need that material mined and refined in Russia. But the reason why it does is our own government.

The full details are here. There’s plenty of uranium in the U.S., but it’s near impossible to get permits to mine it these days. Also, it’s even closer to impossible to get the licenses to process and purify it – there seems to be only one fully licensed uranium mill left. Finally, the type of uranium fuel required by modern reactors is different from that of older ones, so a different production plant is required. Something that has never been licensed.

As to why this is all so ProPublica is running a series of articles that aids in explaining it. We don’t mean these specific articles. Rather, the type. Complaints about the pollution from uranium mining, from processing. Which isn’t, in fact, any worse than any other form of mining. Complaints about radon gas which is something we’re all exposed to all the time and yes, it is dangerous. It’s that mining uranium doesn’t make this worse, there’s the same amount of that gas around whether the uranium is mined or not. Plenty of parts of the world where you’re told to put an extractor fan in the basement to prevent that radon from killing you.

The problem with all of these environmental articles about how terrible uranium mining is that they never ask Thomas Sowell’s question: “Compared to what?”. Solar power kills more people per unit of power produced as people walk off the edge of rooftops. Windmills fall over, people fall off them. Coal produces more radioactivity into the environment than the entire nuclear industry. Even natural gas has its problems. But the press never does point all of this out. It’s always nuclear, or uranium, is bad because of these problems.

This is why the United States needs Russian uranium. Because the press coverage of environmental issues has meant that the U.S. can’t dig up and use its own uranium. 

The Verge ranks around No. 67 in the list of media outlets for news inside the U.S. It gains some 35 million visits a month. It’s largely focused on tech and technical matters – which is what makes the lack here so important. If they had answered their own headline then readers would have been vastly better informed. 

The U.S. doesn’t sanction Russian uranium because the U.S. needs it. America needs it because the government won’t license domestic production – driven by the way the U.S. press reports on matters nuclear.




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