A Monument to Energy Regression

Earlier this month, President Biden used powers authorized under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to proclaim a vast swath of land in Arizona as a national monument. Unfortunately, Biden’s declaration was less about preserving history and more about halting new mining projects in the single best area for sourcing uranium domestically.

The new monument, called Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni, or the Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument, is essentially a permanent extension of a 2012 ban on new uranium mines in the area set to expire in 2032. The designation covers over 1,500 square miles of public and private land.

In addition to preventing uranium mining, the designation prevents future hunting and grazing, while also adding significant bureaucracy to good forest management practices that would help reduce the number of wildfires in the region.

From an energy generation perspective – particularly for those looking to reduce carbon emissions – this declaration is a disaster. The uranium mined in this area, while comprising less than 1.5% of the nation’s reserves, is of particularly high quality and could power America’s nuclear reactors for generations.

President Biden has touted his declaration as a win in his Administration’s fight against climate change, as well as a victory for preserving native tribe traditions. But the President has yet to explain how cutting off America’s supply of high-grade nuclear fuel from development will reduce carbon emissions.

The fact remains that the U.S. imports 95% of its uranium from overseas, with nearly 50% of the imports coming from former Soviet states – specifically Russia and Kazakhstan. While foreign purchasing of nuclear materials is an important part of the nation’s nonproliferation efforts, the Biden Administration should have learned by now that relying on potential foreign adversaries to meet the country’s energy needs is fraught with risk.

For state legislators looking to advance the future of nuclear energy, ALEC has several model policies to aid in that endeavor: Resolution Supporting the Preservation of the Existing Nuclear Fleet and Deployment of Advanced Nuclear Technologies, an Act to Establish a Study on the Commercial Application of Existing Technology to Reclaim and Repurpose Nuclear Fuel Rods, and an Act to Create a Feasibility Study On New Nuclear Energy Generation.

In Depth: Energy

It is difficult – and perhaps even impossible – to overstate the relationship between readily available access to safe, affordable and reliable energy and individual prosperity and economic wellbeing. This is because energy is an input to virtually everything we produce, consume and enjoy in society. Think for a minute…

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