How wonderful that we have met with a paradox.
Now we have some hope of making progress.
In Colorado’s isolated Paradox Valley a mining company plans to build the first new uranium mill in this country since the end of the Cold War. The proposed mill could launch a uranium boom in an historic uranium mining region that has been on life-support after the meltdown at Three Mile Ahead brought the American nuclear fuel industry to a virtual standstill.
There are hundreds of dormant uranium and vanadium mines dotting the blood red mesas of remote Paradox Valley dating back to the days when the Vanadium Corporation of American tapped into vanadium as a metal hardening agent used in weaponry during the World Wars, and later when the Manhattan Project used the uranium from this region in the first atomic bombs.
To revive these mines and make them profitable again, a uranium mill is needed to separate the vanadium for use in steel enhancement and in energy efficient redox batteries, and crush the uranium content into yellowcake, which can be easily transported and supply a growing global demand for nuclear fuel.
Residents of the historic mining towns of Nucla and Naturita, only a few miles from the proposed mill support the project convinced it will create jobs and revive a once flourishing domestic mining industry as the region and the country struggles through a paralyzing recession.
The mill is opposed by a loose alliance of activists, mostly from the ski resort of Telluride, which is 60 miles away from the proposed mill. Residents here believe waste, dust and radioactivity will contaminate the environment, destroying their health and quality of life.
President Obama’s proposed nuclear-plant loan guarantees give the mill project momentum, as does a worldwide resurgence of support for nuclear power, even among leading environmentalists who argue nuclear power will reduce greenhouse gases.
Paradoxically, mill opponents find themselves at odds with fellow environmentalists who believe nuclear power “is the only large-scale, cost-effective energy source that can reduce C02 emissions while continuing to satisfy a growing demand for power. And these days it can do so safely.” (Patrick Moore)
The catastrophe at nuclear reactors in Fukushima, Japan, however, threatens to derail the mill and America’s short-lived nuclear renaissance. Yet despite mounting odds, a hearty group of independent miners keep their hopes, their heritage and a handful of mines, alive.
The Paradox Paradigm
The recipient of a prestigious Mountainfilm Festival Commitment Grant (www.mountainfilm.org), Paradox Valley USA will be an ensemble film featuring the people who are spearheading the mill project and attempting to restart the uranium mining industry, their supporters and those who oppose it.
The film also features sidebar stories that illustrate how uranium is not just “in my backyard” but in almost everyone’s across the country – from Nucla to New Jersey. The main arc of the story, however, takes place in Paradox, where we witness firsthand the issues and the interplay of hopes, fears, ambitions and dreams on both sides of this complicated issue.
Paradox Valley USA will be a timely drama about a special group of American citizens who are coping with the one of the most critical global issues of our time – nuclear power.
As a journalist and filmmaker I believe in being evenhanded. “But you must have an opinion,” people say to me. “There’s no such thing as being objective.”
I don’t pretend to be objective. I simply intend to explore a truly incredible and rich story, to capture an historical moment in time.
Journalist Harold Evans once said: “Actions are always more complex and nuanced than they seem.We have to be willing to wrestle with paradox in pursuing understanding.”