How wonderful that we have met with a paradox.
Now we have some hope of making progress.
–Niels Bohr

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 constant 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 coalition of activists, mostly from the mountain resort of Telluride, which is 70 miles away from the proposed mill. Residents here believe waste, dust and radioactivity will contaminate the environment, destroying their health, quality of life and their recreation-based economy.

President Obama’s proposed nuclear-plant loan guarantees give the mill project momentum, as does a rekindling 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 CO2 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, Paradox Valley USA features an ensemble cast of characters, from the mining advocates who are spearheading the mill project and attempting to restart the uranium mining industry, to the people who are dead-set against it.

The story also ventures down a few picturesque side roads across America, exploring how uranium is not just “in my backyard” but in almost everyone’s across the country – from Nucla to Pittsylvania County, Virginia and even New Jersey.

The main showdown, however, takes place in Paradox, where we witness up close and personal the hopes, fears, ambitions and dreams on both sides of this complicated issue. Paradox Valley USA is a portrait of a special group of ordinary American citizens who are struggling with the one of the most extraordinary global issues of our time – nuclear power.

Finally, Paradox Valley USA is a first person journey of discovery for the filmmakers themselves, one that doesn’t pretend to be objective.