Then, in an April 17 letter, 21 GOP House members urged the administration to open up public lands where mining of critical minerals is currently banned, including the Breccia Pipe Uranium formation near the Grand Canyon.
"Keeping this valuable resource off limits does not make economic or environmental sense and puts our long-term energy security at risk," they wrote.
Environmental groups criticized the Trump administration and supporters of the nuclear rescue plan for exploiting the pandemic and degrading the environment.
Their main concern? Loosening environmental restrictions on uranium mining and processing in light of how much harm such mining has done historically to the environment and human health, especially among indigenous people who live in the Four Corners and whose water, land and air have been contaminated by uranium. Besides the mines, Energy Fuels operates the only operating uranium processing plant in the United States on the edge of the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation at White Mesa, Utah.
Amber Reimondo, energy program director for the Grand Canyon Trust, said Four Corners ore contains uranium concentrations that are relatively low, close to 1 percent, compared to concentrations from suppliers in Canada and Australia whose ore contains concentrations of 20 percent or more. That helps explain why U.S. uranium companies have had trouble competing, she said.
"All of these requests—the request for taxpayer support for their business; the request to lift the mining ban around Grand Canyon; asks for streamlining environmental regulations—those are old arguments," she said.
"Now, during a global pandemic when people are just trying to get by, they're trying to twist this situation to benefit their own agenda," she added.
Ed Lyman, director of Nuclear Power Safety, Climate & Energy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the new strategy also fails to preserve nuclear power plants that provide about 20 percent of U.S. electricity and make up around 28 percent of the nation's low-carbon electric power by helping them solve safety and waste disposal issues.
"But that's not what this report is," he said. "We recognize that nuclear power is a low-carbon generating technology and that it could play a role in helping mitigate climate change, but it has a whole host of problems associated with it."
Lyman said the administration could have helped aging nuclear plants to continue operating safely and securely with a comprehensive national policy. But he said nuclear power can't help reduce emissions without addressing its safety and security problems.