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Mailbag: Alabama Senate Race, Uranium One Deal

This week, we feature emails readers sent to us regarding the Alabama Senate race and the Obama administration deal allowing a Russian nuclear energy agency to acquire a controlling stake in Uranium One, a Canadian-based company with mining stakes in the Western United States.

In the FactCheck Mailbag, we feature some of the email we receive. Readers can send comments to editor@factcheck.org. Letters may be edited for length.

GOP Support for Roy Moore

Regarding your Dec. 7 article about Sen. Franken’s claim that Roy Moore was running for Senate with “the full support of his party.” [“Al Franken on GOP Support for Roy Moore,” Dec. 7.] You labelled that statement an exaggeration, but I don’t think it was. As your article acknowledges, the RNC ended up officially endorsing Roy Moore. That official endorsement is the Republican Party’s “full support,” even if a lot of prominent Republicans disagree.

But the bigger issue I have with your fact check is that the supposed exaggeration doesn’t undermine the valid point Sen. Franken was making. Even if Moore doesn’t enjoy the “full support” of his party, the difference between each party’s treatment of alleged sexual improprieties is stark. The Republicans nominated a man for president who had been publicly accused of sexual assault by more than a dozen women and are now endorsing for Senate a man who has been accused of improper sexual conduct with underage girls. The Democrats, in contrast, have quickly pressured Sen. Franken to resign over conduct that was juvenile and unacceptable, but far less predatory. Highlighting this difference was the primary point Sen. Franken was making, and it was an important one.

I think your fact check did the national conversation about sexual harassment a disservice by drawing attention away from Franken’s valid primary point to challenge the details on a peripheral fact that didn’t matter.

Jon G. Lycett
Carlsbad, California

The Uranium One Deal

I covered this story as a reporter for Fuel Cycle Week, which is a nuclear energy trade press newsletter that covers uranium mining, uranium enrichment, spent fuel and nuclear reactor markets generally.

The current dust-up in the news media has been painful to watch because so many have no expertise and simply repeat the ridiculous claims being made about the case.

At the time (2010), it appeared to me and others who followed such issues that the Uranium One deal was not remarkable from a business perspective and that the level of U.S. government scrutiny on such a deal was an administrative headache for the firm, but it didn’t rise to being a national security issue.

Even today the U.S. is swimming in uranium for which there is no market with the price of yellowcake at record low levels of $21/lb. The economic or profitable price point for producers is $45/lb more or less. Why anyone would worry, on a technical/business basis, about Uranium One’s role in the market doesn’t understand the market.

One of the reasons for the global surplus of uranium for use as fuel in commercial nuclear reactors is that Japan took all its reactors offline after Fukushima in March 2011. This is like everyone in New York City deciding not to buy hot dogs. The market for Nathans would collapse.

One thing you passed over [“The Facts on Uranium One,” Oct. 26] is that the Uranium deal was about consolidating holdings related to properties in Kazakhstan.

World Nuclear Association, October 2017: The uranium exploration and mining JVs Akbastau and Karatau with Tenex started with Budenovskoye in the Stepnoye area of south Kazakhstan, which commenced production in 2008. These complemented the Zarechnoye JV 250 km to the south which was set up in June 2006. However, in 2009 and 2010 the 50% ARMZ equity in these three was traded for an eventual 51% share of Canadian-based Uranium One Inc, which subsequently became wholly-owned by ARMZ. Uranium One Holdings (U1H) is now the holding company for all Russian uranium mining interests in Kazakhstan (and its equity in an acid plant).

Hope this helps. The rest of the cited article has more detail, but it may not be germane for your purposes.

Dan Yurman
Cleveland, Ohio