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Thursday, February 08, 2007 

Argentina has been producing great wines....

but it's future might be at stake.

Crack open a bottle of Argentine wine and the chances are it will have come from Mendoza - a province bordering Chile famous for its spectacular snowy peaks, adventure sports and pristine blue skies. The province produces 70 per cent of Argentina's wines, as well as olives, fruit and preserves and is a magnet for tourists seeking to get back to nature and enjoy the good life.

But the rugged, red-hued hills in San Rafael, in the heart of Mendoza, are also home to a long-mothballed uranium mine and a plant to concentrate the mineral ore into yellowcake. With world uranium prices that have doubled in the past year and Argentina planning a big expansion of nuclear power to stave off growing energy shortages, the government's atomic energy agency would love nothing more than to restart operations, which it says have been proven both safe and clean.

However, a powerful coalition of vineyards, organic farmers and local businesses is up in arms, warning residents that their water, air and soil are at risk of being poisoned and their livelihoods, export markets, tourist industry and health could be ruined.

...waters in the Tigre stream, which flows through the mine and into the Diamond River that supplies semi-arid San Rafael with drinking water, contain up to 75 micrograms of uranium per litre - which he said was more than twice the levels permitted in the US, Canada and Australia.

....Material to be treated at the site - where cows occasionally wander in from nearby farms and a couple of ducks swim on waste water dykes - includes piles of rubble containing low levels of uranium and pools and evaporation dykes containing uranium, arsenic, radium and acid residue.

In addition, there are 5,223 metal drums, buried in trenches, that contain uranium-tainted waste from the plant in the province of Cordoba that converts the yellowcake into uranium dioxide to fuel Argentina's two current nuclear power plants. - Financial Times

The wineries in California and the United States could be in serious trouble, as well, but for a different reason....

Global warming could spell disaster for much of the multibillion-dollar U.S. wine industry.

Areas suitable for growing premium wine grapes could be reduced by 50% — and possibly as much as 81% — by the end of this century, according to a study published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. - USA Today

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I've enjoyed Chilean wines for many years. I will keep Argentina in mind.

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