Thursday, June 24, 2010

Socioeconomic Study of Uranium Mining in Pittsylvania County

                                          Clarksville, VA (downwind and Roanoke River Basin

Socioeconomic Study of Uranium Mining in Pittsylvania County

What Should be Considered?

Presented by Susan Paynter
June 22, 2010

I’ll limit my remarks to three topics:

And perception

We know that the most diversified economies are the healthiest. A strong economy has many sectors. When a downturn or bust hits one sector, the others cushion the blow. So I suggest the study look at diversification.

Moving to Chatham was an option for my husband and me. We made that choice years ago, when there was no talk about a uranium mine. If there had been, we just wouldn’t have done it.

That’s a normal human reaction. If you have options, you don’t take needless risk.

Other folks have options, too. The companies who buy our agricultural products do. And so do their customers.

Agriculture is an asset we have to protect. Of Virginia’s 95 counties, Pittsylvania is in the top ten for agriculture.

But food safety is a big and growing concern. When they have options, what will mothers put on the table? Not food from farms near a uranium mine.

Manufacturers and other companies have options. Communities all over the country are working to attract them. These companies are responsible for their employees’ health and safety.

When they look to relocate, expand, or start up operations what will they look for? A good community, maybe a nice industrial park, but not a site near a uranium mine.

The mothers and fathers who send their children to our prestigious boarding schools have literally a world of options. Why would they send their sons and daughters off to live near a uranium mine?

And those schools add economic, social and cultural value to our community. At no cost to the taxpayer. They’re worth protecting.

We’ve heard people argue until they’re blue in the face about whether uranium can be mined safely. I think they’re all guessing. But when was the last time you watched the news without seeing a disaster from operations we’d thought were safe and well-regulated?

Safe or not, we know what the perception is. People are afraid of the many radioactive toxins produced when uranium is disturbed. They’re afraid of the secret ways these toxins move through the air and water.

Primitive man worried about big predators. But it’s radioactive poisoning that keeps modern man awake at night, whether it’s a terrorists’ dirty bomb, way too many CT scans or a uranium mine.

That’s the fear people will act on. If we ignore it, we can be left with all our economic eggs in one basket. Uranium.

We’ve been there with tobacco. We’ve been there with the mills and furniture. If we go there with uranium, who can we hope to attract when Coles Hill shuts down?

I suggest the study should take a close look at those three things:

The value of diversity
The presence of options
And the reality of perceptions