Thursday, July 15, 2010

Uranium study should look at 'worst case' / Who bears the economic and environmental risks of uranium mining? / On uranium mining / Residents sound off at supervisors' meeting

Comments:  Great Letters!  Thanks!  No to uranium mining!

Uranium study should look at 'worst case'

Wednesday, July 14, 2010 4:48 PM EDT

To the editor,

The Danville Regional Foundation is currently reviewing proposals from two firms to conduct a socioeconomic study of the effects of uranium mining, milling and long-term waste management on this area.
The proposals are available online at DRF's Web site and public comment is invited.

I have read both proposals and remain convinced that the only study necessary is that of a "worst case scenario."

Anything more is simply time and money wasted on deciding how much money will it take for us to be willing to gamble all we have and all our children will have.

Calculated facts and figures (still guesses) mean nothing in the aftermath of natural or manmade disaster, and all one has to do is open a newspaper to see how common disasters are.

In the mining scenario, "risk management" is an oxymoron. There is only risk, save for a few. Should the moratorium be lifted, the risk will be not only ours, but our "innocent bystander" neighbors throughout this state and surrounding ones. Thirty plus/minus years of waiting for the other shoe to drop.

So if the only interest is arriving at that money figure, I suppose either company will do. I guess they know more what our soul is worth than we do.

Linda Worsley

Who bears the economic and environmental risks of uranium mining?

By Katie Whitehead/Special to the Journal
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 4:48 PM EDT

Virginia Uranium Inc. (VUI) and its public relations firm have framed uranium mining in Virginia as an opportunity for billions in benefits - if it can be done safely. But safety is only part of the issue. The real issue is the inseparable economic and environmental risks of uranium development and who bears these risks. Stakeholders need to consider the not-so-obvious long-term costs, as well as the much-touted short-term benefits of permitting uranium development throughout Virginia.

Some advocates, conceding that uranium mining involves risks, see the real issue as our civic responsibility to provide a reliable source of uranium to ensure state and national energy independence, security and reduced carbon emissions. However, progress toward these goals does not depend on uranium mined in Virginia.

The United States, including Virginia, has reliable uranium suppliers, chief among them Canada and Australia, whose known uranium resources have expanded - not shrunk - as demand has increased in recent years.

Canadian, Australian and U.S. companies also mine uranium in other countries, where it is not only abundant, but costs less to produce due to cheap labor and lower environmental standards. Much is made of our dependence on uranium from Russia, but we purchase this weapons-grade uranium from Russia for a good reason - to keep it from our enemies.

Utilities and other businesses buy at the lowest price on the global free market. Even if they want to, they may not buy uranium from Virginia. Companies mining in Virginia would have to compete with suppliers worldwide. The pressure of price competition would tend to erode promotional claims of family-wage jobs and strict adherence to safety standards.

The Uranium Mining Subcommittee of the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission has asked the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to study the impacts of uranium mining in Virginia. The subcommittee is undertaking a second study focused specifically on the social and economic implications for counties affected by uranium development and, so far, is only looking in the vicinity of known deposits at VUI's site, Coles Hill in Pittsylvania County. Though lifting the moratorium would prompt interest in uranium mining statewide, we have limited geologic information to predict where else uranium activity would occur.

Advocates for lifting the moratorium often point out that we don't know the location of other deposits because there's been no investment in exploration for new deposits in Virginia for 25 years because of the moratorium. If you want to know, they say, just legalize mining.

Geologists at Virginia's Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy and at Virginia Tech say flatly that there will be uranium exploration across Virginia and North Carolina if the current controversy is settled in favor of mining.

Potential profit will motivate investment in exploration, but not necessarily in research on risks to the environment. Geologists and hydrologists have told us we need years of research to predict what would happen to groundwater and surface water at Coles Hill or at any other site in Virginia if uranium were mined and radioactive tailings were stored in the ground for thousands of years.

As deposits of economic interest are identified, the people near those deposits will find themselves stakeholders in public policy decisions regarding uranium mining. Who are these stakeholders-to-be?

The NAS study includes review of uranium market trends and of uranium deposits worldwide. The NAS should tell us something about the economics of uranium deposits in Virginia and should alert communities statewide, and in neighboring states, that this issue affects them directly.

In the meantime, we have no accurate way to talk about potential impacts on regions beyond Southside.

Whether Virginia and North Carolina residents see uranium as a blessing, a threat or a responsibility, they deserve to know that they are stakeholders.

Uranium Mining Subcommittee chairman, Del. Lee Ware, has said, "We certainly are going to include every county that is affected economically and socially." We can only hope so.

To fulfill that promise, the subcommittee would first learn from the NAS study and then give all potential stakeholders an opportunity to join in public discussion to decide state policy.

To mining advocates, this may sound like a delay tactic; yet, given the timescale of a 30-year mining operation and tailings storage for thousands of years, allowing stakeholders to confront the economic and environmental risks they will bear is anything but killing time.

Katie Whitehead, M.A., chairman of the Dan River Basin Association Mining Task Force and member of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce Uranium Study Group, is a native and resident of Pittsylvania County and has a master's degree in government/public administration from the Univ of Virginia. As a staff member of the Virginia Division of Legislative Services, she served as information officer for the Uranium Administrative Group in 1983.

On uranium mining

Jul 13, 2010 - 05:52:32 pm CDT

Regarding the comments of Karl Stauber of the Danville Regional Foundation (July 6), in which he asks for public comment on uranium mining, I hope the Caswell Messenger readers will comply. The Northern Piedmont stands to lose a great deal if mining and milling occur. Uranium waste contamination does not recognize state lines. What happens in Pittsylvania County will not stay there. Actually there is a general concern among people who are watching this unfold that if Virginia lifts its moratorium on uranium mining, North Carolina will allow mining also.

Ironically, nuclear power is touted as "clean energy"... obtaining that necessary uranium is the most dangerously polluting venture - The mining of uranium in the US has only been done in dry, arid areas in the west. Sparsely populated areas. Even with the dry conditions and low water table, pollution has occurred and reclamation of the land neglected or inadequate. People in these areas and those who worked the mines have become ill. You cannot get rid of radioactivity or the toxic effect of the heavy metals that are released. Proposing that uranium can be mined safely in our area of wet, turbulent and often violent weather patterns suggests an irresponsibility based on greed.

Two years ago I tried to arouse some concern in Caswell about this impending nightmare. There were no responses to the Caswell Messenger letter I sent. Nor was there any interest expressed to an informative letter written by Shireen Parsons, who has no financial interest in the Virginia Uranium Inc. venture and therefore, she spoke the truth.

For those of you who are still asleep, be advised that if you remain that way the corporation of Virginia Uranium will walk all over your health and welfare in order to pursue their own agenda ...which is money, and more of it than you can conceive of.

No matter what you read of safety studies, and the patriotism of mining and milling to supply the US with uranium, it is all window dressing.

Canada is part and parcel of VUI's venture. With the amount of money to be gained by mining, and the money spent so far to further that venture, rest assured that it will take place. Southside VA and NC will be horribly affected.

But, as the corporations rationalize, we are sacrifice zones. Sacrificed to further their profits. It will happen in Southside VA, and when it does it is too late. Nothing fixes radioactive contamination. Ever.

So if you care you need to raise your voices and shake the tree NOW. HTTP://DANVILLEREGIONALFOUNDATION.ORG/URANIUM

Karen Schneider

Residents sound off at supervisors' meeting
By TIM DAVIS/Star-Tribune Editor
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 8:57 AM EDT

Several residents sounded off at last week's Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors' meeting in Chatham.

George Stanhope

George Stanhope of Chatham urged supervisors to follow up on a recent New York Times' report on the safety of public water systems.

The newspaper story cited several water systems in the county.

Frank Fox

Frank Fox claimed the media were hoodwinked at a recent Uranium Mining Subcommittee public hearing at Chatham High School on a proposed socioeconomic study on the effects of uranium mining.

Fox pointed out that the first 20 speakers at the hearing were all pro-mining, which may have misled news reporters, some of whom left the meeting early.

About 70 people spoke at the public hearing.

Virginia Uranium Inc., which hopes to mine a huge uranium deposit near Chatham, was accused of manipulating the hearing.

The first group of speakers was signed up before the auditorium officially opened, allegedly in the same handwriting.

"I'm a country boy," said Fox, "and I know when fertilizer is being spread."

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