Thursday, December 15, 2011

Articles about problems of Uranium Mining


Op-ed on uranium mining in Virginia: No, we should not mine until a great deal more research has been completed
Date published: 12/11/2011

In Colorado, a Cotter Corp. mill has been leaking for 30 years, despite repeated efforts to address the problem. The mill was declared a Superfund site in the 1980s, but a 2004 report found that it continued to release "millions of gallons of leachate into the environment each year." Cleanup was estimated to cost anywhere from $50 million to $500 million.

The picture is no better in Canada. In 1989, a leak in Saskatchewan dumped more than 500,000 gallons of radioactive water into the environment. If you didn't hear about it, it's likely because it occurred in a remote region of the continent.

All of this might make you wonder about sites closer to home. Has uranium been mined near Virginia, or in a place where hurricanes could flood waste disposal sites? According to Virginia Tech geochemistry professor Robert Bodnar, open-pit or underground uranium mining has never occurred east of the Mississippi. The industry, however, points to Florida, where uranium was extracted as a by-product of phosphate mining. The comparison is not reassuring.

In 1997, a spill at one Florida phosphate mine released 50 million gallons of wastewater, poisoning 35 miles of the Alafia River and killing up to 3 million fish. When that corporation declared bankruptcy in 2001, it left the state holding the bag on another contaminated site. The cleanup of the second disaster cost taxpayers $144 million.

The industry also points to Louisiana, where, as in Florida, uranium was recovered at phosphate mines. Again, the reference is not comforting. From 1990 to 1994, two Louisiana plants--the Saint James and Uncle Sam facilities--dumped more than 540 million pounds of toxic waste into the Mississippi River. In 1991 alone, those plants were responsible for 130 million pounds of contaminated runoff--helping to give Louisiana the unsavory honor of leading the nation in toxic releases for the year.

Given this legacy of contamination, it's understandable why voices outside of the environmental community are calling for a go-slow approach

Uranium sector continues to face price uncertainty

12 December, 2011 13:54

The global uranium sector has faced near-term price uncertainty since the March nuclear crisis in Japan and the dynamics driving the near-term sector outlook continue to be dominated by the aftermath of that nuclear event, Resources Capital Research (RCR) said in its December quarter note.

Read more: o-face-

Long shift after accident at uranium mine

The Canadian Press Monday, December 12, 2011 8:15 AM

A hoist at the mine broke on Saturday, and the workers couldn't get out for several hours.

It was decided to keep the workers underground while the repairs were made rather than resort to emergency measures to bring them out.

The Cigar Lake Mine is located in the Athabasca Basin of northern Saskatchewan.

Read it on Global News: html

Uranium in Pittsylvania: Buried treasure or threat?

The Roanoke Times
 December 12, 2011
By Laurence Hammack and Michael Sluss


Of all the cow pastures in Pittsylvania County, where dairy farms dot the rolling landscape, this one looks no different than the rest.

Sure enough, lots of people are interested in this cow pasture and adjoining farmland.

Landowner Walter Coles is interested in the billions of dollars buried under Coles Hill, the farm that's been in his family for five generations. Four years ago, Coles formed Virginia Uranium Inc. and hired Wales to carry out his goal of mining the uranium, an estimated 119 million pounds, to be sold for fuel in power-generating nuclear reactors.

Many more people are interested, too, but for different reasons. Where some see a gold mine, they see a potential public health and environmental disaster.

Do the risks of uranium mining outweigh the benefits? That will soon be a question for the General Assembly, which is expected to decide at its upcoming session whether to lift a 30-year moratorium on the practice.

Opponents say digging up and processing the uranium will create 28 million tons of radioactive waste - enough to fill 145 Super Walmart stores - that could poison local wells and seep into the Roanoke River, contaminating the drinking water for nearly 2 million people downstream of the mine.

The mining leftovers, called tailings, would be stored on the site and maintain their radioactivity for more than 1,000 years.

"Do we want to manage radioactive waste in perpetuity?" asked Cale Jaffe, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. "Is that the legacy we want for Virginia?"

Risks vs. safeguards

Byron Motley drives his pickup truck along country roads near the Coles Hill property, just 2 miles from his home, on a guided tour of his fears.

There's the Banister River, muddy and swollen from recent rains. There's a low-lying field where floodwaters have reached the tops of fence posts. There's a patch of wetland. And another.

The point, Motley makes from behind the steering wheel, is that the wet climate here is far different than in the western United States, where nearly all of the country's uranium is mined in arid conditions.

Motley worries that containment ponds, where radioactive tailings the consistency of sand would be mixed with water and stored for centuries, could be breached by one of the hurricanes or tornados that's sure to come.

"I personally don't see any way on earth to contain what they're going to do," he said. "I just don't see it."

Earlier this year, his concerns were confirmed by a study for the city of Virginia Beach, which draws its drinking water from Lake Gaston - part of the Roanoke River basin that is downstream from the proposed uranium mine. The lake also supplies water to Norfolk and Chesapeake.

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