Virginia Uranium Mining: The Fix Is In

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    It’s now official. Virginia Uranium Inc., a consortium of Canadian and American investors, evidently is confident in its ability to influence Virginia legislators and end a ban on mining uranium in the state. In February, Walter Coles, Jr., executive vice president of the company, told shareholders, “In January of 2012, we will have a bill in the state legislature that directs the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy to develop the regulations for uranium mining.”

    A study is now in progress by the National Aacdemy of Sciences to assess whether uranium mining can safely be done in Pittsylvania County, which has a huge deposit of uranium ore. The greatest environmental danger lies in the fact that annual rainfall and possible severe storms pose the danger of a catastrophic failure in containment ponds holding toxic uranium mine tailings, or waste. The deck is stacked against the NAS study no matter what it finds because it is not supposed to recommend either for or against possible mining, but simply outline the dangers.

    Coles bluntly told shareholders, “Generally speaking in Virginia right now there’s a shift in the pendulum from the Democratic Party back to the Republican Party. The shift towards the Republicans is beneficial for us.” I can translate that for ordinary people. He is saying that it’s far easier for a corporation to purchase legislative votes amd guarantee the governor’s signature on a bill when the GOP controls the reins of power, especially where the environment is concerned.

    Sadly, he’s absolutely right. So, Hampton Roads. which gets its water supply from the watershed that includes Pittsylvania County, can forget about its objections to uranium mining in the state. The fix is in. The deal has been done. The votes are bought and paid for in promised campaign contributions. This is the state of our democratic institutions today.

    In 2004 The International Atomic Energy Agency released a study, “The Long Term Stabilization of Uranium Mill Tailings.” One of the conclusions of that study is, “as technical solutions alone are likely not sufficient to ensure long term stability [of mine tailings storage], some form of institutional control may be needed.” How can that control happen if the radical Republicans in Congress get their wish and effectively defund the EPA?

    We all had better work to re-elect the president, keep the U.S. Senate in  Democratic hands, and get more Dems in the General Assembly. That may be our only hope against the GOPer philistines.