Before a full house in House Room D of the Virginia General Assembly building, the National Academy of Sciences presented their long awaited report on uranium mining in VA.
A source with the Virginia Conservation Network told me that there were probably somewhere between 60-75 Virginia Uranium Inc. lobbyists, including their respective staffers. That is, a possible 60-75 individuals representing the interests of VUI out of a room whose maximum occupancy is 365 people.
Those in opposition to lifting the ban on uranium mining were out in impressive force too, however. Our state representatives certainly felt their presence at the subcommittee meeting on uranium mining.
Aside from the attempts to undercut the integrity of the NAS released study on uranium mining in VA (which, ironically, did not actually study any specific sites for uranium mining in VA) by Del. Bill Janis (R-56th District), the meeting demonstrated Virginia’s need to move prudently and cautiously towards the idea of lifting the ban on uranium mining in VA.
First, a robust public participation process must be established before the uranium mining can even be considered a possibility in VA. Secondly, best management practices must be put into place to decrease the risks involved with uranium mining and milling. Third, regulatory structures and guidelines must be established to ensure that human and environmental safety is protected in the commonwealth in the short and long run. These are perhaps the most essential steps yet to be taken by our state government.
Unfortunately, many of the best questions that were posed to the presenter of this study, Dr. Paul Locke, couldn’t be answered due to the fact that the study was a generalized, non-site specific study. For instance, some questions like “what risk does uranium mining and milling pose in VA” could not be answered by Dr. Locke due to the site specific variables involved.
For those of us who at the very least feel that more research is needed before a decision is made on lifting the uranium mining ban in VA, the uranium mining subcommittee meeting appeared to discredit those who want to see immediate action on uranium mining and milling in VA. Of course, nothing is for certain except that the struggle between prudence and greed will continue to be waged for some time to come in Virginia. That is, between those of us concerned more with human and environmental health and those concerned more with profits.