Leading Democracy: Following the Wishes of Southside Virginians on Uranium Mining


    In betwixt and between the discussions over whether or not to lift the uranium mining ban in Virginia, the opinion of Southside Virginians on the issue has rarely been sought, at least not often enough, in public and private spheres alike. However, the recent bipartisan letter by Southside political representatives Sen. Frank N. Ruff Jr. and Dels. James E. Edmunds, Danny W. Marshall, Donald W. Merricks, and Thomas C. Wright Jr. cast a long shadow of a doubt about the appropriateness of lifting a uranium mining ban that would primarily affect Southside Virginians.

    “We are being asked to push through a proposal to lift a 30-year-old ban on an industry with an abysmal environmental record that, under the most optimistic assumptions, experts conclude the most that can be expected is to reduce some of the quite serious risks to the health and welfare of the surrounding community.”

    Would those of us in central and northern Virginia find it appropriate if Southside Virginians ultimately determined whether or not uranium mining would take place in our back yards, so to speak? I’m guessing not. So why should the inverse be true? Why should political representatives from central and northern Virginia vote directly against the wishes of Southside residents and their political representatives?

    Notice in the above quotation, furthermore, that the writers are not totally rejecting the idea of lifting the ban on uranium mining in VA. Rather, they are calling for a more prudent, paced, and reflective approach to the recent flurry of scientific and socioeconomic analyses that have been released over the past year. Not so much to ask, is it? But the refusal of Virginia Uranium Inc. to take this rudimentary reasoned approach vividly demonstrates that VUI has only one motive: money, profits, and more money and profits. To hell with safety and precautions!

    I have never, and probably will never, find anyone who doesn’t want Virginia to transform itself into an energy-independent model for the rest of the country. But uranium mining and its potentially catastrophic risks are quite real, real enough that Republicans and Democrats in Virginia have lined up together in a rare bipartisan effort to oppose an immediate lift on the ban. If anything demonstrates the seriousness of the uranium mining issue in these bitterly partisan times, it’s this bipartisan opposition.

    Let’s leave a legacy of prudence behind, not mindlessness and rashness.  

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