Wednesday, December 11, 2019
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BREAKING: Supreme Court, in 6-3 Vote, Upholds Virginia’s Ban on Uranium...

See below for another good Supreme Court ruling, again with a somewhat odd breakdown of Justices (6-3, with Roberts, Breyer and Alito dissenting)...this time...

OMG…I Agree with Ralph Smith!

Wow. The environmental threat of mining uranium in central Virginia, near water sources that quench the thirst of Hampton Roads and the first time such mining will have been attempted on the East Coast, has elicited stances from some politicians the opposite of what I expected. I never would have believed that the Democratic minority leader of the State Senate, Dick Saslaw,  in support of mining, would ridicule all concerns for the environment by saying he wouldn't be around in a hundred years, so he wasn't going to worry about future generations. But, to his eternal shame, that's what he said.

My own state senator, a right-wing Republican guy I have never agreed with in the past, Ralph Smith, voted "no" on lifting the moratorium, and he made perfect sense in his reasoning why. He said there are simply too many unanswered questions about the containment of radioactive tailings for him to vote to end the moratorium.

Smith said, "If I'm the guy building that [containment] liner and paying for that liner, I don't want to spend any more than I have to. If I'm the neighbor, I want it really thick. I think that [environmental regulation] needs to be decided first, then bring it to us and we will vote."

Saslaw's comments showed a callous, self-serving, short-sighted disregard for Virginia and for the public health of its citizens. The fact that he and his family don't live near the proposed uranium mine should have nothing to do with such an important decision. If I've ever seen a DINO who needs to have a primary opponent, it's Dick Saslaw. According to VPAP, the industries that donated the most to Saslaw's re-election in 2011 were energy and natural resources. I think I smell a connection.

At the very least, the regulations that will govern such mining, as well as the specific details of any mining operation and how environmental regulation would be paid for, should be spelled out before any vote to go forward with mining.  

“Modern Mining for [Uranium] Inevitably Pollutes Water.”

The above quote is from a story produced by the highly-regarded, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalistic organization, ProPublica.  It caught my eye because this is the exact opposite of what we are being told by the lobbyists of Virginia Uranium Inc. and the Republicans snuggled in bed with them -- for example, Sen. John Watkins, who recently said: "Uranium mining is done safely around the world, and Virginia is capable of mining it safely, too," he said.

Really?  So listen to the story of Christensen Ranch in dry-as-dust Wyoming.  It sounds a lot like the movie Gasland's story of groundwater contamination from natural gas fracking that has shocked so many:

As dry as this land may be, underground, vast reservoirs hold billions of gallons of water suitable for drinking [...] Yet every day injection wells pump more than 200,000 gallons of toxic and radioactive waste from uranium mining into Christensen's aquifers.

It gets worse:  

Keep the Ban: Will McDonnell Draw Up Uranium Mining Rules Behind...

An update from KeepTheBan.org:
Thanks to you and your hard work, the uranium industry did not have the votes in the General Assembly to introduce a bill to lift the ban. On January 19th, Gov. McDonnell was forced to concede that a report from the National Academy of Sciences identified "important questions related to the health and safety of workers, the public, and the environment." As a result, the ban will stay in place for 2012.  

At the same time, however, Gov. McDonnell directed Virginia's health, mining and environmental agencies to draft "conceptual regulations"  for the General Assembly to consider in 2013. Governor McDonnell's directive to create a draft statute and regulations, behind closed doors, is the first step toward lifting the ban.

The uranium industry has yet to show the citizens of Virginia that uranium mining can be done safely, and our legislators have not answered the fundamental public policy question: does Virginia want to take on the long-term economic and public health burden of mining uranium and storing millions of tons of toxic waste in our state?

Sign the petition to keep Virginia's 30-year-old uranium mining ban in place and "like" Keep The Ban on Facebook to get the latest news.

Surprise: Study from Energy Industry-Packed Commission Presented as Pro-Uranium Mining

As the Virginia General Assembly considers a mining company's request to lift the state's longtime moratorium on digging up radioactive uranium, a new study is making some big claims about economic impacts. But considering the commission that requested the study, should we be surprised the study puts questionable jobs claims first and buries ominous warnings further down?

The report was produced by Chmura Economics & Analytics for the Virginia Coal & Energy Commission. As Bacon's Rebellion blogger Peter Galuszka first pointed out, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) is so terrified of the possibility of any dissent on the Coal & Energy Commission, he didn't appoint a single representative from conservation groups or from activist groups in Virginia's Southside, where the proposed uranium mining would take place. Stacking the deck doesn't even begin to describe McDonnell's appointees:

  • Barbara Altizer, president & executive director of the Eastern Coal Council
  • Jodi Gidley, president of Virginia Natural Gas
  • Ken Hutcheson, former GOP strategist and president of Virginia Alternative and Renewable Energy Association, whose main mission seems to be to help Gov. McDonnell and the Virginia Petroleum Council greenwash
  • James K. Martin, senior vice president for Dominion Power
  • John Matney, president of the Harbor Company & president of the coal mining Stearns Company
  • Donald L. Ratliff, vice president for coal mining Alpha Natural Resources, LLC
  • Rhonnie Smith, retired from nuclear reactor maker B&W
When reporting to a commission like that, it's no wonder Chmura made sure to highlight the positives and downplay the potentially disastrous negatives:

Virginia Uranium Inc: Good Land Stewards?

Here's a fabulously preposterous line from a full page ad released in the Danville Register and Bee on 9/28/2011 by Virginia Uranium Inc.:

For our company, stewardship of the land is more than a corporate principle; it is a deeply ingrained way of life that has sustained six generations of farmers, each striving to pass on this land in a better condition than they found it.

Better condition than they found it? How exactly do you dig up tremendous swaths of land and uranium ore and expect to leave the land "in a better condition?" Virginians in particular, and Americans in general, have seen this marketing game played before by natural resource pillagers, claiming on the one hand ideas of stewardship, intergenerational justice, and corporate social responsibility while kowtowing to the scriptures of capitalism. In effect, the consequence of the latter is a complete negation of the former, the complete dismissal of public-faced claims of stewardship.

Virginians should not and do not buy the land stewardship argument because it assumes that companies like Virginia Uranium Inc. will be willing and able to spend millions of dollars and years of time  to clean up the environmental mess that it will inevitably leave behind. How many mining companies have been such rigorous stewards of the land? No, fellow Virginians, let's not be fooled by this lofty rhetoric. Let's turn our attention to renewable sources of energy, not deadly ones.  

Gasp! France Questions Nuclear Energy!

Last month I asked a simple, market-based question about the rush to develop a uranium mine in Pittsylvania County. Why the rush when much of the world is questioning whether to invest further in an energy technology so fraught with the possibility of catastrophic accidents? Where will the market be for that additional uranium production? I noted then that Italy is extending its moratorium on nuclear plants, Germany is phasing out all of its plants. Even China has suspended its plans to build 28 new nuclear reactors. Now, there's yet another big question mark for nuclear power on the horizon.

In France, a country that derives over 75% of its electricity from nuclear sources, whether to phase out nuclear power has become an issue in its upcoming 2012 presidential election. The conservative UMP party wants to expand nuclear power generation, while the opposition Socialist Party has called for having no new nuclear reactors, as well a national debate on transition to other forms of energy. A Reuters poll in France recently showed 75% of French respondents wanted the nation to phase out nuclear power, with only 22% favoring an increase in nuclear plants. I'll bet my bottom dollar that the Virginia legislators who were wined and dined in Paris by their Virginia Uranium handlers weren't told about that controversy going on in France.

If that wasn't enough to throw the viability of more uranium mining into question, now Japan is under pressure from its population to phase out nuclear power generation after the Fukushima disaster. Besides that, there are some promising technologies that can produce clean energy on a large scale. One is thermal solar power plants that use molten salt heat storage.

Virginia Uranium treats VA legislators to 3-day vacation in France

Over a dozen of Virginia's legislators were coddled by Virginia Uranium Inc. during a three day paid vacation in France (See here)

In between site-seeing missions in Paris, our elected representatives found time to survey AREVA's facilities, home to what is supposedly a successful example of a uranium mining operation.

What you probably won't hear about AREVA and its facilities are the less-than-stellar details that are usually withheld from the public eye.

According to a report by CRIIRAD in France (a nonprofit research commission on radioactivity in France), what was once COGEMA (now AREVA) used no radiation limit for scrap metal recycling prior to 1999. This appears to be one of many lapses in safety procedures by AREVA.

The report, called the "Radiological Hazards of Uranium Mining," also found that "all the French uranium mines where it made radiological surveys, the CRIIRAD laboratory discovered situations of environmental contamination and a lack of proper protection of the inhabitants against health risks due to ionizing radiation."

If this makes you think twice about uranium mining in southern Virginia, you're not alone.

Virtually every claim made by Virginia Uranium Inc. (VUI) about the safety of uranium mining has been debunked and until VUI can produce objective and verifiable evidence to prove their claims, it would be no less than an absolutely immoral endeavor to move forward with uranium mining in southern Virginia.

Besides the effects to human and environmental health, the issue is also one of political power. If uranium mining succeeds in Virginia it will be the Republican Party of Virginia that ultimately comes out with a new powerful political ally and campaign contributor, a political ally and campaign contributor whose interests are not in line with those of the rest of Virginia.

Virginians of every political persuasion, therefore, must be on the side of "Keep the Ban." The consequences of lifting the ban on uranium mining could quite possibly lead to one of the biggest disasters in Virginia's storied history.  

“Containment Vessel, We Don’t Need No Stinking Containment Vessel!”

Cross-posted from www.articlexi.com

Question:  What's worse than lifting the ban on a radioactive industry in Virginia?

Answer:  Lifting the ban on the radioactive industry if they have no plan to contain the radioactive waste their industry produces.

I know it may seem crazy but, that's the scenario that could play out if Virginia were to lift a near 30-year ban on uranium mining during the 2012 legislative session.  According to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests which uncovered emails between Walter Coles, Sr of Virginia Uranium, Inc. and Peter Pommerenk, Ph.D who works for the city of Virginia Beach.

Virginia Uranium, Inc. is pushing to have Virginia's existing ban on uranium mining lifted and has a 2012 legislative session target date for achieving this goal.  In the meantime, the National Academies of Sciences, Danville Regional Foundation, Chmura Analytics and the city of Virginia Beach are studying the effects uranium mining would have on portions of the state.

The key word here is "portions." The Virginia Beach study is looking at downstream impacts of uranium mining on the water supply while the other studies are all studying the impacts on Southside Virginia.  It's from Virginia Beach's efforts to study the safety of uranium mining that these emails originated.