Wednesday, October 21, 2020
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Mining the Potential for Disaster

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The benefits of uranium mining in Virginia, sure, there are some. There are also benefits to undergoing chemotherapy, but you don't want to reach the point where you have to harm your body with radiation to sustain yourself! That is, there are viable alternatives to uranium mining in Virginia like wind energy, solar power, geothermal, and biomass that don't pack the harmful punch that uranium mining does.

If extracting radioactive materials out of the ground for energy use sounds like a frightening idea, that's because it is. But let's look beyond the "scary" factor of uranium mining. Even if uranium mining were relatively safe, there is no guarantee that Virginia and its residents will reap many of the benefits stemming from its extraction, refinement, and sale.

Indeed, the most certain aspect of uranium mining, judging from case studies of uranium mines across the country, is that they will leave a harmful environmental impact long after their final use. And given the sobering fact that Virginia is inexperienced in the process of uranium mining regulation, permit granting, and the like, it's most logical to conclude that this consequence may stand all the more chance of occurring.

Virginia Uranium Inc. has made a lot of claims about how "safe" their own operations will be as well as the benefits that their enterprise will bring to Virginia and in particular the economically stagnant areas of southern Virginia. But what if their operations don't turn out to be so safe if they are able to mine for uranium in VA? What will become of Pittsylvania County's residents or the public drinking water of Virginia Beach? Who actually knows that under EPA regulations, Virginia Uranium Inc. would be able to discharge wastewater consummate with the difference in average rainfall versus evaporation?

All of these questions, and many more, remain unanswered. The numbing silence is reflective of VUI's own blindness to anything but the benefits of mining for uranium in VA. Ultimately, once all of the facts have been laid out for the public, it should be those individuals who will be most directly affected by uranium mining who should be able to decide what course of action to pursue.  

Mining for Virginia’s soul

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Cross posted from Article XI

Not far beneath the surface of a relatively small patch of land in Pittsylvania County in southern Virginia lies the front line over a battle for Virginia's future and its sense of identity. Searching Virginia's past, back as far as the first days of the Jamestown settlement, Virginian's found ways to live in relative harmony with their environment. They respected the natural world and in later periods numerous Virginia landowners would become rich from the soils of Virginia. The Founding Fathers, landowners whose wealth was owed primarily to rich tobacco crops, repeatedly stressed "mans" relationship to nature.

But the years, it seems, have swept away any vestiges of that symbiotic relationship that was once an ideal of many Virginians. Today, Virginians face the real threat of uranium mining. If the ban were to be lifted, another blow to the relationship between Virginians and their natural environment would result, a consequence whose value cannot be monetized.

More and more, some Virginian's appear to look at the natural world principally as a place to make a profit and not a symbol of what it means to be a Virginian. Making a profit through nature and revering nature are not, I should emphasize, mutually exclusive. But making a profit through nature by extracting radioactive elements from beneath the soil to be used in a nuclear reactor that produces waste with no foreseeable home for storage is, by any definition, a dispirited and unhealthy relationship.  

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

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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.