Cross posted from Article XI
Who needs Sarah Palin when Virginia has its very own proponents of "Drill, baby, drill" in the form of Jim Webb and Mark Warner? Notwithstanding the fact that drilling today wouldn't start producing benefits for some time to come, the tendency to concentrate on fossil fuels distracts our political representatives from seeing the bigger picture: renewable forms of energy are the future. The argument often follows, among others, that renewable forms of energy aren't economical enough at present. If we take this claim to be true for the moment, it might well be because government subsidies have gone to environmentally devastating forms of energy like the fossil fuels instead of renewable forms of energy (as if Big Oil and Big Coal and Big Gas needed more money).
I can't think of one form of energy that's in widespread use right now that has not received some form of government subsidy to "get the ball rolling." But the tepid investments in energy sources like wind and solar are simply not enough to bring these renewables to scale in a timely fashion. It is as if there are some special interests who are opposed to the widespread use of renewable forms of energy in America!
Of course, there are such groups in America, groups who would rather poison the American people and exterminate the natural world as we know it (or used to know it) for a profit. But my concern isn't simply that of someone who loves the natural world intrinsically. It is a practical argument that takes into account the harmful economic consequences that environmental devastation has had, is having, and will have in the future for America, a form of devastation that has been fueled (sorry for the pun) by nonrenewable forms of energy.
Still we wait and hope for the best. Maybe our rational and scientific minds will find the magical solution to this dilemma. Maybe the "American spirit" will figure out an ingenious method to pour more poison into our rivers and atmosphere without the environmental and human health repercussions. That might be what Senators Warner and Webb think; otherwise their actions bear little rational justification.
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.
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.