On the day that an earthquake struck Virginia, as the region prepared for a hurricane, representatives of Virginia Uranium found themselves addressing the City Council of Virginia Beach, to explain why containment pits of radioactive mine tailings upstream would not pose a danger to the city’s water supply.
The timing of that meeting could have gone better for them. Still, they asserted that they’ll be able to mine uranium safely in Virginia. It’s a tall order—considering that the piles of hazardous mine wastes would cover hundreds of acres.
And that the waste remains radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. And that mine wastes have contaminated groundwater at almost every uranium mine site in the U.S.—in spite of the fact that uranium has only been mined in arid climates where there is less precipitation to dissolve and carry the toxic wastes. And that Virginia is home to some of the heaviest rainfall events on record anywhere in the nation.
Considering Virginia’s wet climate and intense storms, PEC President Chris Miller says, “Flooding and storm water discharge of radioactive material is a probability, not a possibility.”
If the Virginia General Assembly lifts the state’s 30-year ban on uranium mining, it would expose communities throughout the state to unprecedented risk—including Piedmont communities, since uranium deposits can be found in Orange, Culpeper, Fauquier and Madison.
A study of the health and environmental risks of uranium mining, commissioned by the state, is expected to be released this December. But Virginia Uranium isn’t waiting for the results. The company has made clear that it intends to push for an end to the ban in the next General Assembly session, which starts in January—less than one month after the highly technical study is released.
Already, Virginia Uranium has been spending fortunes on ad campaigns and lobbyists. They also offered to send every single member of the Virginia legislature on $10,000 trips to France this summer—to include a tour of a mine site, led by themselves. Twelve legislators accepted the junket.
Money shouldn’t factor into a decision that could change whether people in Virginia can safely drink the water, but it does. Virginia Senator Frank Wagner, a leading proponent of uranium mining, made that clear when he bluntly told a group of students, “If this guy gives me money and that one doesn’t, who do you think I’m going to talk to? … I don’t care what the one thinks or wants who didn’t give me money.” (Source: www.SoVaNow.com, “Senator for Sale,” June 8, 2011).
So get ready. This year, citizens are going to have to push hard to keep money-flush Virginia Uranium from wreaking havoc on our our water, our health, and our future.
Learn more about potentail uranium mining (should be link to uranium page in PEC’s site) in Virginia.