Maintain The Ban On Uranium Mining; Don't Touch Pandora's Box

Published 1:55 pm Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Commonwealth of Virginia has maintained a ban on uranium mining for several decades and no argument has been dug up to justify lifting that ban.

Keep the ban on uranium mining and milling in place.

There must be more than a compelling argument to lift the ban.

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There must be answers.

Not opinions.

Answers to every question related to health and the environment and each one of those answers must be factual, provable, and prove there would be no negative impact on health or the environment.

Those answers are unlikely to appear in sufficient number to persuade us the ban on uranium mining should be lifted.

These concerns, by the way, are shared by Republicans and Democrats, alike, and are not simply slogans on a banner being waved by the “green” community. Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling recently came out with a firm public statement calling for the ban on uranium mining to be maintained. “Even though two well respected organizations have completed reviews of the efficacy of removing the ban on uranium mining and milling, I believe there are still too many unanswered questions regarding the potential impact that an incident at the mine might have on the environment and, subsequently, citizens in southern Virginia and beyond. Given these legitimate environmental concerns, I believe the ban on uranium mining should be maintained,” the longtime Republican said.

Nor is the movement against lifting the ban coming just from regions of the state that would not benefit economically from operation of a uranium mine. The Danville/Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce opposes lifting the ban, too, and those communities would see a wealth of jobs created and many positive economic ripples spread through the community from a uranium mining and milling operation.

Prince Edward County's representative in the House of Delegates, James Edmunds II, of Halifax, is vigorously opposed to lifting the ban on uranium mining and milling and he is far from alone among the region's political leaders.

Del. Edmunds has addressed several reports on the issue, one by the National Academy of Sciences, saying, “It is notable that even assuming best practices and best technology and extensive regulation, the reports detail serious consequences to human health and the environment that can be expected (the emphasis is his own). It is not difficult to conclude the Academy is sending clear warning signals that mining and processing uranium in a wet climate subject to flooding and extreme weather events in a densely populated area is a very, very bad idea.”

As Mr. Bolling noted, “if political and business leaders in the region that could benefit most from uranium mining believe the ban should stay in place, politicians in Richmond should not lift the ban against their wishes.”

The proponents of lifting the ban have only arguments and opinions when it comes to answering questions about potential impacts on health and the environment should something occur that was unforeseen or through human error. And even the most well-intentioned and conscientious person, being human, is still susceptible to mistakes that lead to accidents. Unfortunately, the magnitude and multitude of consequences from an accident or mistake involving uranium getting into the environment don't allow us to make allowances for even one accident to occur. The line isn't thin. That line doesn't exist. We must, therefore, maintain the fortress that is Virginia's ban against uranium mining and milling.

The potential impact of natural storms and disasters on uranium mining and the ensuing health and environmental threats cannot be argued away. Just ask the nation of Japan and its people, who thought their nuclear reactors were safe from earthquakes and tsunamis. The radiation from Japan is still finding its way around the world, so don't try and convince us that a uranium mining disaster in Pittsylvania County would not know where we live, too.

We must protect ourselves and the environment we share with every living thing, for this generation and the generations to come.

A General Assembly study panel voted this week in favor of lifting the ban in one county, Pittsylvania, thinking that an appropriate compromise. Not good. Inappropriate. Environmental impacts and disasters know no county lines.

The money to be made off uranium mining just doesn't fit the lock to the fortress of our ban.

Don't touch that ban.

Not a finger on Pandora's Box.