The Only Guarantee Against A Uranium Mining Disaster Is Not To Mine Uranium

Published 3:04 pm Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Uranium mining will have another glow-in-dark haunting of the General Assembly in January as supporters try to nuke resistance and see the ban lifted in the Commonwealth of Virginia. They speak with seeming assurance about the safety of uranium mining. No doubt proponents of nuclear power in Japan spoke with equal confidence as they successfully overcame resistance.

Two years after the 2011 tsunami and earthquake, however, Japan continues to wrestle with radioactive demons leaking into the world, theirs and ours, from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant, despite the don’t-worry-be-happy stance of nuclear power supporters that nothing could ever go seriously wrong with nuclear plants of such sophistication.

Just as advocates of uranium mining in Virginia seem plugged into Pollyanna electrical outlets.

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Pittsylvania County, far too close for our comfort, has been targeted as the community in which uranium mining would be permitted, if proponents get their way. Our 60th District House of Delegates member, James Edmunds, is staunchly not among their number, fighting tirelessly to keep the ban in place.

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.”

All of us should consider the continued struggles faced by Japan when evaluating to lift or not to lift Virginia’s ban on uranium mining. The Associated Press reported last month that the Japanese government will take “’firm measures’ to combat leaks of radioactive water at the country’s crippled nuclear plant, including possibly funding a multi-billion-dollar project to fix the problem.

“The announcement,” the AP reported, “came a day after the operator of the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi plant said some of the water was seeping over or around an underground barrier it created by injecting chemicals into the soil that solidified into a wall.

“’There is heightened concern among the public, particularly about the contamination water problem,’ Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said…during a government nuclear disaster response meeting at his office,” the AP story stated.

One doubts that the words “nuclear disaster response meeting” figured very prominently in the campaign verbiage of those who supported Japan’s embrace of nuclear power. Just as supporters of uranium mining avoid such phrases in their own campaign stumping.

Prime Minister Abe said, “This is an urgent matter that needs to be addressed…The government will step in to take firm measures.”

Virginia’s government should take its cue from Japan’s prime minister and take firm measures to ensure uranium mining never occurs in the commonwealth. There is no possibility that any professed guarantee that a uranium mining disaster could ever happen would actually represent a literal guarantee. Foreseen disasters and human errors cannot be sufficiently guarded against to fulfill any promise of 100 percent safety. Unforeseen circumstances take the possibility of iron-clad safety deeper into the realm of impossibility.

Like Japan, we have our own urgent matter to address—maintaining the ban on digging up uranium.

One thing is certain: an ounce of radioactive-free prevention is worth a pound of radioactive cure.

If we do not mine uranium, there can never be a uranium mining disaster in the state of Virginia.

That, and that only, is guaranteed.