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When there is doubt, don't lift the ban
Bill Speiden's op-ed column on uranium mining in Virginia: When in doubt, don't.

Date published: 1/18/2013


--My family and I have farmed in Orange County for 76 years. I owned the most radioactive site in northern Virginia according to the industry's syntilometer tests when the uranium interests came to lease my land in Orange County for mining and milling in 1979. Despite riches promised, a visit to Colorado and Utah mines and mills convinced us it was not worth the risk to our land and our neighbors downwind and downstream.

On Jan. 7, the Uranium Working Group, the governor-appointed subcommittee of the Coal and Energy Commission, recommended an outline for developing a set of regulations for mining and milling of uranium in Virginia. The cost to the taxpayers will be well over $1 million this year alone. Sen. John Watkins has proposed a bill to lift the 30-year moratorium on mining and milling uranium.

The credentials of the UWG are questionable as they ignored a number of serious threats to the health, welfare, and safety to residents of Virginia:

"New" technology for storing tailings "below grade" overlooks the fact that our groundwater is below grade. Where is the technology involving the storage and security during the years before returning them to the mine innards? The tailings will be of greater volume, being ground up, than they were when removed, and 99.5 percent of the ore is retained as tailings. Millions of tons of tailings (toothpaste) will be put back (into the tube).

Why is the advice of professional hydrologists ignored about the water contamination threats?

Our research shows that tailings pit liners can last for maximum of 200 years. These tailings are reported to remain radioactive for well over 100,000 years. Our future safety is not a concern?

Economists tell us of negative effects on land values, reduced tourist trade, and boom/bust cycles of mining giving communities the associated headaches.

Escrow funds set aside for decommissioning, damage repair from devastating environmental impacts, and perpetual care are rarely, if ever, adequate. Witness Superfund sites and decommissioning costs borne by the taxpayers for hundreds of millions in stabilizing numerous radioactive sites.

Climate events--hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, and our annual 40-plus inches of rain--make Virginia vulnerable in a dangerous experiment affecting the health, safety, and welfare of millions of our residents for the profit of a few.

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