Governor mum on lifting Virginia uranium ban

Times Dispatch reports that Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is not taking a position on whether a 30-year-old ban on uranium mining should be lifted.

The governor was expected to make a recommendation to the General Assembly after being passed the findings of a study group investigating the safety of uranium mining.

The state has upheld a ban on uranium mining since 1982, but the ban is being reconsidered in light of a proposal by Virginia Uranium Mining  to extract 119 million pounds of the nuclear fuel from what would be the world’s seventh-largest uranium deposit.

According to a Bloomberg story last fall, the main environmental argument against the mine is that it is located in an area “subject to hurricanes and drenching rains” which could wash radioactive tailings downstream and impact local water supplies. Opponents also question whether Virginia has the resources to oversee uranium mining.

Virginia Uranium says on its website that it will “employ technological best practices relating to tailings storage and water treatment, and exercise strict adherence to rules and regulations established by the Virginia Department of Mines Minerals and Energy.”

A National Academy of Sciences report on uranium mining concluded in December that Virginia must overcome “steep hurdles” before it can assure that a rich deposit of the radioactive ore can be safely extracted and processed. The study said a "muscular regulatory climate" would have to be in place to protect worker safety and the environment.

Photo of Gov. Bob McDonnell, is found on Wikimedia Commons and credited to Gage Skidmore.