Friday, July 1, 2011

Packed House for KeepTheBan.org Uranium Mining Event in Arlington

KeepTheBan.org Meeting in Arlington, VAI went to an information session on uranium mining last night at the Arlington Central Library hosted by KeepTheBan.org. You can read up on the many reasons the 30-year ongoing uranium mining ban Virginia has been such an important protection for Virginians on their website. But here were the key takeaways for me:
  • The biggest risk from uranium mining is that a catastrophic flood would wash radioactive mine waste downstream. The proposed Coles Hill mine site is in a FEMA-designated flood zone and upstream from four drinking water intakes. How this is even a question for anyone in Richmond, I do not understand. 
  • The Coles Hill Site alone would generate at least 28 million tons of waste. Exposure to uranium waste has been linked to increases in leukemia, kidney disease and other severe health problems.
  • If mining does take place, it would have no impact on Virginia electricity rates. The uranium "yellow cake" won't even be processed into nuclear fuel rods here in Virginia - it'll be shipped out of state, then sold on the international uranium market. (Much like offshore drilling would have no impact on gas prices in Virginia or anywhere else.)
  • Think this isn't an issue where you live? The Virginia General Assembly & Gov. Bob McDonnell can't just repeal the ban for one site - they'd have to lift it for the entire state. There are also uranium deposits in the Occoquan River and Rappahannock River watersheds. If the ban is lifted, communities all over the state could be at risk.
  • Uranium investors claim the site will host 350 to 400 jobs, but KeepTheBan.org reports they looked the 9 active uranium mine sites they found in the US and saw only about 400 jobs total. "I'm all for jobs, so why are we talking about uranium mining that could scare off other employers? Why aren't we talking about trying to lure something like an auto manufacturing plant would create not just a few hundred jobs but thousands of jobs?" asked Nathan Lott, executive director of the Virginia Conservation Network.
  • The price of uranium has wildly fluctuated in recent years. If the price plummets, the site could shut down, leaving none of the jobs and plenty of radioactive waste. 
  • An audience member reported Virginia Uranium is telling people it's not true that there are no active uranium mines east of the Mississippi River, that small amounts of uranium are found in conjunction with phosphorous mining in Alabama & Florida. "If Alabama is so representative of uranium mining, why aren't they flying legislators there instead of France?" asked Nathan Lott, executive director of the Virginia Conservation Network.
It was impressive to see how many legislators and candidates turned out - Delegates Bob Brink, David Englin, Charniele Herring, Patrick Hope & Ken Plum and State Senator Janet Howell, along with candidates Jaime Areizaga-Soto, Kevin Chisholm, Audrey Clement, Stephanie Clifford, Libby Garvey & Alfonso Lopez.

I know how important knocking on doors is, so it's hard to fault people like Adam Ebbin, Barbara Favola, Rob Krupicka & Caren Merrick for not attending, but ... what about Del. Jim Scott and State Sen. Dick Saslaw, who are in safe districts? Was disappointing to see them miss the only KeepTheBan.org workshop in Northern Virginia this summer. (There will also be workshops in Roanoke on July 19 and in Harrisonburg on July 21.)

If you want to keep Virginia's uranium mining ban in place, you need to take action now. Sign the petition at KeepTheBan.org and "like" them on Facebook to get more updates.

Both Del. Englin & Del. Plum visited a former uranium mine in France organized by Virginia Uranium. Del. Englin's trip to France was paid in full by Virginia Uranium, while Del. Plum paid his own way.

Here's Del. Englin's take on the trip:



And here's Del. Plum:



When I returned home after the meeting, I found this postcard in my mailbox from Del. Englin:
Del. David Englin's Postcard from France
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