The question as to whether Virginia should allow uranium mining in Pittsylvania County has taken a back seat to more pressing stuff lately: power outages, mandatory pre-abortion ultrasounds and guaranteed profits for gas and electric companies.
But the uranium mining issue is about to arise again here in Roanoke in a couple of weeks. Rupert Cutler, a former city councilman, federal cabinet undersecretary and ardent conservationist, has organized a symposium here in town on the subject.
The day-long event is July 27 at Virginia Western Community College and is open to the public (registration is $25). If you’re in town then you should consider attending.
There are two basic questions. One is, can uranium mining and milling be done safely in the Roanoke River watershed, which empties into North Carolina’s Lake Gaston (and ultimately Albermarle and Pamlico sounds), and serves as a key water supply for Virginia Beach and five military bases?
The other depends on the answer to that first question. Should the Virginia General Assembly lift its 30-year-old moratorium on uranium mining? That’s going to be a huge issue in the 2013 legislative session. Enormous political pressure has been brought on the state legislature to do just that.
Cutler, who opposes uranium mining here, has lined up experts from Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University, Hollins University, Carilion and elsewhere. Some support the project and others have grave doubts about it.
“All of the public meetings held to date on uranium mining in Virginia that I’m aware of have had speakers that represented regulatory agencies, who without exception say, ‘trust us’ we will use best practices to avoid the kind of pollution associated with uranium mines and mills elsewhere,” Cutler said.
“The speakers at our forum quite different. They are scientists, doctors and other experts on the subject matter,” Cutler added. “This is not a rally to demonstrate for or again uranium mining, but rather an opportunity to learn the facts as scientists from several disciplines know them.”
It would be nice to think their efforts could make a real difference regarding the answer to the second question. But there are plenty of reasons for cynical observers to believe uranium mining in Pittsylvania is pretty much a done deal.
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