Monday, April 13, 2009

The Politics of Uranium Mining

Last week, the Richmond Times-Dispatch discussed the politics of uranium mining. According to the article, the arguments for the proposed mining include:
Mining promotes energy independence. It could hold down electric rates. It complements existing nuclear design and construction operations in Lynchburg and Newport News.

Mining is potentially hugely profitable, and, by extension, a potent source of local and state tax revenue. A mine would generate jobs in a region rapidly losing them to the collapse of manufacturing.
While these are all attractive arguments, given the high Southside unemployment rates and our dependence on fossil fuels, but the possible effect to the health and welfare of Virginians is of utmost importance.


Linda said...

It isn't just the mine itself. The drilling is opening a Pandora's Box. No one knows how the fracture trends run, and if they do, they aren't talking.

My question is this: If the vein is that huge and that valuable, why haven't larger mining firms nudged in a bid or two? Why are they staying away?

Drew said...

Great question. Admittedly, my only knowledge on the potential mine is what I see in newspapers. Here, you are more well-versed than I.

CWPNRG? said...

Drew et al:

If it were proven (and by proven, I mean as sure as we can possibly be) to be safe, would you guys support it?

Drew said...

CWP, if the study was completely neutral, free from political and business interests, and the study showed that it does not effect the health and welfare (the the greatest certainty possible) of Southsiders and those downstream ... then, job creation in the Southside is a good thing. But there are tons of qualifiers there.

I defer, here, to the wisdom of Linda, who seems more astute and knowledgable than I.

Linda said...

CWPNRG - The problem here is the drilling to learn about the safety. Geologists, hydrogeologists and more (if they are honest) will tell you that drilling is part of the "discovery" effort - this is how scientists learn about fracture trends. These trends tell scientists where the water is located and how it flows. In the process, minerals, metals and more are dislodged, including lead, uranium and more.

There is no way to completely seal a hole once it is drilled. The damage has been done, as the drilling becomes part of the earth's infrastructure. That hole has, for all intents and purposes, become part of the surrounding landscape. It may or may not affect surrounding residents, but you might ask some folks in Colorado, Nevada and Utah about how drilling has effected local residences. Some areas now are uninhabitable because of radiation leakage.

But, holes already have been drilled in the area, I believe in the 1970s. Now, the question is this: Why aren't studies from that drilling exercise being used to determine mining safety?

Once again - I'll go back to the same question I posed previously: If the vein is that huge and that valuable, why haven't larger mining firms nudged in a bid or two? Why are they staying away?