Uranium Mining Hotly Contested in General Assembly


RICHMOND Pittsylvania County formally was named in a senate bill amendment as the site where a study assessing the risks and benefits of developing uranium resources will take place.

The debate over the controversial issue of uranium mining picked up steam again at Thursdays meeting of the six-member Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Subcommittee meeting. Proposed amendments to Senate Bill 525, sponsored by Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, would allow state-wide uranium mining studies. The studies would be conducted to determine potential areas for uranium mining across the state.

High financial costs and environmental safety concerns prompted Virginia to ban uranium mining 20 years ago, but the need for alternative fuel sources has sparked renewed interest. Opponents of uranium mining cite potential ecological threats and say the effects the mining process could have on a region are unclear. 

Sen. Frank M. Ruff, R-Clarksville, said the amendments will aid in moving the bill forward.

It became apparent that everyone looked out for themselves, Ruff said. If it wasnt going to affect their area, then it was good policy. 

Residents of Pittsylvania County and surrounding areas remain skeptical of the commonwealths role in the process.

Jack Dunavant, chairman of the Southside Concerned Citizens in Halifax County, said no action should be taken at this time.

Has the commonwealth done a study for any other industry? Dunavant asked committee members. Let them (the uranium mining industry) do a study and bring it back to the commonwealth. This is being rammed down our throats and we dont like it, 

The amendments allow Pittsylvania to have two representatives on the committee, giving the county adequate representation. The amended bill provides for The National Academy of Sciences to be the only organization permitted to perform the uranium mining study. The original bill provided for an organization other than the NAS to perform the study if necessary.

I was not comfortable with that (the other organizations) and felt that was a roost to be able to bring in a lesser group, Ruff said.

Even with the bills changes, Ruff said he is not satisfied.

Even though the bill is in better shape, I dont think it looks out for the interests of my district, Ruff said. I voted against it then and Ill vote against it again in the committee.