Totally in charge, Virginia GOP ponders uranium mining


The headline news out of Virginia right now is that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Tea Party Republican, is on his way to running for governor. Mr. Cuccinelli is part of a Republican majority that has only grown stronger. After the November elections, the GOP now controls the governorship and (likely) both chambers of the state legislature. Progressives are bracing for the new GOP agenda.

On the wish list, apparently, is opening the state to uranium mining. The process of digging the gold of the nuclear industry out of the ground is a fraught proposition, with the potential for environmental degradation that starts with chemicals contaminating the ground water and goes all the way to radioactive tailings.

Yesterday a state-ordered study of a proposed uranium mine in Pittsylvania County predicted that the mine would add 1,000 jobs, $3.1 million in tax revenue and $135 million boost for the economy – over 35 years. Environmentalists citing the same study tell the Washington Post that if things go wrong, the project could end up costing Virginia taxpayers more than $6.6 billion.

What are clean air and clean water and the security of a non-irradiated future worth, anyway? Up top, a short documentary about the project that’s worth seeing, I think.

The mining company involved, Virginia Uranium, gave gifts to 140 members of the Virginia legislature last year, the WaPo reports. The top five giftees were Republican. For Virginia Uranium, the big hurdle is that the state hasn’t got the regulations needed for uranium mining, so the company can’t proceed. New rules are out for study by the National Academy of Sciences. Meanwhile, the politics play out. From D.C. Bureau:

“We’re not sitting still while the NAS study is going on. In January of 2012, we will have a bill in the state legislature that directs the Department of Mineral, Mines and Energy to develop the regulations of uranium mining.
When asked who would introduce the bill, Coles Jr. said, “We have a number of legislators who have offered.”

Bonus: Virginia Uranium posts a nice photo gallery of its bucolic holdings.