The Virginia Uranium Working Group held its final public meeting before turning their report in to the Governor on November 27, 2012. The meeting was held in a modest sized room at the Virginia Science Museum in a room where the photos on the wall celebrated Virginia’s railway heritage. One of the two large photos on the front wall depicted a smoke belching steam engine; in one of those head slapping moments, I now wish I had pointed to the photo during my brief comment towards the end of the evening.
There was a crowd large enough to fill the room to overflowing. However, as one of the speakers pointed out, that meant that attendance was approximately 200 people at a meeting held in a city with a population of 200,000 in state with a population that exceeds 8,000,000. One man proudly delivered a packet of 16,000 signed petitions gathered in churches, at farmer’s markets, and at affinity group meetings. Again, please remember the context – that is 16,000 signed petitions in a state with 8,000,000 energy consuming residents.
The groups who have been organizing during the past couple of years to oppose any action to lift the current moratorium on uranium mining were well represented. They were easy to pick out; most of them were sporting day glow green tee shirts with the words “Keep the Ban” emblazoned on the front. Many of them were carrying printed signs with city names on them. During the comment period, some of them claimed to be the representative of the city on their sign – one grey beard wearing a cowboy hat and blue jeans claimed to be the unofficial representative of the city of Norfolk.
I spent some time talking to that particular member of the group opposing uranium mining. He had quite a litany of talking points ranging from “what do you do with the waste” to “uranium prices are falling, what happens if the mine goes out of business” to “what about the Navajos and their health problems from uranium mining?”
He got quite flustered as I explained that used nuclear fuel could be recycled – he told me he did not just fall off of a turnip truck but he had never heard that it was possible to recycle used nuclear fuel. He wondered why it was not being done; my response about the fact that it is being done in France but that the industry had been shutdown by presidential decree in the US caused a little consternation. I also pointed out that 70,000 tons is not a lot of material; it could fit on a single football field without covering the goal posts.
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