Front lines report – Virginia uranium mining meeting Nov 27, 2012

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.

Crowd at uranium working group public meeting

Crowd at uranium working group public meeting

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.

He really did not like my explanation of how early uranium miners worked under much less healthy conditions in unventilated mines where they often smoked heavily while underground – deeply ingesting an especially deadly mixture of tobacco smoke, uranium impregnated rock dust, radon, and silica. His response was, “So now you are blaming the victims?”

While waiting for the meeting to start, I engaged in several conversations with the people sitting nearby. One was a retired industrial hygienist who had actually designed some of the instruments used to measure radiation for baseline background studies of the area before the North Anna Nuclear Power station was built. He had a deep knowledge of the fact that radiation is ubiquitous but several experiences during his career had made him very cautious about any industrial use.

At one point he was called in as a consultant to help solve a problem with large batches of semiconductor chips that were mysteriously failing after having been rigorously tested. It turned out that the manufacturer had used a phosphorous ingredient from a source that contained a higher than average amount of either uranium or thorium. The occasional alpha particle emissions from the decay of that long lived material caused unpredictable transistor failure, especially as the chips became more and more densely packed.

I pointed out the fact that biological organisms evolved in a radioactive world and had something that no chip every had – cellular repair mechanisms. He was pretty firmly convinced, however, that those repair mechanisms were not dependable and that any effect from an internal alpha emitter was going to be negative for the individual, even if it might be good for the species as a whole.

Then I turned around to engage in a very pleasant conversation with a woman wearing a day glow tee shirt. She was actually quite curious about learning more about nuclear energy and uranium mining. It turned out that we shared some common history; we both had spent a lot of time in Charleston, SC during the time when the Navy still had a nuclear submarine base there. She also had a neighbor whose son was a nuclear submariner; she and her husband had been interviewed by the NCIS agents that performed his background check and she had heard from her neighbor about the submarine force’s high standards.

Her main concern about uranium mining was to ensure proper regulation and enforcement; I think she felt a lot better about the prospects for the safe operation of the mine after she learned about the way that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission provides oversight. She encouraged me to mention that during my comment. She also seemed to be swayed a bit by my description of the way that nuclear professionals are engrained with a safety culture that empowers even the lowest ranking person to report concerns and to have those concerns addressed with respect.

The people who supported nuclear energy were mostly recognizable by their suits, sports coats or the small stickers that were handed out in the lobby before the meeting.

I managed to stand out because I remembered to bring my dark green tee shirt with a small American Nuclear Society logo on the left front of the shirt and a large printed slogan on the back that remains one of my favorites: “Another Environmentalist for Nuclear Energy”. It covered my button-down shirt and dress slacks rather nicely; it also helped break down a few barriers.

Another Environmentalist for Nuclear energy

Another Environmentalist for Nuclear energy

Not only was the shirt a great conversation piece, but having the slogan on the back turned out to be fortuitous because the comment period was conceived as a chance to share our thoughts with the working group. The podium was thus set up so that speakers had their back to the crowd in order to speak into a fixed microphone. As luck would have it, the speaker immediately before me loosened the clamp enough so that the moderator had to spend a few minutes fixing it. That gave me plenty of time to show of my shirt to the audience.

Several people later approached me with the question “what kind of environmentalist are you if you support nuclear energy?” My answer generally included some or all of the following, depending on the reaction of the questioner.

“I am the kind of environmentalist who likes clean air, clean water and unspoiled vistas. I am the kind that believes that energy is necessary, and should be produced using the best available technology which requires the least amount of material and effort over its life. I am the kind of environmentalist who really likes an energy source that is clean enough to run inside a submarine.” Some of the people liked that response and stayed to talk for a while longer, others, mostly people in day glow green tee shirts scampered away from the facts as fast as they could.

Dr. Sama Bilbao y Leon from Virginia Commonwealth University was the last speaker. She is an old friend and the person who convinced me that Atomic Energy Insights needed to be a web publication. She even did the original HTML coding to make that happen – in November 1995. It was great to catch up with her after the meeting. It was also energizing to spend some time talking with the crowd of students that she encouraged to attend the meeting.

Though supporters were probably outnumbered by 2 or 3 to one at this particular meeting, I think we did a good job in sharing sound information about the high reward to risk ratio associated with mining the Coles Hill uranium deposit. That resource, large enough to add about 50% to the US’s current annual uranium production and to last for at least a full generation of employees, is located in the middle of a large tract of privately owned land. The deposit is in low population, slow-economy area of a state endowed with a high concentration of nuclear knowledge. Preventing its extraction would be a blow against freedom, property rights and energy abundance.

About Rod Adams

38 Responses to “Front lines report – Virginia uranium mining meeting Nov 27, 2012”

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  1. Simit Patel says:

    Isn’t there a cost issue with recycling? In that it is more expensive (in dollar terms) to recycle than it is to mine new uranium and process that?

    • Twominds says:

      In the US it’s a political issue.
      The short version is that the US high politicians thought that if the US wouldn’t reprocess, other countries wouldn’t either. It was meant to lower risk of proliferation of nuclear weapons. It didn’t work that way of course, and other countries didn’t let the US decision influence their own decisions on reprocessing or not. France reprocesses a lot, as does the UK and Japan.
      But not reprocessing is still the law in the US.

  2. Deborah Dix says:

    This is your job, your are paid by the nuclear industry

    Have you ever been to Kittery, Maine where across from the port where people build nuke subs, there is a Radiation Poison Clinic

    I know a lot of Navel people that have told me the Nuke subs and ships are radiating unsafe amount of radiation and informed me a lot of Navy personal have cancer, one guy was very high in rank

    I understand reprocessing of nuke fuel, very expensive, France was doing it but stop because of pollution and cost

    The Japanese are trying to reprocessing with the Rokkasho nuclear reprocessing facility , which I did visit during my stay in Japan, it has not been a complete failure plus it was hit by the 20 ft foot tsunami, backup did work, Thank goodness but had a hard time bring it back on line.

    I understand nuclear power, I understand reprocessing and I do not trust any business that Wall Street or Banks will not give you a loan because of cost.

    I think you are somewhat nicer than Andrea, she is a jerk…but you should not make comments like you can tell the difference between the people who have concerns about u mining by the way they dress but the nukes were wearing suits….I mean really…..

    Are the nuclear bunch helping the Japanese with their damage nuke plant, are Americans back in Japan working in the other Nuke plants, American nukes left Japan like a bunch of rats and have no clue how to stop the problems of Japan Nuclear accident?

    Have you read the Wright Environ. Reports, I have and it was very clear last nite most of the UWG people have not read the reports, the UWG whole purpose is to mine period.

    Listed below are articles about modern mining in America, mostly Utah problems which is an Agreement State with a Governor like VA, blow it up, sell it for taxes and heck with the people, I will send more info about problems with mining of the whole west.

    Oh, by the way I have been to CO, WY, Utah, when I was driving back from Park City, Utah, so cute, I could sort of see Salt Lake City in the haze, I could not breathe there, the water was awful and I ask the hotel mangaer what was wrong with the water, it said it came from mining. I went to CO Springs, have lunch order water, had to give it back, I ask the same question, they informed me a Gold mine has messed up the water. While in WY, could not drink the water and broke out in hives from talking a bath, you should see all the mines in the area near Green River……..So modern hardrock mining has problems that all the regulations or best practices will never work and uranium mining in VA will not work, we will be the Utah of the East.

    Thanks,

    Deb Dix

    Rain: A valuable resource
    Care to take a guess at how many gallons of water fall when 1 inch of rain falls on 1 acre of land?

    http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/earthrain.html

    US Magnesium loses pollution rule appeal
    Denver court upholds Utah’s “unavoidable breakdown rule.”
    By JUDY FAHYS
    | The Salt Lake Tribune
    First Published Aug 06 2012 12:21 pm • Last Updated Aug 06 2012 11:34 pm
    A court ruling Monday might finally end a years-long battle over air pollution mishaps at Utah industrial plants.
    The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver sided with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which had threatened to take over part of Utah’s air-quality program unless the state updated its so-called “unavoidable breakdown rule.”
    US Magnesium had asked the court to nix the new regulation for reporting unexpected pollution episodes at around 1,200 plants. The company said EPA hadn’t followed proper procedure, but the court disagreed
    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/politics/54641166-90/appeal-appeals-breakdown-court.html.csp

    Salt Lake City Makes the ALA’s Top 25 Most Polluted Cities List
    February 2nd, 2009
    Utah’s dangerous air pollution is now some of worst in the nation
    http://www.utahstories.com/utah_pollution.html

    Kennecott causes one-third of air pollution
    By Marion Klaus And Dan Mayhew
    Published February 29, 2012 1:01 am
    In a Feb. 17 op-ed for The Tribune, “Kennecott and inversions,” Kennecott senior environmental engineer Cassady Kristensen wrote that her job is to “implement solutions that help our community breathe cleaner air.” Apparently those “solutions” involve spinning the facts rather than actually cleaning the air.
    Kristensen depicts clean air advocates as making false claims that Rio Tinto/Kennecott is the primary source of inversion pollution. We’ve never made that claim. She created a straw man to advance an argument that RTK isn’t really much of a contributor to our pollution problem
    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/53600999-82/rtk-pollution-utah-mining.html.csp

    Utah Doctors Join the Occupy Movement
    Sunday, 22 January 2012 03:43 By Dr Brian Moench, Truthout | News Analysis

    Taking inspiration from the Occupy movement, in late December a group of doctors and environmental groups in Salt Lake City, Utah, announced a lawsuit against the third-largest mining corporation in the world, Rio Tinto, for violating the Clean Air Act in Utah. This is likely the first time ever that physicians have sued industry for harming public health.
    Last February, Forbes Magazine, hardly a cheerleader for excessive environmental protection, rated Salt Lake City as the ninth most toxic city in the country, and the biggest contributor to that ranking was the mining and smelting operations at the Bingham Canyon mine, run by London-based mining conglomerate Rio Tinto/Kennecott (RTK). (13)
    This is the world’s largest open-pit mine and has created the largest mining-related water pollution problem in the world. The mine is located on the western doorstep of Salt Lake City, home to 1.8 million people. There is no comparable juxtaposition of an enormous mining operation this close to such a large urban center. RTK’s mine and smelter operations account for 30 percent of the particulate matter emitted into the atmosphere over Salt Lake County (14), making it by far the largest source of industrial pollution in the urban areas of Utah.
    The smelting operations and fugitive dust from the 1,100-foot-high waste rock piles and tailings ponds are a constant source of highly toxic heavy metal contamination – lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium – to the air, water and soil of Utah’s largest city. The mining industry watchdog Earthworks states that before the most recently approved expansion, RTK was releasing 695 million pounds of toxic material into the Salt Lake City environment every year. (15) Because heavy metals do not degrade, are not combustible and cannot be destroyed, that heavy metal toxicity steadily increases year after year, as it has for the over 100 years of the mine’s operation. Despite this extreme burden on public health, predictably, the Utah Division of Air Quality recently issued a permit for RTK to expand their operations by 32 percent, which will make their pollution emissions even worse.
    13. http://www.forbes.com/2011/02/28/most-toxic-cities-personal-finance.html

    Utah mining corporation indicted for water pollution
    Wednesday, 10 September 2008 22:15

    by Sarah Haughn
    Circle of Blue
    Mining mogul Johnson Matthey, Inc. is pleading guilty to allegations that it conspired to cover up illegally high levels of the toxic mineral selenium in the industrial run-off of its silver and gold refining plant in Utah. The plant — operating in Salt Lake City since 1932 — refines precious metals. The wastewater produced during the refinement process requires intensive treatment in order to dispose of accumulated elements, like selenium. Selenium neighbors arsenic on the periodic table and is toxic when ingested in high concentrations.
    http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews/2008/world/north-america/utah-mining-corporation-indicted-for-water-pollution/

    Largest Emissions of Mercury Air Pollution From U.S. Gold Mines

    Of the 12 largest emitters of mercury air pollution among U.S. gold mines, 8 are in Nevada
    U.S. Issues First-Ever Limits on Mercury Air Pollution From Gold Mines
    Published on Dec 17, 2010 – 10:49:18 AM
    By: EARTHWORKS
    WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 — The Environmental Protection Agency today issued long-overdue rules to limit mercury air pollution from gold mines, for the first time bringing a significant source of a dangerous neurotoxin in Americans’ diets under the authority of the Clean Air Act. The new rule did not include limits for other hazardous mining air pollution like cyanide and arsenic
    http://yubanet.com/regional/Of-the-12-largest-emitters-of-mercury-air-pollution-among-U-S-gold-mines-8-are-in-Nevada.php

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Deb:

      Though I am a nuclear energy professional, I do not get paid to write this blog or to attend public meetings. I undertake those actions out of a sense of responsibility. American taxpayers have been very generous to me, paying for my college and graduate school education and in providing me the in depth professional training that allowed me to qualify for a good job in the nuclear industry after I had finished serving my naval career.

      Yes, I have been to the shipyard at Kittery Maine several times. One of my school mates was assigned to a ship there; we visited him and his wife in the early 1980s. Later in my career, I was a financial analyst who was responsible for verifying the funding requests for submarine maintenance facilities so I visited the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard several times in that capacity. It is quite a pleasant place to visit.

      I meant no disrespect with my comment about picking people out of the crowd by the way they were dressed. It was actually a reminder to my nuclear energy industry colleagues that we should not try to separate ourselves from the public by acting like “suits”. That is why I was wearing a tee shirt. I rarely, if ever, wear a suit at work anyway.

      My company has been doing a lot of work in Japan ever since the tsunami; we sent early responders and technical assistance right away. There are many other Americans involved; I am not sure where you got the information that we left. Some people who do not understand radiation and radioactive material might have left, but not the professionals.

      • Deborah Dix says:

        The US, Canada, French nuclear people left Japan after the earthquake.

        There was new coverage about them leaving, unlike the English teachers who went around helping people because of they loved their students.

        Can you send me the info about who is helping the Japanese with the nuclear plants and the progress of the work?

        I have seen info from Washington state I think about Areva helping by sending equipment and personal items but not people.

        Thanks,

        Deborah Dix

      • Cory Stansbury says:

        Like all U.S. nuclear companies, my company also had “boots on the ground” since the very beginning. In fact, it was relayed to us that the locals couldn’t thank us enough for coming in when “everyone else is fleeing.” We still have people there as we speak. Several people I know worked on crews going 24 hours around the clock for weeks on end to provide support (without payment to my company) for a plant we had nothing to do with building. Any insinuation that we (as an industry) “left like a bunch of rats” is disingenuous, insulting, and completely misleading.

    • John Tucker says:

      I wonder how many of us here you assumed needed to see all that.

      If you could take all the rock form the surface leaching examples you gave, cube it, multiply it times several thousand, turn most of the silica component into carbon and put it in the atmosphere then take the concentrated leftover ash and what you don’t put into the air you dump in huge ponds with little or no barriers – well, you’d have coal. ( http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Category:Coal_waste ).

      Coal-burning power plants are the largest human-caused source of mercury emissions to the air in the United States, accounting for over 50 percent of all domestic human-caused mercury emissions – EPA

      This Canadians have a reasonably good environmental record with this type of mining and whats more, the Canadians have nuclear power agreement with China that hopefully will mean a transfer of raw materials and safety procedure to that environmentally critical market. Whats more should this go wrong – its on private land, the worse thing that can possibly happen in a major pollution incident is it reverts to the state, is cleaned up and is probably never developed.

      I was tentatively for this but two statements Ive seen in the last few days make me emphatically for it:

      “That resource, large enough to add about 50% to the US’s current annual uranium production and to last for at least a full generation of employees, is located in the middle of a large tract of privately owned land. ”

      “The numbers speak for themselves. Metal mining effluent data reported to Environment Canada demonstrates that uranium mining operations from 2007 to 2010 was 100% compliant with federal release limits for all seven types of contaminants. Uranium mining operations were the only type of metal mine to have 100% compliance during this period.”

      Past environmental and safety transgressions are just that, past. Knowledge of them dictates acceptance of safer procedures and environmental mitigation mechanisms.

      I wonder if you have really thought this through.

    • Bill Hannahan says:

      Deb, people tend to focus on the risk of the things we do. But to maximize the quality of our lives it is also necessary to factor in the risk associated with the things we do not do, like not fastening a seat belt, or not having our children vaccinated.

      Without nuclear power, the money spent building our 104 nuclear power plants would have been used to build about 200 additional coal plants. We have about 600 coal plants, and they cause about 10,000 premature deaths, and hundreds of thousands of non fatal injuries each year.

      How many lives have been saved by our nuclear plants so far? How many lives have been lost because we stopped building nuclear plants 40 years ago?

    • Twominds says:

      @Debora,
      You said: I understand reprocessing of nuke fuel, very expensive, France was doing it but stop because of pollution and cost

      France is still reprocessing, not only for its own plants, but for many neighbouring countries’ ones as well. If that wasn’t cost effective, at least the contracts with the neighbours would end, they wouldn’t want to pay more for reprocessing then they would for a one-through cycle that they could implement with little difficulty. For instance my country the Netherlands uses the reprocessing services in France to have the used fuel separated into its parts and takes back the small amount of real waste for interim storage and final deposal. This way no expensive separating plant is necessary here for the puny amount of spent fuel from our one smallish reactor. At the moment no reprocessed fuel is used, but the plant has obtained recently (IIRC) the permit to use MOX from France.
      Do you have some info that France isn’t reprocessing anymore and my information is obsolete?

      And another thing: most of the links in your postscript are about copper and gold mining and milling and general industrial pollution, not uranium mining and milling. I haven’t read that much about the matter, but think I remember that uranium mining is done with other methods and techniques, so they can’t be compared very well. How do the links you provide give relevant information? I don’t have an opinion on uranium mining in Virginia, but I do think that the debate would be best served with relevant info. So if this is important to the matter, would you please clarify?

      • Brian Mays says:

        Do you have some info that France isn’t reprocessing anymore and my information is obsolete?

        Of course she doesn’t! Deborah doesn’t know what she’s talking about. France gets about 17% of its electricity supply from recycled (MOX) fuel.

        Deborah’s just the typical misinformed internet lurker employing the usual internet tactics: spout a bunch of nonsense, add a few irrelevant hyperlinks, and hope that nobody knows any better or bothers to fact-check her “information.”

        • Twominds says:

          That’s most likely, I know. But I give people the benefit of the doubt as long as I can, and sometimes my polite requests for more info are meant ironically. Here I was slightly ironic.

          And sometimes I do get interesting new info that way.

      • jmdesp says:

        I’m not sure MOX is that economical at the current price, however it does significantly reduce the volume of waste.

        As you’re going to be extremely careful anyway, it’s probably more convenient to have only a small volume of high activity vitrified waste, and then most of it as depleted uranium that you can defend as posing a much lower radiation risk, also materially impossible to use for nuclear proliferation, and therefore having much less stringent storage requirements.

  3. k patrick says:

    Quite the party, eh? As one of those low population folks, it was nice to revisit my old high density neighborhood and remind myself of the reason we need to preserve the sanctity of the beauty and bounty of nature. Spotted and dodged about 20-30 deer and a few rabbits going home.

    While I defer to your superior knowledge of nuclear power generation, I would like to inform you of the reasons we do not want to mine uranium in our dairy land here.

    Need: lots of uranium is available already, as you mentioned there is plenty sitting around, so recycle it.

    American Need: Canada is not yet considered an enemy, they produce tonnes of the stuff in the faraway and non farming land of Saskatchewan, they are more than happy to sell it to American utilities, especially as the spot price has declined to $41-42/lb.

    JOBS!: Anyone with the requisite skills to do this mining is already plying their trade elsewhere. The few Geologists in Pittsylvania County have transitioned their careers to be publicists and lobbyists, is there even a licensed miner in the county? It takes a year’s journey to get the credential, so instead of staying here whining, these chaps should hie themselves to a mine and start digging.

    Safety: The scattered citizens of this area are dependent on their wells and ponds to water the family and farm. Any discharge of heavy metals, soluble elements or compounds or radionuclides into the aquifer or surface water would be the end of utility for the local farms or homes, rendering them unusable and unsellable.

    As we type, a tragic drama is playing out in Finland, the Talvivaara Sotkamo mine has suffered a containment breach releasing thousands, maybe millions of gallons of water and tailings containing nickel and uranium and other goodies into the waters of the Kainuu district. After a couple of weeks, the mine and mill are back in operation,while the local fish and wildlife still line the shores in protest of this excursion. Not just reported in leftist greenie rags, but the venerable Helsinki Times: http://www.helsinkitimes.fi/news/index.php/finland/finland-news/domestic/4346-talvivaara-continues-to-battle-leak

    This mine/mill was launched in 2008 amid assurances of safety and “best practices” and of course, JOBS! Such a familiar scenario, permitted and partly owned by Finland, trusting locals allowed this, like here, there were those that objected. As Connie Francis once asked, “Who’s Sorry Now”. Signs are around now saying “stop whining, start mining”, I would add “time for crying when folks start dieing”.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @k patrick

      Thank you for visiting and for pointing to the Talvivaara Sotkamo mine. As you know, that mine is operated to extract nickel with some minor production of cobalt, copper and zinc. Far down on the list of metals in the deposit is uranium, with a measured concentration of 0.0017%.

      http://www.talvivaara.com/operations/Mineral_resources

      Because of the target metals involved, the chemistry and the extraction processes are completely different than those associated with mining uranium at Coles Hill. The quantity of material that is moved, the need to store large amounts of liquid waste and the geography of the site are all factors that make it a poor analog.

      You are right to be concerned about the potential effects on ground water, but the more productive tact is to ensure that ground water is protected from all potential contaminants. For example, agriculture has a rather poor record of protecting water supplies from the effects of run off from fertilizers and animal waste. It is also well known for causing negative health effects for neighbors due to massive dust discharges during cultivation and harvest seasons and for releasing annoying smells throughout the year.

      A job that requires training for a year before employment is probably a good job that will provide useful skills that will be retained by the employee, not the employer. Why are you critical of the fact that working a mine might require a local person who is interested in the work to get some training? In most cases of similar work, the employer itself is motivated to spend money to host the training; it is cheaper than paying relocation costs or paying wages that are so elevated that they attract people to move from far away. It also provides employees who are tied to the local area and less likely to leave a good job.

      At the public meeting, the DEH guy was careful to repeat the fact that the state is not allowed to control private wells. That does not stop the well owners from monitoring their own supplies and does not necessarily stop local governments from getting involved in the process. One of the things about radiation that has always been the most reassuring to me is the fact that it is so easy to detect. With simple devices and a modest amount of training, anyone can detect concentrations that are far below the level at which any harm will be done.

      That is not a statement that can be made about such deadly – and rather common – water contaminants as e coli or giardia lamblia.

      • Brian Mays says:

        Rod – That awful smell on Interstate 81 as it runs through the Shenandoah Valley is not the result of mining.

      • k patrick says:

        Hence my worry, a basic draw and analysis for a basic scope of minerals is about $600 up. I think I covered some basic points of our local beef and dairy production realities in a response on down. By the time this stuff is in the well, it’s too late, it’s in the aquifer. Bacterial contamination is corrected with a bottle of bleach, many just do that periodically after seasonal draw downs (run it off before doing colored laundry, unless you like the tie-dye look).

        I am not at all critical of these guys getting training, but they need to go get it in some mine somewhere instead of laying around bellyaching. They will have to bring in experienced people from some where else, so they need to go get that experience somewhere there is a mine already. Another reason this right to work state thing is kinda scary, outside of a few professions the state or professional association accredits, anyone can go out and work with insufficient or no training. Trade unions have traditionally fostered good craftsmanship, as a military person you would know that, working along with masters while taking classes develops knowledge and skill.

        Don’t knock agriculture, you like to eat don’t you? As my neighbor stated in his comment at the meeting, you won’t need any lights if you don’t have food to eat and water to drink. That is our main and only real point. In a country where neighborhoods have prohibitions on gardens, poultry and even what color you can paint your house or fly a flag, we only want an assurance of clean water and air to raise the food you guys eat. Regulations are not assurance,

        • Rod Adams says:

          @k patrick

          I am not “knocking agriculture”, but I am trying to point out that those who live in glass houses should be careful about throwing stones. Just as some of your neighbors are hereditary farmers and are proud of feeding people, I am a hereditary electricity professional; my dad was an engineer with Florida Power & Light for 35 years. Even as a manager, he spent a day every month in “storm training” and he donned a hard hat without hours after the passage of every hurricane in order to help restore power.

          Maintaining a human population certainly requires food, but do you really want to try to produce food and clean water without electricity? Subsistence farmers have done that for millennia, but another thing I learned from my dad – who grew up on a subsistence farm in southern Georgia – was that it was a dirty, hard, dangerous way to live that was made a LOT better when the Roosevelt Administration passed and followed through on the Rural Electrification Act. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rural_Electrification_Act

          I am very proud of the product that my industry produces and proud of the way that we do it. I just wish more nuclear professionals would learn to be a little less shy about telling people how much better our technology is than what they have been told by our competitors and their friends in the media and in politics.

          I am with you on the importance of union and craft training programs. I spent four years of my naval career working really hard to ensure adequate resources were devoted to training sailors. I made a few admirals angry by demanding that they devote more money to that activity than they really wanted to; they were being pressured by politicians to buy more unnecessary “toys”. The thing I remembered that the admirals may have forgotten was that none of the “toys” work very well without well trained technical experts who knew how to operate and maintain them.

  4. Meredith Angwin says:

    Hi Rod

    Fabulous that you went to the meeting! Did you go with others who supported the mine? I love the t-shirt…great idea! I had some t-shirts made for a Vermont Yankee rally.

    I notice that the opponents are just as active in VA as they are in VT. Fear sells. From an opponent point of view: If you are afraid of A, you will give me money to protect you from A! (Therefore, it is in my best interest that you are afraid of A.) That’s the game plan of the opponents, and always has been.

    Great job of Showing Up!

    Meredith

    • k patrick says:

      Once again, Vermont Yankee is a reactor, Coles Hill is a proposed mine and mill. There is a world of difference, really. While I wish that this debate had been strictly confined to the subject of the meeting, the mining and milling, I see both sides of the issue used the forum as a venue to publicize their larger interests. As a vociferous opponent of this mine and especially this mill a few miles from my house, I am strident in defending my community from the potential for disaster this project imposes.

      Whatever expertise in Nuclear Technology proponents may have, they seem to be woefully uninformed about mining. I would be equally vociferous in opposing a gold or anything mine, especially so close to my well. I am truly shocked that professional scientists have such knee-jerk reactions to these matters without gleaning a fuller understanding of the process.

      If those capable of a greater understanding of technical issues are content to accept propagandized information, and parrot talking points gleaned from industry or advocacy sources, we are truly doomed. Like other politicized hot button issue, conceding the veracity of any opposing argument is considered “playing into the others hand”. This is the device of politicians and lawyers, and contributes nothing to a meaningful debate or advancement of technology and it’s usefulness to the world.

      If the nuclear industry would cop to their mistakes and actively and openly strive to seek to find and improve on problems and failures instead of closing ranks while castigating those that merely seek to protect the planet and it’s lifeforms, their credibility would increase in the public mind.

      Pragmatically, my primary interest is to protect the water and ecology surrounding this mine and mill which produces an incredible amount of milk and beef and wine too. I will leave Vermont to the Yankees and hope that Virginia Grown ag-products continue to maintain their sterling image and reality. I resent being labeled an anti, I prefer a pro, pro-clean water, pro-life, pro-agriculture. Is that so wrong?

      • David says:

        Hi K Patrick,

        You have very valid concerns about clean water. How could this mine operate and satisfy your concerns? Does the fact that Uranium mining in Canada has a 100% compliance rate with regulations assure you at all? If not, what will assure you?

        http://www.nuclearsafety.gc.ca/eng/mediacentre/issues/letters_to_the_editor/20121122-uranium-moratoriums.cfm

        • k patrick says:

          Hi David,

          Certainly not an assurance in a LTE to a CNSC web site. Like the NRC, without the N, there would be no RC. I hesitate to cite many more detailed sources, legitimacy is questioned even when first person testimony is given, but many actual citizens of Saskatchewan and other provinces know firsthand of the offenses of the mining industry. Here is what is going on now from a “legit” news agency. http://www.mbcradio.com/index.php/mbc-news/11837-concerns-raised-over-uranium-deal . Makes you wonder what they have to hide.

          I’m not sure how the two initial attempts to mine at Cigar Lake are touted as a success story. The thing flooded and collapsed the first two attempts in 2008 and 2010 killing a few workers in the deal I believe. (Check the records, I’m too lazy to look it up now.)

          It peeves me that remote forested Northern Canada is considered analogous to Pittsylvania County. We have such a greater population density, and the open fields that predominate, dotted by homes, are either occupied pasture or hay for feed. Even the argument for ag runoff is not such an issue here, fertilization is very sparse for hay (fertilizer is expensive, once established, only a light nitrogen in the spring may occur). Manure and the attendant odor is an issue with penned animals, but in the field, it is consumed quickly by insects. The dairy farmer next to Coles Hill has a methane system that uses his poop for power generation.

          So, we’re good here for now, mining and especially milling could change that with one human or nature caused mistake. Unlike bio-polution, you can’t dump a bottle of bleach down the well, should heavy metals or minerals get in the well, we are done for. There have been no assurances of testing, emergency water service contingency, or mitigation for local homeowners of farms. Many have begged wealthy VUI to buy us out, no offer is forthcoming.

          If our wells are contaminated, we would not be able to sell our properties, banks don’t finance waste property. The proposed regulations also fail to provide for any bond of assurance to protect private property and no insurance company covers for any of the hazards this project threatens. Looks like monitoring is up to the private citizens too (that’s hundreds of dollars out of pocket for us, per sample.)

          Sadly we have nothing to gain and everything to lose. I genuinely feel that this has turned into a scheme for bilking investors. With a current price $20 below what the hopeful valuations project, there is no way this project will go forth even if the ban is lifted. The primaries of this company have squandered a fortune already on lobbyists, commercials and just riding around in the Uraniumobile (fo’ realz! they got one!).

          I strongly encourage you to look further than you trade publications for the real low down, the political and financial sleazebaggery are dirtier than the actual mining. All of this hoohah is just rhetoric, now that all assets have been secured completely in Canada through Sprott, these old guys in the county are just working PR. If and when uranium prices climb back up to that temporary spike of $60, it is in Canadian hands, Ol’ Walt and Henry will be pushing up daisies by then, Anthem, or whatever they are calling themselves by then will invoke NAFTA protections for their investments and all regulatory schemes will be invalid. They can come on in and do what the heck they want, or sue VA for impinging on their rights to make a profit on their American investment.

          I am assured of nothing, but that by that time, there will be no clean water left anywhere. PA is so screwed up, it’s hopeless, NC is about to get fracked, Guess you heard about Finland, thank God they are back in operation (not the waterways, but at least the mine.). My only assurance is the volatility of the world market and the bogus state of world currency. I too may be pushing up daisies before this is a viable deposit to mine. My only solace is there may be a God that will visit divine retribution on those that inflict harm for their own advancement.

          • David says:

            Hi K Patrick,

            So a bond for value of your properties, and regular testing of the wells in the area around the mine would go a long way toward making you more comfortable with this project. Have you proposed these types of things to the mine owner personally? Would the cost of a bond be so high that the project could never be done?

            Thanks for your reasonable interactions on this issue.

          • Rod Adams says:

            @k Patrick

            I hate to sound dismissive, but how do you think it might sound to one of the young people born in Pittsylvania County to hear that their future employment prospects are in a county where hay fields are considered more important than a carefully planned and constructed industrial facility that might produce hundreds of millions of dollars worth of annual revenue with a workforce of several hundred people. Each of those positions would carry health insurance and pay wages or salaries averaging about $65,000 per year in 2012 dollars. Each of those people would be able to afford to raise a family, dine out on occasion, travel, purchase a home, and volunteer for local organizations.

            Here is a modest proposal – how would you and your friends respond if the nuclear supporters decided to go all out and focus investment in your county by building a few new nuclear power stations? Virginia really needs electricity; as a state it only produces about 50-60% of the electricity it consumes. (Sure, our neighbors will never cut us off, but that means that they also get to have all of the jobs that come from electricity production.)

            My employer may not agree with me, but I think it would be terrific if we built some of our first units right in our own backyard. It would be really convenient for the designers to be able to be closely involved with the construction and testing. I am mature enough to not really enjoy business travel anymore; I’d much rather sleep in my own bed. Empowering Virginia by building B&W mPower(TM) reactors near Coles Hill would be a neat way to finish out my career.

            It would be a huge employment boon to Southside, VA, but it might require a few hayfields or pastures to go out of production.

          • k patrick says:

            David;
            I cannot speak for others, for me, yes, well testing on an agreed schedule, by an impartial and qualified laboratory seems quite reasonable; established and supervised by the County/VADEQ, exclusively funded by the company. I have asked for this particular assurance in a BoS meeting that was attended by VUI owners. The establishment of a county lab is a great idea, a few techs for covering the county taking samples, a central lab with whatever equipment needed and a couple of lab techs would keep costs in check, provide JOBS!, and enable a database enabling a general hydrological map for statistical analysis.

            Also I suggested there be an emergency water contingency plan where equipment, personnel and a source of quality assured water be available. Should any family lose use of their well, without litigation, hesitation or rumination, they should have a water buffalo brought, hooked up and supplied on schedule until the company rectifies the situation by digging and assuring the quality of a new well and hooking it up. Once again, having this capability in place, insuring any family they would not go more than a few days without a clean water source, just seems like a reasonable responsibility to me.

            All talk of a bonding fund has been for a general reclamation of the site and public waters. The county BOS has been advised by an insurance specialist that traditional “insurance” would be unavailable for this project or the citizens surrounding the area, any bond would be underwritten by a government entity. In this cash strapped area (America), this is no comfort whatsoever. If VUI has the assets to make all citizens whole, independent of any future investment potential, hard cash money (gold preferably) I’m good with that. Not sure which fox I would chose to watch that hen house.

            One more perk on my Santa’s list of assurance, health insurance. I am trying to devise a scheme where O’care or not, there could be an entity enabling the county to have an insurance pool where, like a credit union (want that too), citizens could join to buy health insurance in bulk, lowering cost. If we could get health insurance through VUI’s group policy, so we could also get health monitoring and get treatment if needed, that too would be a comfort.

            Rod,
            I am not anti-electricity, many of my family members are IBEW. I am not against progress, I actively support new technology especially in electrical storage capability. Generation capability in every yard; we are in complete agreement, domestic use would be better served severed from the “grid” and the requisite infrastructure. I guess we part ways on the means, I lean to solar and wind, and am curious about how a small reactor would be regulated, to not generate unneeded electricity all the time, or lag in high usage situations. Would they not require storage capacity or where would excess be shunted?

            Before my father passed, we spent a lot of time together as I was his sole caregiver. He grew up on a farm in rural NC in the 20′s and 30′s, before the Rural Electrification Act also. One day he was reminiscing about old radio shows, and I wondered where did y’all get electricity? He was like duh?, apparently they had lights and radios and well pumps but the refrigerator ran on gas and continued to work well for a long time. As a matter of fact, being way frugal, they declined to hook in for many years, why pay for electricity when the windmill worked just fine. He also felt glad they kept the mule, reliable when the tractor sat idle waiting for parts. I take after him.

          • Adams Rod says:

            @k patrick

            Perhaps you are frugal enough to get by on whatever energy the sun and wind choose to provide. I suppose you figure you can store enough to make it through the dark lulls.

            I’ll freely admit that I am not frugal. I like living comfortably and thinking about many other things other than how much electricity we are using to keep drinks cold in the second garage refrigerator or whether or not we should have less Christmas lights burning or whether I should get a smaller TV so it uses less power. We are not terribly wasteful either, but when you know what I know about uranium fission, it is hard to get too worked up about small amounts of power consumption.

            Mules might be fine for you and your dad, but many people live in places where keeping animals is a lot more polluting than keeping vehicles or riding on an electrically powered train.

            There is only a small chance that personal sized reactors will be allowed anytime in my remaining lifetime, but I remain convinced that that barriers are not technical. I have no idea how the political regulations would be able to be altered, but I was awarded a US patent in 1994 for a control system for a small nuclear generator that could ensure that properly designed systems could provide whatever power was needed and maintain voltage and frequency within a narrow band. No excess needs to be stored or shunted, you simply alter the output (up or down) to whatever is needed at the time.

            I fully expect that community sized reactors will be licensed and deployed within the next 20 years, well within my expected life time.

            One more thing – where did the gas for your dad’s refrigerator come from? Where did the waste go after it was burned?

          • Rod Adams says:

            @k patrick

            This is a quote from the report that the Uranium Working Group provided to the Governor yesterday:

            http://www.uwg.vi.virginia.gov/pdf/UWG%20Report%20-%20FINAL%2030Nov2012.pdf

            Private Water Supplies

            In order to provide protection for private water supplies, the applicant/licensee (with the consent of the property owner) should sample and analyze private water supplies on a monthly basis within the area defined to be at risk, through groundwater modeling developed during the baseline sampling period. Such sampling, analyses and timely reporting would need to continue on a periodic basis from the end of the baseline sampling program, as required by the EIS or EIA (if it is a standalone mine) until the permit and/or license for the mine and/or mill is either granted or denied by the regulatory authority and through the operations. Statutory and regulatory authority and additional resources would be needed.

            Private Water Well Regulations

            To help ensure the protection of private water supplies water quality standards within the area defined to be at risk through groundwater modeling developed during the baseline sampling period are needed. A Scientific Advisory Committee should be used to review and make recommendations to VDH on public health-risk based standards for radionuclides and other contaminants of concern associated with uranium mining and/or milling. This should be coordinated with any action by DEQ to establish a Scientific Advisory Committee to review and make recommendations on the groundwater criteria. Statutory and regulatory authority and additional resources would be needed.

            The ability to require the proper and permanent abandonment of any private water supply, within the area defined to be at risk through groundwater modeling developed during the baseline sampling period, that is found to be unsuitable for use, either through contamination or lack of production, may be needed in order to eliminate potential pathways for groundwater contamination. Statutory and regulatory authority and additional resources would be needed.

            (COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA 2012 URANIUM WORKING GROUP REPORT November 30, 2012 p. xvii)

  5. Cal Abel says:

    Rod,
    Thank you for your advocacy efforts and reminding me how to talk to people. I think that point is important because we forget so readily as our lives are driven by facts and critical analysis. Nukes are not particularly well known as being empathetic, but are perhaps some of the most fundamentally caring people.

    Cal

  6. Lorien H. says:

    Rod,
    Thanks for your recap of the meeting and for your advocacy. Also, I wanted to thank you for keeping me informed with what’s going on in the nuclear industry and for reminding me of how lucky I am to be a part of it.

    Any way I can get one of those shirts?

  7. George Carlin says:

    As with Cal, I thank you for reminding me how to talk to people. When I get into a debate over nuclear power, I sometimes can find myself not working to truly change the persons mind, but to only prove them wrong with cold facts. I can become somewhat dismissive of them for not knowing these facts beforehand and loose sight of the fact that you must teach as well as debate.

    Only pushing cold facts without an effort to help the person understand and relate will usually not change their mind and may even push them further towards their preconceived beliefs.

  8. Michael Stuart says:

    @Rod, I too appreciate your people skills. Our industry is scientific and fact-centered. The reactor doesn’t care about how boron affects moderator temperature coefficient, and neither does the average member of the public.

    We’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: People don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care.

    We know as an industry that we produce electricity in a responsible and comparatively clean manner. We know that electricity produced by harnessing the power of the atom has a direct correlation to a high standard of living, longer life spans, and low infant mortality. What we need to learn as an industry is how to speak to people’s fears and concerns and demonstrate that we share those same concerns as we work first hand with the very technology (and raw materials) that they fear. We don’t believe in the benefits of nuclear technology because we work in the industry — It’s the exact opposite! (At least for me!)

    You do an exemplary job at validating people’s feelings and showing them that you care, Rod, so let me add my thanks!

  9. Steinhagen says:

    I am a 20 year retired Navy Chief living in Virginia. I am well versed in the operations of surface nuclear aircraft carriers as I had the honor of being a “Plank Owner” on the Nimitz and went on its first two cruises. I have gone to several of the Virginia working group meetings, listened to their presentations and have read a mountain of the studies and read hundreds upon hundreds of articles and comments. Both sides of the issue are throwing as much trash as the presidential elections. I don’t belong to any environmentalist group and I do not subscribe to “fear mongering.” I am not against nuclear power. It provides a good source of clean energy at very good price. I don’t believe uranium mining in the Coles Hill location is good place for uranium mining. I am trying to get my mind around placing a uranium mine anywhere near a the water shed that supplies over 1 million Virginians? We don’t allow munitions or chemical or explosive production plants to be built in heavy populated areas. Those industries are heavily regulated and monitored. Whats the difference?

    • Brian Mays says:

      We don’t allow munitions or chemical or explosive production plants to be built in heavy populated areas.

      We don’t? DuPont Chemical’s largest manufacturing plant is located just outside of Richmond, Virginia. It’s in the same watershed as Coles Hill.

      Those industries are heavily regulated and monitored. Whats the difference ?

      Who says that a new uranium mine wouldn’t be regulated and monitored? Certainly not the State of Virginia.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Steinhagen

      Have you visited Coles Hill? If so, you must have a different definition of “heavily populated” than I do.

      The farm is 3400 acres – there are no neighbors at all for at least a mile in any direction.

  10. Steinhagen says:

    Dupont bought the land for the Spruance Plant in 1927, 85 years ago. It wasn’t heavily populated when the plant when it went into production in 1929. I suspect that the locals knowing what they knew back then thought that the Spruance location was in a remote area. You would hope that in those 85 years we would be smarter in choosing locations for new production munitions, explosive, chemical plants and uranium mining operations. Yes I have seen Coles Hill. It looks like beautiful farmland, sparsely populated. A catastrophic tailings storage breach of the BP magnitude has the potential to contaminate the water in Lake Gaston which supplies the water of over a million citizens. A breach may never happen and then again no one knows for sure. The location of Coles Hill is just too close to the Lake Gaston water supply. When I look at the entire Nuclear energy process from beginning to end I see a huge disconnect in the uranium mining process verses the nuclear power plant operations. Nuclear power generation process is safe and has the history to back it up. Navy trained power plant operators are an elite handpicked group and are the brightest, best trained technician in the world second to none. Uranium miners get about 4-6 weeks of training. The only uranium companies with clean safety records are those that have not mined. The past 20 years uranium mining has made improvements but there are still too many safety issues and unknown health issues to allow uranium mining in Virginia.