One of the more contentious political issues in south central Virginia is whether or not to allow mining at the largest known deposit of uranium east of the Mississippi River. That deposit, at Coles Hill in Chatham is located just slightly more than an hour’s drive from my current residence. It is estimated to contain 119 million pounds of uranium; which indicates that the total revenue available from the effort to extract that resource is about $6 billion at today’s spot market price of $51 per pound.
The family that has owned the farm where the uranium was found for many generations has been trying for at least four years to obtain permission to make better use of their valuable property. There are a number of activists in the area, however, who think that the economic activity associated with uranium mining would be damaging to their homes and businesses.
Even though Virginia has a long history as a mining state, with nearly 150 licensed coal mines, it is illegal to mine for uranium here.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch has been covering the controversy. On April 15 the newspaper published an op-ed by Andrea Jennetta, the publisher of Fuel Cycle Week, titled Uranium: Unedifying report meets inept questions. Never one to mince words, here is the attention getting way that Andrea started her piece.
I hate engineers and scientists.
As a liberal arts type who has worked in the nuclear industry for almost 25 years as a communicator of one sort or another, I have frequent dealings with them. That’s why my hatred is both well-grounded and completely justified.
In fact, my hatred was reinforced the other day as I sat at a National Research Council public meeting in Charlottesville on the organization’s unedifying report on uranium mining in Virginia. The questions and the answers were equally inept, albeit for different reasons.
There is a pretty good discussion thread developing. I encourage you to visit and share your thoughts.
Disclosure: I have written a number of articles for Fuel Cycle Week. I have a great deal of personal respect for Ms. Jennetta as a straight-shooting writer who really knows her stuff when it comes to the nuclear fuel cycle.