Contrary to clear findings by the National Academy of Sciences and other independent, credible research organizations, powerful and well-financed environmentalist groups and their political allies continue to make inaccurate and unfounded claims about the potential impacts of uranium mining in Virginia. Here are a few of the most frequently repeated myths about uranium mining, along with the real facts according to independent, third-party experts.
Uranium mining and milling activity, as well as mill tailings, will contaminate groundwater aquifers in the area surrounding the Coles Hill site.
“To date, modern tailings disposal cells have been effective at preventing groundwater contamination.” (National Academy of Sciences Study, p. 160)
Negative public perceptions associated with uranium mining will inflict a stigma on the Southside region, deterring new business investment and adversely impacting area private boarding schools such as Chatham Hall and Hargrave Military Academy.
The Coles Hill project “will not adversely affect the image of the [Southside] region nor erode the quality of life for the residents of Pittsylvania County.” (Chmura Socioeconomic Study, p. 10)
“Chmura judges it unlikely that any private school in the area will be harmed by the Coles Hill operation.” (Chmura Socioeconomic Study, p. 9)
“The analysis of how uranium operations have affected the economies of other counties [with uranium mining activity] found that uranium has had a positive economic impact on these communities with no effect on business attraction and retention.” (George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis Study, p. 5)
Uranium mining and milling activity will increase cancer rates among the population living in the area surrounding the Coles Hill site.
From 2003 – 2010, Dr. John Boice, Former Director of the Radiation Epidemiology Branch of the National Cancer Institute, conducted four studies of cancer and mortality rates in uranium mining communities in Texas, Colorado and New Mexico. The National Academy of Sciences study summarized Boice’s findings: “The researchers did not find any evidence that the operation of the uranium
mines and processing facilities increased the cancer or mortality rates for the nearby population.” (National Academy of Sciences Study, p. 129)
A catastrophic storm or flood will cause a failure in the tailings impoundment at Coles Hill, releasing radioactive contaminants into downstream Lake Gaston, which supplies drinking water to Hampton Roads residents.
“Over the past few decades, improvements have been made to tailings management systems to isolate tailings from the environment…” (National Academy of Sciences Study, p. 15)
“Full below-grade disposal of mill tailings is an option that has been developed specifically to eliminate concerns over the release of tailings due to catastrophic failure of a construction retaining berm or tailings dam.” (National Academy of Sciences Study , p. 153)
“The physical setting of the tailings will be such that it is inconceivable, even under the most adverse circumstances, that the tailings could be released to the local streams and rivers.” (Dr. Robert Bodnar, Virginia Tech Professor of Geosciences, Danville Register & Bee, 2/27/11)
Uranium mining activity will release radon gas and other radioactive dust from the Coles Hill site, contaminating farms and recreational sites in the surrounding area.
“If appropriately designed, capping of the waste storage pile can prevent airborne [wind dispersion] of fine particles.” (National Academy of Sciences Study, p. 164)
“…neither the tourism nor the agricultural sectors are likely to experience any decline due to the Coles Hill operation.” (Chmura Socioeconomic Study, p. 9)
Lifting the moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia will unleash a wave of uranium mining activity in localities across the entire state, including Fairfax, Fauquier, Orange, Culpeper and Madison counties.
“Of the sites explored in Virginia so far, only the deposit at Coles Hill is large enough, and of high enough grade, to be potentially economically viable.” (National Academy of Sciences Study, p. 12)
Uranium mining has never been done in a wet climate with similar rainfall and hydrological conditions to Virginia.
While uranium mining in the U.S. has typically taken place in the arid West, extensive uranium mining has been done in wet climates in Florida and Louisiana, as well as other regions with heavy rainfall in Canada, France, Australia and Eastern Europe.