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Report days from release
Uranium working group said at meeting Tuesday
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Cathy France, of the Virginia Uranium Mining Working Group, speaks in front of a large photo of a steam engine during the final informational public hearing Tuesday in Richmond. (AP)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

RICHMOND (AP) — A multi-agency working group studying the possibility of uranium mining in Virginia held its final public meeting Tuesday, days before the public release of what its authors call a dense, highly technical report.

The $1.2 million report, to be released by the end of the week, will help guide the General Assembly if it decides in the 2013 session to end a 30-year ban on uranium mining in Virginia and allow a company to tap a 119-million pound deposit of the radioactive ore in Pittsylvania County. The report will not include a recommendation whether the ban should be lifted.

Critics have said, however, the report will be a road map to allow mining, a contention dismissed by Maureen Matsen, Gov. Bob McDonnell’s energy adviser and spokeswoman for the Uranium Working Group.

“I don’t think it is at all,” Matsen said in an interview during a meeting of the working group. “It identifies issues that have to be addressed and how they might be addressed if the ban is lifted.”

Matsen described the report as “general in application” that focuses primarily on the Coles Hill site in Chatham, the home of one of the largest known uranium deposits in the United States and one of the largest in the world.

A National Academy of Sciences report submitted one year ago concluded the state faced “steep hurdles” before mining could be allowed. Full-scale uranium mining has never been done east of Mississippi River.

The working group’s meeting at the Virginia Museum of Science attracted about 200 people, including opponents with neon green T-Shirts that read “Keep the Ban,” the mantra of anti-uranium mining activists. Proponents wore small stickers that read “Uranium Mining” and the words “energy” and “jobs.”

Virginia Uranium has said the deposit is valued at $7 billion and would produce hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue and tax dollars for an economically depressed region of the state known for tobacco and textiles. The company insists the mining and milling — the processing of the ore for fuel for nuclear power plants — can be done safely.


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