Everywhere they mine uranium they have had health problems within about a 50-mile radius,” he said. A Floyd resident commented that cancer and birth defects are up by 81% in Fallujah, Iraq, because of U.S. weapons made with depleted uranium.
Uranium mining: Virginians band together to keep moratorium in place, South West Virginia Today ,By Wanda Combs February 3, 2011 About 40 people attended an informational meeting Thursday night at the Floyd Country Store to learn more about an organized campaign to mine uranium in Virginia.
Up until now uranium mining in the U.S. has been limited to dry and lightly populated places out west, but, with the price of uranium on the rise, a Canadian backed company, a landowner and other investors are intent on bringing it to the east, and specifically to Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Before than can happen a uranium mining moratorium that dates back to 1982 must be lifted.
A group of organizers in support of the mining moratorium traveled from Pittsylvania County (about 75 miles east of Floyd) to facilitate the meeting. Deborah Lovelace, founder of the nonprofit League of Individuals for the Environment (LIFE), gave a power point presentation, outlining the uses and hazards of uranium and the logistics of mining operations.
Uranium is a radioactive metal found in the ground that’s primarily used to make nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. It’s toxic to humans and the environment, explained Lovelace, whose mother’s family is from Floyd and whose husband’s family has been farming in Pittsylvania County for 10 generations.
“It takes 1,000 pounds of ore to produce one pound of uranium, which leaves 999 pounds of mill tailings. The mill tailings retain 85% of their toxic radioactivity for 300,000 years,” Lovlelace said. Exposure to uranium adversely affects the kidney, brain, liver and heart. Neurological, genetic, and reproductive systems are also damaged by exposure. Long term storage of uranium’s toxic waste is an ongoing issue.
Pittsylvania County resident Hunter Austin reported that uranium toxicity can enter a person’s DNA and be passed down to future generations. “It has been studied. Everywhere they mine uranium they have had health problems within about a 50-mile radius,” he said. A Floyd resident commented that cancer and birth defects are up by 81% in Fallujah, Iraq, because of U.S. weapons made with depleted uranium.
Those in attendance learned that a uranium mining operation involves an open pit or underground mining, a pulverizing mill, and a chemical plant. Mining photos were shown and a United States Geological Survey map was displayed, highlighting potential uranium mining sites throughout rural Virginia and North Carolina and up and down the Blue Ridge.
Do we need uranium for energy? According to Lovelace’s research, the Department of Energy had begun selling excess uranium to friendly countries. “It’s stockpiled. We buy it from Russia to keep it out of the hands of unfriendly countries.” Of the 1,100 nuclear reactors in the world only 430 are used to generate electricity. Uranium provides about 4% of the world’s non-renewable energy, Lovelace stated.