Council takes up uranium issue

Published 8:52 pm Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The City Council is expected to formally state its opposition to uranium mining in Virginia during its meeting Wednesday.

A resolution opposing uranium mining is on the agenda for its regular session, which begins at 7 p.m. in City Council chambers, 441 Market St. A work session begins at 5 p.m.

The issue has been a hot-button topic in Virginia in recent years, after Virginia Uranium Inc. began seeking to mine an estimated 119-million pound uranium ore deposit at Coles Hill, about six miles northeast of Chatham, the county seat of Pittsylvania County. The site is about 30 miles north of Danville.

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However, a moratorium on uranium mining in the state has been in effect for 30 years. With no regulations to control uranium mining, and the potential for catastrophic effects to the water supply, lawmakers have been loath to lift the ban.

The remnants of the uranium mining process are radioactive and easily transmitted via air and water. They would be stored in above-ground disposal cells, but any release of them could compromise part of Hampton Roads’ water supply for up to two years.

Proponents of lifting the ban say that it will create jobs in a rural area and that a disaster is unlikely. But critics charge that a catastrophic event would disrupt the water supply for a large geographic area and negate the economic benefits.

The city of Virginia Beach and the Virginia Municipal League already have taken positions against lifting the ban. Mayor Will Sessoms of Virginia Beach wrote to Suffolk’s Mayor Linda T. Johnson last month to ask the City Council to consider a similar resolution.

Other items on the 7 p.m. agenda include special presentations on National Preparedness Month and the Taste of Suffolk event; a public hearing to authorize the conveyance of real estate owned by the city at 5400 Virginia Regional Drive to Virginia Regional I LLC; and an ordinance giving the city manager control over rules and regulations concerning the Suffolk Executive Airport.

The only item on the open session agenda for the 5 p.m. work session is a staff report on National Preparedness Month.