Next step for Virginia uranium

03 December 2012

A high-level working group has made its final report setting out a conceptual regulatory framework - ready should the US state of Virginia lift its moratorium on uranium mining.

A moratorium on uranium mining has been in place in Virginia since 1982, but the state has been formally reconsidering the issue since 2008 after an exploration permit was granted to would-be developer Virginia Uranium Inc in 2007. As part of that process, Virginia governor Bob McDonnell commissioned the Uranium Working Group (UWG) to carry out a study on a potential policy and regulatory framework for uranium mining in the state. This followed on from a state-commissioned report on the scientific, environmental, human health and safety, and regulatory aspects of uranium mining, processing, and reclamation which was carried out by the National Academy of Sciences and submitted in December 2011.

Made up of scientific, legal and regulatory experts, the group has drawn its conclusions after 10 months of work in which it has reviewed literature, visited the Coles Hill site and met with federal and state regulators as well as regulators from other US states and overseas. Public input was sought through a series of six public meetings and via the working group's web site.

The UWG's remit was to provide a detailed scientific policy analysis on a conceptual regulatory framework for uranium mining. It has not made any policy recommendation on whether or not the state moratorium should be lifted.

Governor McDonnell, in a statement welcoming the delivery of the 125-page document, promised to be thorough in reviewing the report. "I believe it is crucially important that all voices be heard in the decision-making process ahead. For that reason, in addition to meeting with my staff in the coming weeks, I will meet with stakeholders on both sides of the issue, and will review the public input received to date, before deciding whether or not I will make any recommendation on uranium mining in the Commonwealth. I have formed no prior opinion on whether mining should be permitted, as I have awaited, like most should, the publication of this report," he said.

Patrick Wales, project manager at Virginia Uranium Inc, also welcomed the report, which he said left no doubt that uranium mining could be effectively and safely regulated in Virginia. "We fully embrace the need for strict regulations to ensure that our company meets the highest standards for protection," he said.

Virginia is home to the Coles Hill uranium deposit, first discovered in 1978. It contain measured resources of 3260 tU and indicated resources of 42,800 tU.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News