The Virginia Coalition

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The Virginia Coalition is a diverse group of current Southside Virginia job creators who are concerned about the health of our employees and workforce, as well as our future ability to recruit new companies and employees into the region given the health implications of uranium mining.  We are CEO's, business owners, entrepreneurs, economic developers and current and former legislators who have a simple request: READ The Reports before voting on a matter with such far reaching ramifications.

More resources are available at CommonHealth Virginia; visit the site.

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@LisaKippsBrown: Video @lgbillbolling announcing against lifting #vauranium ban http://t.co/HhPFr9xz

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There are 22 different cancers associated with radiation exposure, and the most common cancer associated with uranium mining and milling workers is lung cancer. This is most likely because radon and its decay products are primarily airborne and pose the greatest cancer risk of all the radionuclides emitted per the findings of an EPA study.167 Other studies have indicated that long-term worker exposure to uranium mill tailings is weakly associated with elevated risks for birth defects, stillbirths, and other adverse outcomes of pregnancy; however, the authors stated “a lack of clear evidence for an increase in cancer risk to miners should be reassuring.”168 A different study conducted in 2008 reviewing multiple papers on the health risks relating to the uranium industry found that the association of worker uranium exposure and cancer “is limited.”169 There are also several studies that have indicated no detectible increases in cancer to populations surrounding uranium mines or mills.170 171 172

While the science could be viewed as inconclusive, mixed, and still evolving, prudence dictates caution. The absence of evidence—in this case an indisputable body of scientific work linking uranium industry to increased cancer rates in the nearby population—should not be construed as evidence of absence. The risk is unambiguously skewed to the downside. As time permits more long-term studies and medical technologies advance scientific understanding, there is an ever-present possibility that heretofore unknown linkages between the uranium industry and a specific illness will be uncovered. (Bold ours - RTR)

p. 85-86, Chmura report

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Uranium mill tailings are the radioactive sandlike materials that remain after uranium is extracted by milling ore mined from the earth. Tailings are placed in huge mounds called tailings piles which are located close to the mills where the ore is processed.

The most important radioactive component of uranium mill tailings is radium, which decays to produce radon. Other potentially hazardous substances in the tailings are selenium, molybdenum, uranium, and thorium.

Uranium mill tailings can adversely affect public health. There are four principal ways (or exposure pathways) that the public can be exposed to the hazards from this waste. The first is the diffusion of radon gas directly into indoor air if tailings are misused as a construction material or for backfill around buildings. When people breathe air containing radon, it increases their risk of developing lung cancer. Second, radon gas can diffuse from the piles into the atmosphere where it can be inhaled and small particles can be blown from the piles where they can be inhaled or ingested. Third, many of the radioactive decay products in tailings produce gamma radiation, which poses a health hazard to people in the immediate vicinity of tailings. Finally, the dispersal of tailings by wind or water, or by leaching, can carry radioactive and other toxic materials to surface or ground water that may be used for drinking water.

The NRC and some individual states that have regulatory agreements with the NRC have licensed 26 sites for milling uranium ore. However, most of the mills at these sites are no longer processing ore. Another 24 sites have been abandoned and are currently the responsibility of DOE.

All the tailings piles except for one abandoned site located in Canonsburg, PA, are located in the West, predominantly in arid areas (Figure 6 [on page linked to below]). The licensed tailings piles contain a combined total of approximately 200 million metric tons (MT), with individual piles ranging from about 2 million MT to about 30 million MT. (A metric ton is 2,200 pounds.) The 24 abandoned sites contain a total of about 26 million MT and range in size from about 50 thousand MT to about 3 million MT. (Bold Ours - RTR)

http://www.epa.gov/rpdweb00/docs/radwaste/402-k-94-001-umt.html

Tagged in: radium radon tailings
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Any exposure to the general population resulting from off-site releases of radionuclides (such as airborne radon decay products, airborne radioactive particles, and radium in water supplies) presents some health risk. People living near uranium mines and processing facilities could be exposed to airborne radionuclides (e.g., radon, radioactive dust) originating from various sources including uranium tailings, waste rock piles, or wastewater impoundments. Exposure could also occur from the release of contaminated water, or by leaching of radioactive materials into surface or groundwater from uranium tailings or other waste materials, where they could eventually end up in drinking water supplies or could accumulate in the food chain, eventually ending up in the meat, fish, or milk produced in the area.

Some of the worker and public health risks could be mitigated or better controlled if uranium mining, processing, and reclamation are all conducted according to best practices. A robust regulatory framework could help drive such a culture. Conversely, these potential health risks can be exacerbated by poor planning and design, inadequate regulation, and failure to adopt protective mining and processing methods. A mine or processing facility could also be subject to uncontrolled releases of radioactive materials as a result of human error or an extreme event such as a flood, fire, or earthquake. (Bold ours - RTR)

p. 19, National Academies of Science Uranium Mining in Virginia report

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Other site-specific findings in this report include the following:

  • Unlike most U.S. uranium mining sites, which occur in desert or semi-desert, sparsely-populated regions, the Coles Hill site is wet, with annual precipitation equal to about 42 inches. Most importantly, within a radius of 2 to 3 miles, Coles Hill has roughly 250 private wells, at least one dairy and numerous hay / forage fields, which are liable to be impacted.
  • Virginia Uranium has failed to present any sort of detailed project proposal, in writing. The verbally-described plans have changed constantly, depending on the audience. Hence the public has no way of reliably knowing the details of the proposed mining and mineral processing methods, or the related impacts.
  • The project as proposed may generate at least 28 million tons of solid uranium mill tailings and roughly the same amount of liquid waste. The solid wastes would remain on site forever, requiring maintenance forever. Uranium mill tailings would contain radionuclides, heavy metals and other toxic elements.
  • Undiluted tailings liquids may contain 1160 to 1460 times the existing Safe Drinking Water Act standard for uranium. Undiluted tailings liquids may contain 2300 to 2900 times the allowable uranium concentrations when compared to the short-term Canadian aquatic life guidelines.
  • The confirmed presence of sulfides in the Coles Hill rock raises the possibility that long-term, active water treatment may be required, in perpetuity.
  • Numerous factors (i.e., natural permeability of the rock due to fractures and faults; increased fracturing due to mine blasting; open or leaking boreholes and blastholes; high permeability in the nearby sediments; long-term degradation of tailings liners and other mine structures; and seismic activity) combine to provide long-term pathways for the migration of contaminants into local waters.
  • As proposed, the Coles Hill project would require over 5 billion gallons of water. During the start-up period, the project would use at least 525.6 million gallons per year.
  • It has been estimated that at least 136 million gallons of ground water (mostly) would flow into the open pit, per year. This water would become contaminated with numerous radioactive and non-radioactive contaminants. To allow mining, this contaminated water must be pumped out of the pit and discharged to some undefined location.
  • The Coles Hill project may use over 2,030 tons of explosive per year, releasing potentially-toxic concentrations of nitrate, ammonia, and other organic compounds into the environment.
  • Such a project would cause long-term, chronic degradation of water quality and increase water competition in the region.
  • Statistically-adequate baseline data (water quality, quantity, etc.) have never been collected, compiled and interpreted, or released to the public. Thus, the public has no reliable “yardstick” against which to demonstrate that changes have occurred, or not.
  • There is no credible evidence to indicate that either the Federal or State regulatory agencies have sufficient staff, budgets, or political clout to adequately- oversee and enforce the appropriate regulations.
  • All such large-scale uranium projects involve trade-offs, usually some short-term jobs, etc. in exchange for long-term impacts (environmental, socioeconomic, etc.), most of which are paid by future generations. Thus, many of the long-term costs will be subsidized by the public.

(bold Moran's)

p. 2-3, Moran Report

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