Fear and Politics Sideline Va. Uranium Mine, Set Back Energy Independence

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By Christopher Hopkins, The Saint Consulting Group

Chris-Hopkins2Fear and politics can be a lethal combination, especially for a controversial energy proposal. But ultimately that is what sidelined the proposed uranium mine in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. 200 acres of a 1,000 acre family farm, a farm that has been in the Cole family since before the Revolutionary War, a former tobacco farm was also the home of one of the largest untapped uranium reserves in the world.

The time seemed right for the exploration of this mine, the demand for nuclear energy is on the rise with China, India, Russia, South Korea and the 27 other countries operating 437 nuclear power plants, (as of January 2013) and 68 more under construction.

But unfortunately the increase in demand is coinciding with a decrease of supply. Last month, the same month that fear and political pressure put the Cole Hill mine on the sidelines, the “Megaton to Megawatt” program has come to an end. For details, see the Associated Press report Dec 14 on “Drive to Mine Uranium in Va. Comes to Quiet Pause”.

This program was a 20-year agreement developed in 1993 where Russia converted its nuclear warhead grade uranium into energy grade uranium and then sold it to the United States. The last shipment of this uranium arrived in the United States on December 11, 2013, 20,000 Russian nuclear warheads were decommissioned in this effort. The program accounted for 10 percent of all electricity generated in the United States and with the end of the program the United States will only be able to replace 50 percent of that supply through 2015.

This appears to be of little concern to the environmentalists who oppose nuclear energy and the politicians who are afraid of those environmental coalitions. The local groups opposing the Coles Hill mine used terms such as “The 50 mile circle of death”, a term they used in order to tell residents that everything, absolutely everything within a 50 mile radius of the Coles Hill mine would die because of the mine. These opponents were able to frighten residents throughout the state and lobby them to pressure their elected officials. Other lies were told as well, when Walter Coles sold a small portion of stock to an investment company, which happened to be located in Canada in order to raise capital, Virginia Uranium suddenly became a “foreign company”. Never mind the fact that the vast majority of the stock, (over 80 percent the last I had heard) was owned by Pittsylvania County residents, that did not matter because it was not divisive enough for the opponents.

So now that Governor-Elect McAuliffe has come out against lifting the uranium-mining ban in Virginia, to the applause of the environmental lobby, the future of the mine is in grave doubt.

If you are keeping score, the environmentalist coalitions are opposed to oil powered power plants, nuclear power plants, coal fired power plants, natural gas exploration, burning wood in your fireplace and natural gas pipelines. With wind and solar power years if not decades away from being a prime source of affordable energy in the world, it is rather irresponsible to eliminate current sources of power with nothing to replace it. In the free economy, increased demand with diminishing supply results in significantly higher energy prices for consumers, something that appears to be of little concern to environmentalists.

Christopher Hopkins is senior vice president, mining and aggregates, for The Saint Consulting Group, email hopkins@tscg.biz 

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