For Immediate Release: November 30, 2011
Contact: Andrew Lester, 434-250-1185
SOCIOECONOMIC IMPACT URANIUM STUDY FAILS TO PROVIDE DEFINITE ANSWERS
Danville, VA – Today, the RRBA thanked the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission for timely releasing a report prepared by Chmura Economics and Analytics on potential socioeconomic impacts of the uranium mining project proposed in the Roanoke River Basin watershed. Virginia has banned uranium mining since 1982. A foreign-backed company is seeking to lift the ban to develop a deposit located 14 miles southeast of Smith Mountain Lake.
The Chmura report states that its findings “are predicated on the assumption that the Coles Hill site will be continuously operated and ultimately decommissioned within established federal guidelines, which, by law, reduce environmental and public health risks to the surrounding communities to near negligible levels.” The report also acknowledges that “Chmura cannot model or predict the likelihood that these assumptions will hold true for the entire time the Coles Hill site is in existence.” Similarly, the report states, “we cannot predict with certainty whether the site will be maintained for centuries after its closure in such a manner that the toxic and carcinogenic substances stored at the former Coles Hill location will not adversely impact the environment or health of the surrounding communities.” These costs are likely to be the highest costs because they last perpetually, but they are not even estimated in this report.
The RRBA is continuing to review the report findings but is disappointed that the report has failed to estimate long-term costs to taxpayers for monitoring and maintaining 28 million tons of radioactive waste to be stored in the basin’s watershed forever, and provide estimated costs to communities in the event of an industrial accident at the proposed uranium site.
“While we wished for a more comprehensive study, the Chmura report findings are telling. The study estimates that the net cost to taxpayers under the study’s worst-case scenario would range from $6.6 billion to over $10 billion. And those numbers do not include the long-term costs,” said Gene Addesso, RRBA’s acting president.
The Chmura report also acknowledges that there is “a non-trivial chance that the uranium operation could suffer extended periods of reduced production or may be even idled” due to fluctuations in the price of uranium; however, it does not detail the costs to taxpayers and increased risks related to the lack of radioactive waste oversight during the periods when jobs and associated benefits would be completely forgone.
“In the Association’s view, proposed uranium mining presents an unreasonable risk to the economy of the basin’s communities. And the Chmura report does not seriously address this concern. The report only focuses on the best-case scenario and does not fully address the risks related to uranium price volatility, the industry’s inability to contain contamination and the lack of proper government oversight. The predicted jobs forecast is far rosier than actual experience of communities in current uranium mining communities in the United States. These three factors contributed to uranium operations turning into an economic disaster in western communities where uranium has been historically mined,” said Andrew Lester, RRBA executive director. “Coulda, shoulda, woulda qualification statements throughout this report do not present sufficient evidence to dismiss the unreasonable risks associated with uranium mining in Virginia.”
“We understand that the Chmura team was faced with a daunting task of evaluating a wide range of risks and scenarios. That’s why, they opted to focus on a hypothetical that assumed perfect conditions so far not replicated anywhere in the world. This may be a predictable shortcoming of any report dealing with such a complex issue,” said Olga Kolotushkina, RRBA regulatory and legislative advisor.
The Roanoke River Basin Association (RRBA) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to be the voice for the development, use, preservation, and enhancement of the Roanoke River Basin’s resources. The RRBA represents the two-state region that would be the first uranium mining and milling site on the East Coast if Virginia’s 30-year ban on uranium mining is lifted. Hence, RRBA has taken a lead role in the investigation of the proposed uranium mining and milling in the basin. Contact: Andrew Lester, RRBA Executive Director, 434-250-1185, www.rrba.org