A religious group is joining the fight to maintain a ban on uranium mining in Virginia.
Advocates for uranium mining are trying to convince the state to lift the ban that was imposed back in 1982. Virginia Uranium Inc. wants to mine a 119 million-pound uranium deposit in Pittsylvania County, which may be the largest undeveloped tract in the United States.
Patrick Wales, a project manager for the company, says lifting the ban could lead to hundreds of jobs during tough economic times.
"Uranium can be used to power nuclear plants," he says.
But some critics say uranium mining could do as much harm as it does good.
"The first proposed uranium mine would maybe bring jobs to the Southside, but it would risk a much bigger impact on the economy, like agriculture and tourism, which brings in millions of dollars each year," says Trieste Lockwood, the spokesperson for the Keep the Ban Coalition.
She also references a report issued recently on the toxic waste caused by uranium mining. "A Virginia Beach study revealed that a failing containment system would risk our downstream water supplies for many southern localities, including the beach," she says. "The report found it could take up to two years to flush out contaminants."
Now the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy has joined the groundswell, saying uranium mining would create millions of pounds of radioactive rock, water and dust.
A panel with the National Academies of Science is expected to issue a report on the practice in December.