Virginia Uranium Ban Could Be Lifted - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Virginia Uranium Ban Could Be Lifted

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Uranium mining in Southside Virginia was at the top of a list of issues up for discussion in Richmond Thursday.

The General Assembly could vote to lift a statewide ban on uranium mining early next year. Thursday, stakeholders on both sides of the issue discussed what that could mean.

It's one of the bigger issues legislators will battle over during the coming General Assembly session, and at the Associated Press day at the Capitol, people on all sides of the issue weighed in.

The four-person panel included Pittsylvania Del. Donald Merricks, a spokesman for Virginia Uranium Incorporated, as well as environmental and uranium experts. They discussed the impact mining could have on the region and the state.

On one hand, mining could bring in billions of dollars to the economically troubled Southside region. But there are environmental concerns that have many worried, including some lawmakers.

"It's neither a political issue...it's a right or wrong issue, and I just happen to believe that right now it's the wrong thing to do," said Del. Donald Merricks (R) Pittsylvania.

"We will continue to work hard, and certainly we hope that there's some progress made in this General Assembly session. But we really have a long-term view, and you have to when you have a project of this magnitude," said Patrick Wales of Virginia Uranium Inc.

An attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center in Charlottesville says mining could create as much as $6 billion a year for the state, but in a worst case scenario, negative effects could cost as much as $11 billion.

This discussion comes less than one week after the state's uranium working group issued its report to Gov. McDonnell of a possible regulatory framework, should legislators vote to lift the ban next year.

McDonnell said he is busy reviewing that information, and will likely decide by mid-January whether he supports lifting the uranium ban.

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