Mining for uranium is currently prohibited in the State of Virginia but with a commercially viable stock the State regulator asked the National Research Council to convene an independent committee of experts to write a report that described the scientific, environmental, human health and safety, and regulatory aspects of mining and processing Virginia’s uranium resource. The report, now in a published draft with a finalized non-technical summary, discusses some issues that are relevant not only to uranium mining in Virginia but also to many broader resource exploitation projects in other jurisdictions.
Among many topics the report discusses uncertainties of long-term management of tailings, risks from extreme rainfalls and earthquakes, risks to the health of miners, and risks of off-site exposure to radiation and radionuclides. The report recommends:
- planning at the outset of a project for the complete life cycle of mining, processing, and reclamation;
- retaining qualified experts familiar with internationally accepted best practices for all aspects of a project; and
- encouraging meaningful and timely public participation throughout the life cycle of a project, beginning at the earliest stages.
One of the more interesting findings of the report is that “The United States’ federal government has only limited experience regulating conventional uranium mining, processing, and reclamation over the past two decades”.
The report, a press release, and a brief summary are available at http://dels.nas.edu/Report/Uranium-Mining-Virginia-Scientific-Technical/13266