Money-laundering and political incest...
Danville Register & Bee
To the editor:
OK, let’s get this straight. Virginia Uranium Inc. wants studies that might indicate uranium mining and milling is good business and is safe for Virginia’s citizens. It also wants the National Academy of Sciences to conduct at least one of the studies.
The Virginia General Assembly voted not to fund such a study two years ago. Virginia Uranium Inc. persisted and apparently convinced the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission to do its bidding. The VCEC formed a uranium mining subpanel.
With the aid of Michael Karmis of Virginia Tech’s Mining and Minerals Engineering Department/Director of Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research Center, a study’s scope was determined and Karmis began communication with the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council. At present, no one can or will fund the NAS study but VUI.
The National Academy of Sciences will not accept VUI’s offer to pay because it does not perform its services for private industry. So Virginia Tech will take VUI’s money and give it to the NAS. The National Academy of Sciences will do the study for private industry as long as the industry does not pass the money directly to them? A “blind eye” kind of thing, I suppose.
Does this seem akin to money laundering? If NAS gets “besmirched,” they will have done it to themselves. Virginia Tech appears to be an accomplice. At this point, if the state offers to pay for a study, it looks like a disingenuous offer with those supporting it seemingly subjects of tampering. If citizens question the process, the get called “silly!” VUI has managed to make everyone look bad.
Without mining the first shovel of uranium Virginia Uranium, Inc. is already tearing at the fabric of Virginia and polluting our government institutions and causing deep divisions in the citzenry. If for no other reason than to protect the Commonwealth's integrity, uranium mining should be banned. Unfortunately, we stand to lose more if we mine and mill uranium. Why risk Virginians’ health, heritage, agricultural and tourism industry, future economic opportunities, clean air and water for a boom-bust uranium mine? To allow this, as Karmis might opine, would be “silly.”
KAREN B. MAUTE
Note: The R&B chose to omit the follwing from Ms. Maute's original letter: "Without mining the first shovel of uranium Virginia Uranium, Inc. is already tearing at the fabric of Virginia and polluting our government institutions and causing deep divisions in the citzenry. If for no other reason than to protect the Commonwealth's integrity, uranium mining should be banned."
This is the editorial that prompted Ms. Maute's letter:
Editorial: No conflict at Tech
A nuclear engineering program at Virginia Tech shouldn't impact its involvement in uranium study.
There is ample reason to be disappointed in, and wary of, the planned study of uranium mining safety in Virginia -- most notably the fact that the corporation wanting to do that mining is paying for the study.
But it is wrong to allege, as some critics of the study have, that Virginia Tech has a conflict of interest in its assigned role of managing the money and coordinating with the National Academy of Sciences on the study.
Anne Cockrell, a Danville resident and member of the mining opposition group Southside Concerned Citizens, said Tech's nuclear engineering program poses a conflict of interest.
"Tech's having a domestic supply of uranium ore in its back yard would complement its nuclear engineering program in no small measure," she wrote in a recent e-mail. She repeated the charge in a commentary in the Chatham Star Tribune.
In an interview with the Danville News, Michael Karmis, director of Tech's Center for Coal and Energy Research, called that argument "silly."
Tech is not revitalizing its nuclear engineering program because of the possibility that there may be a local source of uranium available. Rather, the move is in response to a growing demand for nuclear energy and the upcoming retirement of a generation of nuclear engineers.
There are serious reasons to doubt the safety and feasibility of mining and processing uranium in Virginia's damp climate and in a location near population centers.
For appearances' sake, it would have been far better for the state to have paid for the study. The corporation that could mine as much as $10 billion worth of uranium from the Coles Hill site has a clear vested interest in the outcome of the study, and should not be involved.
But no one else stepped up with the money, and the state isn't exactly flush with cash.
The safeguards in place -- including Tech's management of the funds -- seem sufficient to ensure that the study is not biased by its funding.
Certainly, the National Academy of Sciences will not trade its reputation in exchange for a $1.2 million study.
Based on the available evidence, Tech doesn't deserve to have its reputation besmirched, either.