Friday, November 13, 2009

Board still wrestling with possible uranium-mining study

By John Crane

Staff with the National Research Council is continuing to try to determine how the agency will proceed with a possible uranium-mining study.

The National Research Council Governing Board’s Executive Committee met Tuesday in Washington to discuss the proposal for a study to determine whether uranium can be mined and milled safely in Virginia.

“Given the complexity with several institutions involved (Virginia Tech, the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission), our staff is continuing to work on how we will go about doing the study,” said Jennifer Walsh, spokeswoman for the National Academy of Sciences. “So far, our standard statement of task and approval process is not yet complete.”

The NRC is an arm of the NAS.

Walsh did not comment further when asked about details regarding the study and when the next executive committee meeting will be held.

Virginia Uranium Inc. seeks to mine and mill a 119-million-pound uranium ore deposit at Coles Hill, about six miles northeast of Chatham. VUI, through Virginia Tech’s Center for Coal and Energy Research, would pay for the study’s first phase focusing on the technical and public-safety aspects of mining.

That first phase would cost as much as $1.4 million. Virginia Tech’s Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research would handle the money and contract with the NAS for the study. The second part of the study, dealing with the socioeconomic aspects of mining, still needs to be developed by the Virginia Coal & Energy Commission. VUI would not fund the second part.

If the governing board approves the study request, the next step would be the NRC negotiating and entering into a contract with Virginia Tech’s Center for Coal and Energy Research. The board would then appoint a provisional committee of about a dozen scientific experts to perform the study and write its report.

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