President Barack Obama in his second inaugural address called for new action to “respond to the threat of climate change.” Leaving aside the question of whether the threat of manmade global warming (aka “climate change”) is real, his call for reducing carbon dioxide emissions is another reason Virginia should lift its moratorium on uranium mining.
The nation’s largest untapped uranium deposit exists in southern Virginia. Uranium is extremely valuable because it fuels nuclear power plants. Nuclear power emits no carbon dioxide—in fact, no emissions of any kind. If Virginians support Obama’s goal of substantially reducing carbon dioxide emissions, nuclear power will play a key role.
Other presidential priorities also argue for lifting the uranium moratorium. Throughout the 2012 campaign season Democrats and Republicans alike said the United States should produce domestically more of the energy we use. This was one of the few policy issues that brought together Obama and Republican contender Mitt Romney.
The United States imports 90 percent of the uranium we use, even though we have the fourth largest uranium reserves in the world. Mining the southern Virginia uranium deposit would increase domestic U.S. uranium production by more than 50 percent. As a result, mining this deposit would help increase our nation’s self-sufficiency in an energy source that would help us meet the president’s goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
Economic Benefits for Virginia
Ending the moratorium will provide benefits throughout the Virginia economy. A state-commissioned study found uranium mining would create $5 billion in economic activity and support 1,000 jobs. Most of that economic activity and job creation would occur in southern Virginia and benefit area residents.
Agencies Ensure Safety
A multitude of federal and state agencies would oversee uranium mining in Virginia and make sure it is safe for human health and the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration are just a few of the federal agencies that would oversee and regulate any mining activities. Virginia health and environment agencies would provide additional monitoring, oversight, and regulation.
President Obama may not be right about the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but one thing is clear: Virginia can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions if it chooses to develop its uranium resources. The nation and Virginia will both be better off if Virginians are allowed to produce that uranium.
James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.