- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2007

CHATHAM, Va. (AP) — Pittsylvania County sits atop the largest uranium deposit in the U.S. — a potential $10 billion trove that could help feed a global economy.

“The demand for power is coming from China and India mainly,” said businessman Ken Moss, a Chatham resident and recent addition to Gov. Tim Kaine’s energy advisory board.

The domestic nuclear-power industry also is beginning to stir anew.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s newly created Office of New Reactors expects to receive fast-tracked applications for construction-and-operating licenses for as many as 29 reactors at 20 sites, mostly in the South, over the next three years.

NRG Energy yesterday filed the first application for a construction license in almost three decades.

An energy plan proposed this month by Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, calls for reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions and promotion of energy independence through conservation.

Mr. Kaine also called for relaxing a prohibition on uranium mining in Pittsylvania County.

A proposal to mine the uranium deposit near Chatham in the early 1980s generated opposition because of concerns that radioactive milling waste, a result of processing, would pollute the environment.

Marline Corp., a Canadian mining company, discovered 30 million pounds of uranium oxide in the county in the late 1970s and in 1982. The company obtained leases on 40,000 uranium-rich acres in the county and 16,000 acres in Culpeper, Fauquier, Madison and Orange counties.

Marline Corp. called the Pittsylvania uranium deposit the largest in North America.

Claude Whitehead, a former Chatham District supervisor, remembers the controversy that erupted 25 years ago.

“People were talking about black cows turning into red cows,” he said. “People would lose all their hair and babies would be born without legs. All this stuff was floated around.”

Many local officials supported the mining operation because it would have brought jobs and additional tax revenue. Environmentalists were against it because of concerns about the health hazards of mining radioactive material.

Marline promised to start with 900 jobs, with numbers rising to 1,400 a few years after mining started.

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