- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 5, 2009

ROANOKE | The company that wants to mine a vast uranium deposit in Southside Virginia will pay for a study to determine whether the ore can be extracted without harming humans and the environment, a state legislator said Friday.

Delegate Terry Kilgore said he has written a letter asking the National Academy of Sciences to proceed with a study on whether the 119 million pounds of uranium on 3,000 acres in Pittsylvania County can be mined safely.

Virginia Uranium Inc. had offered to pay for the study, which Mr. Kilgore estimated will cost up to $1.3 million.

He said the state, which is dealing with a $1.5 billion budget deficit, can’t finance the study and no one else has come forward.

A subcommittee of the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission that Mr. Kilgore heads decided earlier this year that the national academy should be the organization that studies whether uranium can safely be mined and milled in Virginia.

Some mining opponents were skeptical of a study financed by the company that wants to mine uranium.

“I don’t know how anybody could expect that it’s going to be really unbiased,” said Eloise Nenon, who lives near the site and belongs to a citizens group opposed to the mining. “It’ll lack credibility.”

William Colglazier, executive officer of the national academy, said its studies are based on science, not political considerations. The academy is a private, nonprofit agency that advises government officials on scientific matters. Group members who conduct studies are chosen for their expertise and work without compensation, Mr. Colglazier said.

“We have no stake in the outcome,” he said.

Virginia’s study request will probably go before the academy’s governing board for approval in October.

“This looks like an important issue,” Mr. Colglazier said. “It looks like a reasonable request.”

Mr. Kilgore, a Republican from southwest Virginia’s coal-mining region, thinks the study will be fair and will answer the safety questions. It could take up to two years to complete, he said.

“It’s going to take a while, and that’s a good thing,” he said. “We want to make sure it’s done right.”

The study is a first step by Virginia Uranium toward persuading the General Assembly to lift a ban on uranium mining in the state that has been in place since 1982.

“We’re certainly gratified that it looks like things are moving forward,” company spokesman Patrick Wales said.

The Pittsylvania County deposit is thought to be the largest in the nation.

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