11:40 Christina Nuckols: Good morning. Thanks for joining us for this week's Point/Counterpoint discussion. Today's topic is, "Should Virginia lift its moratorium on uranium mining?" Our guests today are Robert Bodnar of Virginia Tech and Cale Jaffe of the Southern Environmental Law Center. We'll get started at noon.
Monday January 16, 2012 11:40 Christina Nuckols
11:57 Robert Bodnar: Not if one reads the newspapers and sees the concern that the U.S., Europe and Israel have over Iran's nuclear program.
Monday January 16, 2012 11:57 Robert Bodnar
11:58 Cale Jaffe: I think the question is a good one. No one is contending that our uranium resources are coming from Iran and North Korea. It's a bit of a bait and switch.
Monday January 16, 2012 11:58 Cale Jaffe
11:59 Cale Jaffe: I'd add that according to the U.S. Department of Energy, the two countries with the most uranium resources in the world are Canada and Australia -- two allies of the United States.
Monday January 16, 2012 11:59 Cale Jaffe
12:00 [Comment From KatarinaKatarina: ]
Isn't Professor Bodnar doing a bit of fearmongering raising the nuclear weapons issue? Besides, whether for nuclear power plants or for weapons, can't the US get enough Uranium from its allies like Canada and australia?
Monday January 16, 2012 12:00 Katarina
12:01 [Comment From KatarinaKatarina: ]
What's the story about uranium mining in areas with high precipitation, low evaporation? Has uranium mining occurred in places like Virginia in the US? And doesn't the processing of the uranium at the same site as the mining increase the chances of contaminated runoff from mining or milling in a catastrophic storm?
Monday January 16, 2012 12:01 Katarina
12:02 Cale Jaffe: It looks like we answered Katrina's first question before it was asked. Sorry about that! We're slowly getting the hang of this online discussion...
Monday January 16, 2012 12:02 Cale Jaffe
12:03 Robert Bodnar: I am not suggesting that Australia and Canada are likely to become hostile to the U.S in the near future, but I would remind readers that Venezuela was a strong ally of the U.S. just a few short years ago, but Hugo Chavez has changed that. The U.S. should always be prepared to be self-sufficient in all strategic resources.
Monday January 16, 2012 12:03 Robert Bodnar
12:03 [Comment From KatarinaKatarina: ]
But aren't we trying to disarm Iran not arm the US with nuclear weapons? Haven't we and our allies tried to de-escalate nuclear arms race by trying to stop Korea and Iran from developing nuclear weapons rather than trying to re-arm ourselves?
Monday January 16, 2012 12:03 Katarina
12:03 [Comment From Rupert CutlerRupert Cutler: ]
Dr. John Cairns believes eastern Virginia receives too much rainfall to be a safe place to store radioactive tailings.
Monday January 16, 2012 12:03 Rupert r
12:04 [Comment From BobBob: ]
I never hear the users of nuclear fuel complain that the supply is insufficient, just the suppliers. Why is that?
Monday January 16, 2012 12:04 Bob
12:04 Robert Bodnar: Bob - could you please clarify - not sure what you are asking.
Monday January 16, 2012 12:04 Robert Bodnar
12:05 [Comment From KatarinaKatarina: ]
I echo Dr. Cutler's question
Monday January 16, 2012 12:05 Katarina
12:05 Cale Jaffe: Wow, a lot of good questions coming in fast. On the water issue, I'd point out that Virginia has been impacted by 78 hurricanes over the last century. Hurricane Camille dumped 31 inches on Nelson County. We need to be prepared to handle those kinds of events.
Monday January 16, 2012 12:05 Cale Jaffe
12:06 [Comment From KatarinaKatarina: ]
What does the National Academy report say about catastrophic events and uranium mining?
Monday January 16, 2012 12:06 Katarina
12:06 Robert Bodnar: With below surface tailings storage, the hurricane issue becomes moot, as outlined in the NAS study
Monday January 16, 2012 12:06 Robert Bodnar
12:07 Robert Bodnar: The National Academy of Sciences study even addressed the most often cited concern expressed by mining opponents – the potential risk of a storm-induced release of tailings into downstream Lake Gaston: “Over the past few decades, significant improvements have been made to tailings management practices to isolate mine waste from the environment… Full below-grade disposal of mill tailings is an option that has been developed specifically to eliminate concerns over the release of tailings due to catastrophic failure of a construction retaining berm or tailings dam.”
Monday January 16, 2012 12:07 Robert Bodnar
12:07 Cale Jaffe: Re: Bob's question on nuclear fuel supply, there was a NY Times report that quoted an industry consultant as saying that "We've got 100 years of high-enriched uranium in storage."
Monday January 16, 2012 12:07 Cale Jaffe
12:07 [Comment From KatarinaKatarina: ]
does this mean that there will be no spill -- how can all the tailings be underground?
Monday January 16, 2012 12:07 Katarina
12:07 [Comment From Brian LindholmBrian Lindholm: ]
Can somebody explain to my why uranium mining tailings are considered "dangerously radioactive"? If you pull mildly radioactive ore-bearing deposits out of the ground, remove the uranium, and then put it back in the ground, is it not LESS radioactive?
Monday January 16, 2012 12:07 Brian
12:07 [Comment From BobBob: ]
Isn't it probable that if we were running out of fuel for nuclear power plants, for example, that the power companies would be showing some concern?
Monday January 16, 2012 12:07 Bob
12:07 [Comment From Concerned citizenConcerned citizen: ]
Does uranium mining and waste disposal pose a threat to our drinking water in Virginia?
Monday January 16, 2012 12:07 Concerned citizen
12:08 [Comment From Rupert CutlerRupert Cutler: ]
Given that most of the rock mined will become waste and that some kind of cement-like binder will be mixed with it to stabilize it, there may be a larger volume of radioactive waste to dispose of than there will be room for underground.
Monday January 16, 2012 12:08 Rupert
12:08 Robert Bodnar: Brian - yes, most of the uranium will be removed during the mining/milling process.
Monday January 16, 2012 12:08 Robert Bodnar
12:08 Cale Jaffe: I don't think the hurricane issue becomes moot. Far from it. Paul Locke, chair of the NAS committee, was very careful to say that "best practices" could mitigate some of the risks, not all of the risks. And the key word there is "mitigate," not "eliminate."
Monday January 16, 2012 12:08 Cale Jaffe
12:09 Cale Jaffe: Re: Brian's question on the radioactivity of the waste, studies confirm that the waste retains about 85% of its original radioactivity. There's a lot of radium and thorium that is not removed.