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Culpeper board: Keep state U238 moratorium

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Date published: 1/29/2013

The Culpeper Soil & Water Conservation District is a political subdivision of the commonwealth. The Virginia Code authorizes its elected directors to take steps to "increase understanding among community leaders, including elected officials" of their roles in soil and water-quality protection.

Pursuant to this authority, we write regarding proposals to authorize uranium U238 mining in the commonwealth. The Culpeper District has a special interest in this issue, since its five counties include Culpeper, Madison, and Orange, which constitute one of the two areas of Virginia identified as likely to have minable concentrations of uranium ore.

Indeed, in the 1980s, 481 exploratory leases were purchased on properties in these counties and in Fauquier. We have reviewed all the materials furnished by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Uranium Working Group, including the report of the National Academy of Sciences. The approach taken, and the accompanying materials relied on, give us great concern regarding the irremediable threats to soil and water quality in Virginia.

As a coastal state, Virginia shares Atlantic weather patterns quite different from the southwestern U.S., where most U238 has been mined to date. Virginia is subject to heavy rainfalls and Category 5 storms. This poses unknown threats to stored tailings.

The dangers posed by U238 are among the most hazardous of any known substance. After-the-fact remediation of a U238 spill should not be a discussable option, nor should surety bonds be viewed as a replacement for public safety.

We are urging our state elected officials to continue the moratorium until those seeking a change can fully and completely assure Virginia that its precious lands and waters will not be put at such great risk.

Lynn Graves


Lynn Graves is vice chairman of the Culpeper Soil & Water Conservation District.