Four uranium impact studies are progressing to completion, with three due in December.
* The National Academy of Sciences committee is still deliberating on findings as it continues writing its scientific report due to the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission in December, said Jennifer Walsh, NAS spokeswoman. Before its release, the report will undergo an external independent scientific review overseen by the National Research Council’s report review committee.
The $1.4 million study is reviewing the scientific, technical, environmental, regulatory and human health and safety aspects or uranium mining and milling as relates to Virginia. Legislators would use this study in determining whether to lift a nearly three-decades-old moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia.
* RTI International’s assessment of socioeconomic impacts from uranium mining in the Dan River Region is still in the data-collection phase, but report writing should start in the fall, said project manager Katherine Heller, an RTI senior economist. Danville Regional Foundation is funding up to $530,000 for this study.
The nonprofit firm, based in Research Triangle Park, N.C., will soon start interviewing leaders and various experts in the region, including in business, local government, health care, education, community development and environmental groups, to get a variety of perspectives on what the important issues are, Heller said.
Researchers will also conduct eight focus groups in Chatham, Gretna, Danville, Halifax, Martinsville and Lynchburg to gauge the points of view of average citizens. Each focus group will comprise 10 residents for a total of 80 participants. The groups, starting in July, will participate in structured discussion, yet may be asked to review material and score issues according to importance.
The firm also established a community advisory panel to keep up with community perceptions, concerns and questions on an ongoing basis. So far, the panel has five members: Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce President Laurie Moran, Virginia Cooperative Extension community viability specialist Martha Walker, Danville Science Center Director Jeff Liverman, Danville City Councilman Larry Campbell and Pittsylvania County Administrator Dan Sleeper.
Yet, the firm is looking to recruit more members from other areas for the panel, which meets once every four to six weeks, Heller said.
The firm has collected a lot of information from publicly available sources, like Census and Environmental Protection Agency databases and will look at other areas where uranium mining and milling took place, Heller said.
Additionally, RTI is developing a website for the study and will conduct public presentations of the findings.
* Virginia Beach is refining and narrowing the information gleaned from its $437,000 study, conducted by Michael Baker Corp. and released earlier this year, on what would happen to its water supply in the event of a worst-case spill of radioactive waste downstream. Now, the city is spending about $100,000 to take a more detailed look at Kerr Reservoir and Lake Gaston (not modeled in the first part of the study).
Lake Gaston supplies water to Virginia Beach and other Hampton Roads cities. Ninety-three percent of Gaston’s inflow comes from Kerr Reservoir. Additionally, researchers will use two-dimensional modeling for the lakes, rather than one dimension as used in the earlier study, said Tom Leahy, the city’s director of public utilities.
The study will focus on a single scenario, using the 100-year storm (Hurricane Fran), and also on what would happen if a drought followed a hurricane, Leahy said. The earlier study had more than 200 scenarios. Additionally, this study is sharpening what the radioactivity of the tailings (uranium mill waste) would be, he said.
The next report will show impacts to Banister River and Banister Lake, which were modeled before but not in the report, Leahy said. It should be ready by August or the end of summer.
“It’s coming along,” Leahy said.
* Richmond-based Chmura Economics and Analytics is continuing the socioeconomic study commissioned by the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission and funded up to $200,000 by the Virginia Tobacco Commission. The firm typically doesn’t do status reports and only talks about details after the report is approved, unless otherwise authorized by the client, said President Christine Chmura.
The uranium mining subcommittee of the Coal and Energy Commission won’t have anything to report until the studies are received in December, according to subcommittee chair Delegate Lee Ware’s legislative counsel David A. Bovenizer.
Bozick reports for the Danville Register & Bee.