A U.S. Supreme Court challenge to the state’s mining ban divides the town of Chatham, as an environmental group warns of the potential “disaster” for air and water.
Walter Coles Sr. stood on a hill overlooking the Virginia pasture land that his family has farmed since it was deeded to them by Thomas Jefferson, motioning with a sweep of his hand to the expanse of radioactive treasure buried below.
“There’s uranium everywhere,” Coles said of fields that had once been filled with tobacco. In fact, his land holds the largest-known deposit of uranium in the U.S., an estimated 119 million pounds that could displace imports that constitute more than 90 percent of the uranium used by the nation’s nuclear power plants.
But the cache, once valued at $6 billion, can’t be mined. The Virginia legislature, after the Three Mile Island nuclear power station meltdown in 1979, imposed a moratorium on mining uranium in the state.
But Coles is fighting the legality of the ban through Virginia Uranium Inc., a company he formed with some Canadian investors. The case has made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where arguments will be heard on Nov. 5.
The case has drawn the support of the Trump administration—which is considering slapping a tariff on imported uranium—and has put Virginia in the bull’s-eye of a national debate about energy security, nuclear power and the environment. It has also pitted neighbor against neighbor and husband against wife in the rural community 30 miles from the North Carolina border in Pittsylvania County.
For the rest of this article: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-10-31/a-virginia-farmer-fights-to-harvest-his-uranium