Why is the Heritage Foundation so invested in pushing for uranium mining in Virginia, and why are mining proponents using the Heritage Foundation to press their uranium agenda?  In order to answer these questions, it is helpful to examine a number of statements found on the Heritage Foundation website and elsewhere.

According to the Heritage Foundation, “The well-being of societies and individuals has depended on individual freedom, free markets, property rights, and limited government.” The Foundation fails to acknowledge that individual freedom and property rights are never more valuable than the freedom of the many, including future generations, whose persons and properties may be jeopardized by the act of the individual. For example, an individual smoker does not have the right to smoke in a public place that would expose many to the ill-effects of secondhand smoke. Similarly, Walter Coles, who owns the Chatham, Virginia uranium site, and much of Virginia Energy Resources (Uranium Mining) does not have the right to threaten or pollute Virginia, North Carolina, and beyond.

According to the American Conservation Ethic of the Heritage Foundation, “the most powerful force for improving our environment is free people.” Yet “free people” are not those who are permitted to contaminate their neighbors’ land, water, and air. Instead, environmental improvement and protection occur when citizens are free to collectively protect their own environmental and health interests.

Central to the American Conservation Ethic “is the fact that renewable natural resources, such as air, water, and soil, are not fragile and static but resilient and dynamic. These resources are continually regenerated through growth, reproduction, and other naturally occurring processes that cleanse, cycle, or create resources anew.” Natural resources such as underground aquifers, surface waters, and critical river basins that provide water to millions, and air cannot be cleaned once contaminated with radioactive particles, nor is there a naturally occurring cleansing process for radioactive and toxic contamination that propagates as it disperses and does not break down for tens of thousands of years.

According to the Heritage Foundation, “In order to realize our nation’s primary environmental goal—a clean, healthy, and safe environment—policymakers should pursue regulations based on economic and individual freedom.”  It is absolutely illogical to predicate a clean, healthy, and safe environment on regulations that are based on the individual and a company’s right to profit, whatever the cost to others. In fact, today’s allegedly improved “best practices” uranium mining, milling, and radioactive waste disposal are based on radiological and toxic exposures “as low as reasonably achievable” (the ALARA regulatory standard).  “Reasonably achievable” is an arbitrary standard determined by costs and profits for individuals and companies and not by independent, unfettered science.

According to the Heritage Foundation, “a misguided command-and-control mindset” of environmental advocates “all too often empower and enlarge bureaucracies, impose mandates, and cripple free markets.”  In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency actually quite often empowers big business and fails to protect the public, designing and implementing regulations tailored to fit the needs of polluting commercial interests. For example, the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for radioactive and other contamination is determined by weighing the health benefits of more stringent MCL’s against the costs of reaching lower contaminant levels. What’s more, clay and plastic liners for “encapsulation” landfills of radioactive mine tailings waste have allowable leakage rates because they are permeable, so it is impossible for them to contain the radioactive and toxic waste, much less for tens of thousands of years.

According to the Heritage Foundation, the National Academy of Science’s study on uranium mining in Virginia is a “negative analysis that purposely offered no beneficial consequences of uranium mining.” In other words, the study did not analyze the economic benefits of uranium mining. Such an analysis would have required weighing the potential company profits and the jobs created against the potential costs of lost revenues from negative perceptions that affect real estate, agriculture, business, tourism, and recreation; of countless burgeoning state and federal uranium-related bureaucratic jobs; of monitoring and maintaining encapsulation waste containment structures in perpetuity; of inevitable contamination clean-up efforts, and of long-term litigation.

According to the Heritage Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences study surmises that “uranium mining can be safely conducted if Virginia rigorously addresses the unique challenges of uranium mining and processing with the best solutions and standards.”  Independent studies of today’s “best practices” reveal that no amount of rigor can overcome the challenges of Mother Nature. (For example, see: Canada’s Deadly Secret: Saskatchewan Uranium and the Global Nuclear System). Hurricanes, heavy rainfall, flooding, tornadoes, and seismic activity cannot be stopped.  Radioactive air emissions spread with wind and precipitation. Underground aquifers and surface water are contaminated when containment structures inevitably take on and let out water, and decommissioned mining sites are often abandoned and left as is.

No doubt the function of the Heritage Foundation is to use Orwellian double-speak in behalf of businesses such as Virginia Energy Resources (Uranium Mining).  While the Foundation claims that “individual freedom, free markets, property rights, and limited government” equal liberty, in truth, if uranium mining were to take place in Virginia, the freedom of millions of people in Virginia, North Carolina, and beyond would be forfeited to the perpetual threat and consequences of radioactive and toxic contamination.  In addition, government bureaucracies and tax burdens would not be limited but would grow exponentially.

By: Deborah Ferruccio

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