In 1982, the Commonwealth of Virginia enacted a moratorium on uranium mining, requiring that additional regulations specific to uranium mining be developed before the Commonwealth could permit uranium mining. Because of a combination of low uranium prices at the time and the moratorium, the deposit at Coles Hill was never mined and the leasing rights were returned to the landowner. Following an increase in uranium prices after 2005, interest in the Coles Hill deposit returned and in 2007 the two families living on and near the deposit formed a company, Virginia Uranium, Inc. The company initiated new exploration of Coles Hill, including new data acquisition and analysis of historical data. Coincident with this new exploration, the Virginia General Assembly, in its 2008 legislative session, began to discuss the potential to establish a Virginia Uranium Mining Commission as an advisory commission in the executive branch of the state government. In November 2008, the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission, established within the legislative branch of the state government, created a Uranium Mining Subcommission to examine the issues related to uranium mining in the Commonwealth and specifically at Coles Hill. The Subcommission expressed interest in a broader study that would encompass the entire Commonwealth of Virginia, and developed a draft statement of task with this broader mandate with input from the NRC. This statement of task was discussed in a public meeting of the Subcommission on May 21, 2009, and the Subcommission voted in favor of the statement of task as the framework for an NRC study.
On August 20, 2009, Delegate Kilgore, of the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission, sent a request to conduct the study to the National Research Council (Appendix A). Additional letters supporting this request were received from U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb and from Governor Kaine. In addition to the draft statement of task, the letter from Del. Kilgore indicated that the study would be funded under a contract with the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research, directed by Dr. Michael Karmis, at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). Funding was provided to Virginia Tech by Virginia Uranium, Inc. Committee members serve pro bono, and are not compensated for the considerable time that they devote to committee activities.
The definitions of mining, processing, reclamation, and long-term stewardship—central to many elements of this report—are presented for each of the life-cycle elements:
Mining: Mining includes all the processes by which uranium ore is removed from the ground. There are three types of uranium mining—open-pit mining, underground mining, and in situ leaching/in situ recovery (ISL/ISR). ISL/ISR is also considered to be a processing activity, which occurs in place beneath the Earth’s surface. It is possible that some combination of open-pit and underground