2

Virginia Physical and Social Context

Key Points

• Virginia has a diverse natural and cultural heritage, and a detailed assessment of both the potential site and its surrounding area (including natural, historical, and social characteristics) would be needed if uranium mining and processing were to be undertaken. Virginia’s natural resources include a wide range of plants, animals, and ecosystems, a large number of which are currently under significant stress.

• The demographic makeup of the state varies greatly, both among and within its physiographic provinces.

• Virginia is subject to extreme natural events, including relatively large precipitation events and earthquakes. Although very difficult to accurately forecast, the risks and hazards associated with extreme natural events would need to be taken into account when evaluating any particular site’s suitability for uranium mining and processing operations.



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2 Virginia Physical and Social Context Key Points • Virginia has a diverse natural and cultural heritage, and a detailed assessment of both the potential site and its surround- ing area (including natural, historical, and social characteristics) would be needed if uranium mining and processing were to be undertaken. Virginia’s natural resources include a wide range of plants, animals, and ecosystems, a large number of which are currently under significant stress. • The demographic makeup of the state varies greatly, both among and within its physiographic provinces. • Virginia is subject to extreme natural events, including rela- tively large precipitation events and earthquakes. Although very difficult to accurately forecast, the risks and hazards associated with extreme natural events would need to be taken into account when evaluating any particular site’s suitability for uranium mining and processing operations. 35

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36 URANIUM MINING IN VIRGINIA T his chapter presents a summary of the overarching physical and social context in which any uranium mining and processing in Virginia would occur. The general geography and geology are discussed first, followed by information on mining in the state. Next, the climate, ecology, and the surface and groundwater characteristics of Virginia’s different regions are introduced. Finally, the broad social context is presented, with particular emphasis on areas that might be mined for uranium. GEOLOGY AND GEOGRAPHY OF VIRGINIA The Commonwealth of Virginia spans 755 km (469 miles) west to east and 323 km (201 miles) north to south, encompassing a total area of 110,785 square km (42,774 square miles) (Fleming et al., 2011). It is divided into five physio - graphic zones (Figure 2.1)—the Appalachian Plateau, Valley and Ridge, Blue Ridge Mountains, Piedmont, and Coastal Plain. This physiographic zonation closely follows the overall geology, shown in Figure 2.2. While uranium-bearing rocks occur throughout Virginia, the Piedmont contains most of the identified possible resources for uranium mining. These occurrences are discussed in more detail in Chapter 3. Physiographic Provinces The Appalachian Plateau is the westernmost geographic region in Virginia, occurring only in a small area in the southwest. This province, part of the northern Cumberland Mountains, has rough topography with average elevations between 305 and 914 m (1,000-3,000 ft) (Bailey, 1999a). The region is underlain by flat to gently sloping Mississippian to Pennsylvanian (299-359 million years old [My]) FIGURE 2.1 The five physiographic regions of Virginia. SOURCE: Modified from Bailey (1999a).

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FIGURE 2.2 Simplified geological map of Virginia. Virginia’s geology is extremely diverse, resulting from a long geological evolution starting at least some 1.44 billion years (Ga) ago with Proterozoic rocks in the Blue Ridge and Western Piedmont provinces, through four successive episodes of mountain building (orogenic cycles): the Grenville Orogeny at about 1.1 Ga, the Taconic Orogeny at about 0.45 Ga, the Acadian Orogeny at about 0.38 Ga, and finally the Alleghenian Orogeny at about 0.32 Ga. SOURCE: Modified from Bailey (1999b). 37

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38 URANIUM MINING IN VIRGINIA sedimentary rocks including sandstone, coal, and shale. In addition to coal, the Appalachian Plateau hosts natural gas resources (VA DMME, 2008). Stream erosion has dissected much of the original plateau morphology (Bailey, 1999a). The Valley and Ridge region, which lies to the east of the Appalachian Plateau, is composed of tectonically folded Cambrian to Mississippian (318- 542 My) sedimentary rocks, including limestone, dolomite, sandstone, and shale (VA DMME, 2008). These rocks have undergone differential weathering to produce the linear chains of valleys and ridges that give this region its name.1 This region also contains distinctive karst landforms, created by the interaction of carbonate rock with water, and associated cave systems, extensive subsurface drainage, and convoluted stream patterns.2 This region is dominated by the Shenandoah Valley, with the ridges of the Allegheny Mountains extending west of the Valley to Virginia’s border. The Blue Ridge physiographic province bounds the Valley and Ridge to its east. The Blue Ridge Mountains encompass the highest relief in Virginia, with typi- cal elevations of 457-1,280 m (1,500-4,200 ft), rising up to Mt. Rogers’ 1,746-m (5,729-ft) height. This narrow region has Mesoproterozoic (980-1,440 My) bedrock composed of granite and gneiss, and Neoproterozoic (550-750 My) metasediments and metabasalts (greenstones or greenschists) (Bailey, 1999b; VA DMME, 2008). The northern part of the Virginia Blue Ridge has rough, steep terrain, while the southern Blue Ridge is more plateau-like (Bailey, 1999a). The Piedmont, which lies east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is the largest physiographic region in the state and also the most variable in terms of geology and geography. The Piedmont is underlain by igneous (granite) and metamorphic (gneiss, schist, and slate) rocks, mostly of Proterozoic (542-1,440 My) and Paleozoic (542-251 My) age (Bailey, 1999b; VA DMME, 2008). The metamor- phic grade of the rocks increases from west to east—the Western Piedmont has low- to medium-grade metasedimentary rocks, the Central Piedmont has low- to high-grade metasedimentary and metavolcanic rocks, and the Eastern Piedmont has mostly high- to very high-grade metasedimentary and metavolcanic rocks (VA DMME, 2008). The Goochland Terrain, located in the Eastern Piedmont, has very high-grade Proterozoic rocks (granite, gneiss, and amphibolites) that may have been ancient North American basement (VA DMME, 2008). The bedrock is often covered by saprolite, rock that has been chemically weathered due to the humid climate.3 There are also some areas of sedimentary rock, including sandstone, shale, and conglomerate4 (Bailey, 1999b). This region, a transitional area between flat land and mountains, consists of plateaus, rolling hills, and ridges. 1 http://web.wm.edu/geology/virginia/?svr=www. 2 http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural_heritage/karsthome.shtml. 3 http://web.wm.edu/geology/virginia/?svr=www; accessed August 2011. 4 http://www.deq.virginia.gov/gwpsc/geol.html; accessed August 2011.

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39 VIRGINIA PHYSICAL AND SOCIAL CONTEXT The Coastal Plain, Virginia’s easternmost physiographic region, is bounded by the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Piedmont region to the west. It is separated from the Piedmont by the “Fall Line.” This hypothetical north-south line is characterized by non-navigable waterfalls, where east-flowing rivers leave the hard bedrock of the Piedmont for the unconsolidated sediments of the Coastal Plain. These sediments consist mainly of Tertiary, Quaternary, and Holocene (i.e., deposited between 65 My and the present) gravel, sandstone, mudstone, claystone, and marl (lime-rich mudstone), created through alternating periods of sea-level rise and fall (Bailey, 1999b). The province is divided into gently sloping uplands, lowlands with very little relief near the Chesapeake Bay, and barrier islands and salt marshes (Bailey, 1999a). The Coastal Plain contains heavy mineral sand deposits, which are mined for titanium (VA DMME, 2008). Economic Geology Virginia has an active mining industry, exploiting coal, oil and gas, and mineral resources. Coal provides the state with its most economically valuable mineral resource5—Virginia was responsible for 2 percent of total U.S. coal pro- duction in 2009, amounting to 21.2 million tons with an estimated value of $1.6B (USEIA, 2009). The oil and gas industry, valued at $518M in 2009, produced 140.7 million cubic feet of gas and 11,430 barrels of oil. Mineral mines had pro - duction of 56 million tons, with an estimated value of $978M. Coal and mineral mining employed over 7,000 people in 2009 (Spangler, 2011). The most active coalfields in Virginia occur in the Appalachian Plateau province, a part of the Appalachian Coal region stretching from Alabama to Pennsylvania. The entire Appalachian Coal region produces approximately one- third of the nation’s coal,6 although only a small portion of the coalfield lies within Virginia’s borders. There are also smaller, lower-quality coalfields in the Valley and Ridge and Piedmont provinces.7 The Appalachian Plateau region produces high-quality, bituminous coal, and is also responsible for most of the oil and gas produced in the state.8 Gas production is concentrated in the northern Appalachian Plateau and includes both conventional gas and coal-bed methane.9 Virginia mineral resources cover a broad spectrum—sand, gravel, and stone; heavy mineral sands (rutile/titanium, ilmenite, zircon, leucoxene); and feldspar, industrial sand, clays, kyanite, and vermiculite.10 In 2003, mineral resources valued at $727M accounted for 35 percent of all mining; of that, 65 percent ($479M) was related to the mining of crushed stone (Gilmer et al., 2005). During 5 http://www.dmme.virginia.gov/DMR3/coal.shtml. 6 http://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm?page=coal_where. 7 http://www.dmme.virginia.gov/DMR3/coal.shtml. 8 http://www.dmme.virginia.gov/DMR3/energyresources.shtml. 9 http://www.dmme.virginia.gov/DMR3/naturalgas.shtml. 10 http://www.dmme.virginia.gov/DMR3/mineralresources.shtml.

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40 URANIUM MINING IN VIRGINIA that time, Virginia was the nation’s second-highest producer of feldspar, ilmenite, zirconium, and vermiculite, and the only state to mine kyanite. Sand and gravel mining occurs mainly in the Coastal Plain physiographic province, while crushed stone mining occurs throughout the state. Clay minerals, shale, and slate are mined in western and central Virginia, including the Piedmont province; shale is mined in the Danville Triassic Basin in Pittsylvania County. Industrial lime is mined mainly in the Valley and Ridge region (Gilmer et al., 2005). Geological Natural Hazards In August 2011, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake centered near Mineral, Virginia, caused widespread shaking along the eastern United States, and was felt as far away as central Georgia and southeastern Canada.11 Early post-earthquake esti- mates are for > $100M in damage, and for the first time in the United States a nuclear power facility was shaken by more than its design capacity. The earth - quake occurred within the Central Virginia Seismic Zone, an area of seismicity known to be responsible for small and moderate earthquakes since the 1700s. Prior to 2011, the largest recorded earthquake in Virginia was a 4.8-magnitude earthquake in 1875, and another more recent earthquake—in December 2003— registered at 4.5 magnitude. All these earthquakes were located in the Central Virginia Seismic Zone. Although major earthquakes are a rare occurrence in Virginia, landslides and debris flows are more common, particularly in the rugged topography of the Appalachian Mountains, and pose significant geohazard risks. The largest known prehistoric landslides in the eastern part of North America are located in the Virginia Appalachians (NRC, 2004). Debris flows, discussed in more detail below, have had devastating impacts on mountainous parts of the state. More than 50 historical debris flows, occurring between 1844 and 1985, have been mapped in the Appalachians; most are located within the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia (USGS, 1996). Recurrence intervals for debris flows in river basins in this region are less than 2,000 to 4,000 years, and account for approximately half of the erosion in the area (Eaton et al., 2003). CLIMATIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL CHARACTERISTICS Climate Virginia has a humid subtropical climate, with an average annual rainfall of 108.5 cm (averaged from 1895 to 1998). The state has five climate regions that are similar to the physiographic regions, with three main factors influencing the climate—the Gulf Stream and the Atlantic Ocean, the Blue Ridge and Appa - 11 http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsww/Quakes/se082311a.php#summary.

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41 VIRGINIA PHYSICAL AND SOCIAL CONTEXT TABLE 2.1 Average Rainfall and Temperature by Physiographic Province Province Average Rainfall (cm/yr) Average Temperature (°C) Appalachian Plateau 105-125 13 Valley and Ridge 76-114 4-14 Blue Ridge 100-130 10-16 Piedmont 114-140 14-18 Coastal Plain 110 13-14 NOTE: Average rainfall data such as these do not reflect whether the rainfall occurs steadily through the year, or is more concentrated in larger rainfall events. SOURCE: Data from McNab and Avers (1994). lachian Mountains (including the Blue Ridge Mountains), and the convoluted pattern of rivers and streams that influence moist airflow throughout the state (Hayden and Michaels, 2000). Climate and annual rainfall totals can vary dra - matically through the five climate regions (Table 2.1), with total yearly rainfalls that can vary by over 65 cm between the Shenandoah Valley and the mountainous area in the southwestern part of the state (Hayden and Michaels, 2000). Virginia is subject to extreme weather events—hurricanes and tropical storms, thunderstorms, and heavy rainfall and snowfall. In the period from 1933 to 1996, 27 hurricanes and/or tropical storms made landfall in Virginia,12 bringing with them the threats of flooding, high winds, and tornadoes. Ten to forty percent of the state’s rainfall in the month of September can be attributed to hurricanes or tropical storms (Hayden and Michaels, 2000). Hurricane Camille, 13 one of the “most intense” tropical storms ever recorded in Virginia (USDOC, 1969), pro- duced heavy rainfall of up to 790 mm (31.1 in) as it crossed the state in 1969, and caused intense flash flooding that led to the loss of many lives. Nelson County, in the eastern Blue Ridge, was most severely affected (Bechtel, 2006). A storm sys - tem in the Blue Ridge Mountains on June 27, 1995, produced rainfall of 600 mm (23.6 in) in a 6-hour period that caused a peak flood discharge of 3,000 m 3/s (106,000 cfs) on the Rapidan River (drainage area of 295 km2). The flood caused more than 500 separate landslides, debris flows, and debris avalanches, mak- ing the storm comparable to the most severe ever recorded in the region (Smith et al., 1996). More recently, Hurricane Fran crossed the Piedmont as it moved north-northwest across Virginia in 1996, bringing up to 40 cm of rain from the combination of two weather systems (Connors, 2008). In 2011, Hurricane Irene caused wind gusts up to 114 km/hr (71 mph) and 1.0 to 1.4 m (3.5 to 4.5 ft) storm surges across eastern Virginia, including a 2.3-m storm surge in Norfolk. 14 12 http://www.erh.noaa.gov/akq/hist.htm. 13 http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/history.shtml#camille. 14 http://hamptonroads.com/2011/08/mcdonnell-hurricane-irene-could-bring-historic-storm-surges.

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42 URANIUM MINING IN VIRGINIA TABLE 2.2 Land Cover of Virginia in Approximate Square Kilometers and Percentage Land Cover Type Square Kilometers Percentage Open water 8,650 7.75 Developed 3,750 3.38 Barren 200 0.20 Forest 68,350 61.31 Agriculture/open 26,350 23.65 Wetland 4,150 3.71 SOURCE: Vogelmann et al. (2001); VA DGIF (2005). Land Cover Almost 62 percent of the Commonwealth of Virginia is covered in forest, equaling 15.72 million acres of forestland.15 The Coastal Plain region is domi- nated by loblolly pine and hardwood (McNab and Avers, 1994), with loblolly pine and longleaf in the southeastern part of the area (Woodward and Hoffman, 1991). The Piedmont is predominately oak-hickory (north) and pine (south) (VA DGIF, 2005), and the Blue Ridge and Valley and Ridge are mostly composed of oak and oak-pine, with a few areas of spruce, fir, and hardwoods ( Woodward and Hoffman, 1991). Ninety-three percent of the Appalachian Plateau is for- ested, and is composed of a mix of conifers and hardwoods (Woodward and Hoffman, 1991). Other land cover in Virginia is described in Table 2.2. The value of pine and hardwood forests contributed over $207M to the Virginia economy in 2008.16 Plant and Animal Species There are 3,388 native species of plants and animals documented in Virginia (Stein et al., 2000). Of these, 47 animal species and 17 plant species are on the federal endangered or threatened species lists, and 115 animal and 27 plant spe - cies are listed by the state as endangered or threatened (Townsend, 2009; Roble, 2010). Based on state criteria, 52 percent of the natural community types in Virginia are either critically imperiled or imperiled, and another 21 percent are vulnerable; according to federal criteria, 40 percent are critically imperiled or imperiled and 20 percent are vulnerable (Fleming and Patterson, 2010). Mineral extraction primarily related to coal and gravel mining is cited as one of the major threats to conservation (VA DGIF, 2005). 15 http://www.dof.virginia.gov/resinfo/forest-facts.shtml; accessed August 2011. 16 http://www.dof.virginia.gov/econ/statewide-value-volume.shtml.

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43 VIRGINIA PHYSICAL AND SOCIAL CONTEXT The Coastal Plain region provides habitats for many species, including 235 species of greatest conservation need17 (VA DGIF, 2005). The Piedmont province has 157 species of greatest conservation need, and ~5 percent of the region is within a specifically designated conservation area (VA DGIF, 2005). The moun - tainous Blue Ridge has 174 species of greatest conservation need, 28 percent of the region is part of a conservation land, and only 2 percent of the area is developed (VA DGIF, 2005). The Valley and Ridge province has 384 species and the Appalachian Plateau contains 101 species of greatest conservation need (VA DGIF, 2005). The Coastal Plain, Blue Ridge, and Valley and Ridge provinces are crucial as stopover habitat for migratory birds, because of their locations along the East Coast and in the middle of the Appalachians, respectively (Hill, 1984). Surface Water Surface water conditions in Virginia vary over space and time, reflecting vari- ations in precipitation, evapotranspiration, relative wetness, watershed area, and the hydrogeological properties of the different watersheds within the state. The seven major river watersheds have mean annual runoff that varies only modestly (0.33-0.58 m), with somewhat higher rates measured in watersheds that drain to the Gulf of Mexico (e.g., New and Powell rivers) compared with those that drain to the Atlantic Ocean. This pattern is most probably due to higher precipitation to the western, windward side of Virginia’s mountainous terrain (Table 2.3). Maximum annual runoff varies modestly (less than a factor of two) among these basins as well, although minimum annual runoff is somewhat more variable (Table 2.3). Although differences between maximum and minimum annual runoff can vary dramatically from year to year (i.e., by a factor of between 3 and 10) for individual basins in the state, it is important to note that annual runoff is a positive quantity, and this has important ramifications for uranium mining and processing in Virginia. There is additional discussion of this topic in Chapter 6. In the Coastal Plain and the Piedmont, streams are small to intermediate, with low flow rates in the Coastal Plain and low to intermediate flow rates in the Piedmont (McNab and Avers, 1994). The Blue Ridge region mostly has high- gradient, year-round streams (Woodward and Hoffman, 1991), whereas streams in the Valley and Ridge region are small and seasonal. The Appalachian Plateau has small-to-medium, year-round, moderate-flow streams occurring at medium to high density (McNab and Avers, 1994). As noted earlier, Virginia is also subject to extreme precipitation events asso- ciated with convection, frontal activity, tropical storms, and hurricanes that can cause both local flash flooding and river flooding. The central Appalachians have been subject to extreme precipitation that was greatly enhanced by orographic effects (e.g., the remnants of Hurricane Camille in 1967; the Rapidan storm of 17 See http://bewildvirginia.org/species/; accessed October, 2011.

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44 URANIUM MINING IN VIRGINIA TABLE 2.3 Mean, Minimum, and Maximum Annual Runoff for Seven Major Watersheds in Virginia Based on Long-Term USGS Discharge Data. Mean Annual Min. Annual Max. Annual Runoff Runoff Runoff (m/yr∙m–2) (m/yr∙m–2) (m/yr∙m–2) Watershed Potomac River near Washington, D.C. (adj.) 0.354 0.139 0.727 Rappahannock River near Fredericksburg, VA 0.363 0.095 0.712 Mattaponi River near Beulahville, VA 0.328 0.047 0.695 James River near Richmond, VA 0.359 0.109 0.634 New River at Glen Lyn, VA 0.455 0.230 0.686 Powell River near Jonesville, VA 0.576 0.236 1.020 Roanoke (Staunton) River at Randolph, VA 0.334 0.099 0.597 SOURCE: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/va/nwis/sw; accessed September 2011. 1995), in which air masses interacted with the Blue Ridge Mountains to produce record flood discharges, debris flows and avalanches, landslides, extensive prop - erty damage, and loss of life (Smith et al., 1996; Pontrelli et al., 1999; Sturdevant- Rees et al., 2001; Hicks et al., 2005). The combination of extreme precipitation and topography puts much of Virginia at extremely high risk for flooding, relative to the rest of the United States. Virginia’s mean annual flood potential exceeds 142 m3 s–1/780 km2 (5,000 ft3 s–1/300 mi2), while areas west of the Blue Ridge exceed 227 m3 s–1/780 km2 (8,000 ft3 s–1/300 mi2). Virginia’s 10-year flood potential exceeds 283 m3 s–1/780 km2 (10,000 ft3 s–1/300 mi2), with some high- elevation locations in the western part of the state exceeding 566 m 3 s–1/780 km2 (20,000 ft3 s–1/300 mi2) (van der Leeden et al., 1990). These values are much higher than the mean annual (<57 m3 s–1/780 km2) and 10-year (<142 m3 s–1/780 km2) flood potentials for much of the western United States, where most uranium mining has occurred in the past. Computations of predicted peak discharge (based on equations developed from empirical data from Virginia watersheds by Bisese, 1995) also reveal far greater spatial variability across the state than that associated with annual run - off. For example, the predicted 10-year peak discharge for a 780-km 2 (300-mi2) watershed in the Coastal Plain is 103 m3 s–1, compared with a value of 284 m3 s–1 for a comparable watershed in the Southern Piedmont. Overall, these computa - tions show spatial variability of about a factor of six across the region for both 10- and 100-year peak discharges (Table 2.4), with the highest peak discharges associated with watersheds draining mountainous parts of the state (e.g., Blue Ridge and Appalachian Plateau), intermediate peak discharges associated with the Piedmont and Valley and Ridge regions, followed by the lowest values for the Coastal Plain (Table 2.4). The relatively rare, but extreme, precipitation events that lead to major floods have important ramifications for uranium mining and processing (see further discussion in Chapter 6).

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45 VIRGINIA PHYSICAL AND SOCIAL CONTEXT TABLE 2.4 Predicted Peak Discharge Values for Rural, Unregulated Streams in Virginiaa Region 10-Year Discharge (cms) 100-Year Discharge (cms) Coastal Plain 103 211 Southern Piedmont 284 583 Northern Piedmont 480 1,078 Blue Ridge 484 1,006 Southern Valley and Ridge 345 557 Central Valley and Ridge 476 891 Northern Valley and Ridge 472 1,048 Appalachian Plateau 657 1,144 aBased on Equations in Bisese (1995). Computations assume a typical 300 mi 2 ungaged watershed located in each of eight different physiographic regions. Groundwater Groundwater is an important resource throughout Virginia. Although a greater volume of the state’s water is taken from surface water sources, there are more users of groundwater than surface water (VA DEQ, 2008). In 2008, groundwater withdrawals constituted 22 percent of the freshwater used in Virginia (USGS, 2008). The majority of groundwater withdrawals are for manufacturing and public water supply, with smaller withdrawals for agriculture, irrigation, commerce, and mining (Figure 2.3). About 22 percent of Virginia’s population uses privately owned domestic wells for their drinking water, with heavier use in rural locations (Figure 2.4). In many counties, more than 60 percent of the people rely on private wells for their water (USGS, 2005). Virginia is host to three principal aquifer systems (Trapp and Horn, 1997): Coastal Plain, Piedmont and Blue Ridge, and Valley and Ridge. In addition, a small portion of western Virginia is host to the Appalachian Plateau aquifer sys - tem. In general, the groundwater resources of the state are not well characterized. There is better understanding of the Coastal Plain aquifer system than the other systems in the state, in part because of the high productivity and demand placed on the system. The majority of Virginia’s observation wells (381 out of 411) are located in the Coastal Plain and in the northern Shenandoah Valley (Valley and Ridge); the remainder of the state is covered by only 30 wells (USGS, 2008; D. Nelms, USGS, personal communication, 2010). As mentioned earlier, there are regional differences in the geology of each aquifer system. The Coastal Plain aquifer hosts unconsolidated to semi-consolidated sedimentary rocks; the Pied - mont and Blue Ridge aquifer is in crystalline rock, the Valley and Ridge aqui- fer hosts folded consolidated sedimentary rocks, and the Appalachian Plateau aquifer is in consolidated sedimentary rocks. In addition, there can be important differences at the local scale within each region.

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46 URANIUM MINING IN VIRGINIA Commerical Irriga on 3% 5% Other Mining 0% 1% Agriculture 9% Public Water Supply 37% Manufacturing 45% FIGURE 2.3 Average groundwater use in Virginia by category, 2003-2007. “Manufactur- Average “Manufactur- ing” includes operations such as paper mills, food processors, drug companies, furniture, and concrete companies; “public water supply” includes municipal and private water purveyors; “agriculture” includes operations such as commodity farms, fish farms, and hatcheries; “irrigation” withdrawals are used to promote growth in crops such as tobacco, corn, soybeans, turf grass, and ornamental nursery products; “commercial” operations include golf courses, local and federal installations, hotels, and laundromats; and “mining” includes operations such as sand, rock, and coal companies. SOURCE: Based on 2010 data from VA DEQ. FIGURE 2.4 Proportion of Virginia population served by domestic wells in 2005, by county. Domestic wells supply drinking water for more than one in five Virginians. SOURCE: USGS (2005).

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47 VIRGINIA PHYSICAL AND SOCIAL CONTEXT The Coastal Plain’s alternating layers of sand, gravel, silt, shell fragments, and clay are host to the majority of the state’s groundwater use. Water quality is generally good, although there are local areas of saltwater intrusion and elevated levels of iron and hydrogen sulfide. The high permeability and water storage in the Coastal Plain have led to heavy usage, which places the aquifer system, particularly the unconfined upper aquifer, at high risk for degraded water quality. Aquifers in the Coastal Plain historically have shown high yield and have been able to support much of the area’s water demand. Increasing demand, however, has led to declining water levels—in the Middle Potomac aquifer, for example, water levels are dropping at the rate of about 2 ft/yr (VA DEQ, 2008). The Piedmont and Blue Ridge aquifer system comprises igneous and meta - morphic rock with sedimentary rock at the western margin. Water primarily is held in fractures and faults that decrease in number and size with increasing depth. Consequently, groundwater supply is limited, although wells that intercept well-connected fracture networks may sustain yields suitable for smaller scale domestic or agricultural use. The potential risk to groundwater quality from introduced contaminants depends on fracture geometry. Springs are common in the western portion of the area. High permeability within the transition zone between the saprolite and bedrock makes this an area highly conducive to water flow and transport of dissolved materials, including contaminants. The transition zone stores a large fraction of the water in these systems. The Valley and Ridge aquifer system is hosted by consolidated sedimentary rocks and carbonate rock. The most productive aquifers (150 to 1,000 gallons per minute [gpm]) are in carbonate rock, although yield depends on the degree of fracturing and development of solution cavities. The connection between groundwater and surface water in this region is readily apparent through its karst topography, where surface water directly recharges groundwater through sink- holes and capture of surface streams to the subsurface. The Appalachian Plateau aquifer system is hosted by sandstone, shale, and coal with some carbonate units. Well yields from the sandstones are suitable for domestic supply (<12 gpm) but not heavy development, while carbonates can yield up to 50 gpm. Water quality varies with location and locally can be sulfur- and iron-rich, particularly in coal mining areas. SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS In 2010, Virginia had a population of slightly over 8 million people (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010), with a population density of 202 people per square mile of land. The settlement patterns of Virginia vary greatly, however, and have been driven partly by its geography. The Coastal Plain makes up approximately one-fifth of Virginia’s land area. This province was the first to be settled by Europeans, primarily from England, with African slaves imported for agricultural labor. Today, with the exception

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48 URANIUM MINING IN VIRGINIA of the Eastern Shore peninsula, the Coastal Plain has a fairly high population density, especially around Arlington and Alexandria (suburbs of Washington, D.C.), Richmond (Virginia’s capital), and the coastal cities of Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Virginia Beach. This region is the most densely populated of the Commonwealth’s five physiographic regions. The Fall Line—the arbitrary western boundary of the Coastal Plain at the transition to steeper topography—effectively contained early European settlement to coastal area, because easy boat access was barred to the west. It also sepa - rated the Algonquian-speaking tribes of the Coastal Plain from the Siouan- and Iroquoian-speaking tribes in the Piedmont region to the west. Like the Coastal Plain, the Piedmont was settled primarily by the English with imported African slaves, but it was—and remains—less densely settled. Because the Piedmont contains most of the known potentially viable uranium deposits in the state, it is described in greater detail later in this chapter. The narrow Blue Ridge region—the Blue Ridge Mountains—provides rec- reational opportunities along and near the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Shenandoah Valley in the Valley and Ridge province is part of the Great Appalachian Valley. Composed of a series of valleys that run from Quebec to Alabama, the Great Valley was a major north-south passageway for Native Americans and white set- tlers. The Shenandoah Valley, which saw white settlers—primarily Germans and Scots-Irish—in the early 1700s, has fertile soil and a tradition of small farms (farm animals, grain, orchards) interspersed with towns and small cities. The heavily trav- eled I-81 highway traverses the Shenandoah Valley. The western Valley and Ridge, with its rugged ridges, is more remote and both less populous and less prosperous. The Appalachian Plateau, isolated from the rest of Virginia by the Appala- chian Mountains, is sparsely populated and more economically challenged. Its primary industry is coal mining. However, according to a recent report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, none of Virginia’s coal mines can be considered to be major; as of 2009, none was producing more than 4 million short tons annually (USEIA, 2009). The Piedmont Region Nineteen of Virginia’s 95 counties are wholly contained within the Piedmont region, with parts of other counties around its periphery. Of the 19 counties, 5 are located in the northern Piedmont and 14 in the southern Piedmont, with the James River acting as an informal boundary. In 2010, the total population of these 19 counties, together with two independent cities (Martinsville and Danville), was 611,446, resulting in an average population density of 70 people per square mile. The population in the northern Piedmont is considerably denser than the southern Piedmont—in 2010, the former had an average of 90 people per square mile; the latter, 65 people per square mile. The northern Piedmont is contained roughly within a triangle defined by Washington, D.C. to the north, Charlottesville to the

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49 VIRGINIA PHYSICAL AND SOCIAL CONTEXT west, and Richmond to the east. Its proximity to these metropolitan areas and its natural beauty and rich history have helped make the northern Piedmont a recreational destination and refuge for nearby urbanites. In contrast, the southern Piedmont is lagging behind in wealth and population growth. Traditionally reliant on tobacco growing, it became a center for textile manufacturing in the 20th cen - tury but has largely lost that industry. While population grew aggressively during the 2000-2010 decade in some areas of Virginia, including the northern Piedmont, it remained stagnant or declined in other areas, including much of the southern Piedmont (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). To illustrate the contrasts between the northern Piedmont and the southern Piedmont, two counties—Culpeper County and Pittsylvania County—are described briefly below. Culpeper County is an exurban area located beyond the suburbs of Wash - ington, D.C. It is a relatively small-sized county, with a land area of 381 square miles and a 2010 population density of 123 people per square mile. Some key characteristics of the county are summarized in Table 2.5, and are contrasted with Pittsylvania County, the city of Danville, and Virginia as a whole. Culpeper County is growing rapidly and prospering economically, with an unemployment rate of 6.4 percent (Table 2.5; see also Figure 2.5). Traditionally rural and agricul - tural, the county’s economy is increasingly based on nonagricultural enterprise. Between 2002 and 2007, the number of farm acres declined 11 percent, and while the number of farms remained stable, the market value of products sold declined by 26 percent.18 In 2008, over 12,000 employees worked in non-agricultural sectors, with a total annual payroll of nearly $460 billion. 19 Sectors with more than 500 employees included construction; manufacturing; wholesale trade; retail trade; information; professional, scientific, and technical services; health care and social assistance; accommodation and food services; and other, non-public- administration services. By contrast, Pittsylvania County has a land area of 971 square miles and a 2010 population density of 65 people per square mile (excluding Danville, which is an independent jurisdiction adjacent to Pittsylvania County that for census purposes is treated like a county). The largest county in Virginia, Pittsylvania County is located on the border of North Carolina. Unlike Culpeper County, Pittsylvania County is lagging far behind the state as a whole in population growth and in its economic well-being (Table 2.5). In 2008, fewer than 9,000 employees worked in non- agricultural sectors, with a total annual payroll of just under $233 billion. Sectors with more than 500 employees included construction, manufacturing, retail trade, health care and social assistance, and other non-public-administration services. Agriculture is a leading economic sector for the county. Between 2002 and 2007, the number of farms in the county increased by 4 percent, and the aver- 18 http://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2007/Online_Highlights/County_Profiles/Virginia/ index.asp. 19 http://censtats.census.gov/cgi-bin/cbpnaic/cbpsect.pl.

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50 URANIUM MINING IN VIRGINIA TABLE 2.5 Culpeper County, Pittsylvania County, Danville, Virginia, and U.S. Population Statistics Culpeper Pittsylvania Characteristic County County Danville Virginia U.S. Population, 2010 46,689 63,506 43,055 8,001,024 308,745,538 estimate Population, % change, +36.3 +2.9 −11.1 +13.0 +9.7 2000-2010 Unemployment rate 6.4 7.7 10.7 6.0 8.5 in October 2011, not seasonally adjusted, % Persons 65 years old 11.7 14.7 21.6 12.2 12.9 and over, 2009, % White persons not 71.7 74.4 46.7 64.8 63.7 Hispanic, 2010, % Black persons, 2010, % 15.8 22.1 48.3 19.4 12.6 Foreign-born persons, 6.7 2.3 2.7 10.1 12.4 2005-2009, % Bachelor’s degree or 21.2 13.0 15.7 33.4 27.5 higher+, 2005-2009, % of persons age 25 Median household $61,217 $39,531 $29,466 $59,372 $50,221 income, 2009 Persons below poverty 9.6 15.6 25.1 10.6 14.3 level, 2009, % 15a Adults that currently 21 24 25 20 smoke and report smoking over 100 cigarettes in their lifetime, 2011, % Private nonfarm +23.3 −23.5 −9.0 +9.7 employment, % change, 2000-2008 aNational benchmark. SOURCES: Compiled from U.S. Census Bureau, Culpeper County (http://quickfacts.census.gov/ qfd/states/51/51047.html; accessed 11 August 2011), Pittsylvania County (http://quickfacts.census. gov/qfd/states/51/51143.html; accessed August 2011), Danville city (http://quickfacts.census.gov/ qfd/states/51/51590.html; accessed August 2011), Virginia, and United States (http://quickfacts. census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html), Quick Facts, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www. bls.gov/ro3/valaus.htm; accessed September 2011), and County Health Rankings (http://www. countyhealthrankings.org/virginia; accessed September 2011). All Pittsylvania County data and statistics exclude data for Danville.

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51 VIRGINIA PHYSICAL AND SOCIAL CONTEXT Culpeper County Unemployment Rate (%) 10.1 and higher 9.1 - 10.0 8.1 - 9.0 7.1 - 8.0 6.1 - 7.0 5.1 - 6.0 5.0 and lower Pittsylvania County FIGURE 2.5 Unemployment rate in Virginia for July 2011. The overall rate of unemploy- Unemployment unemploy - ment (not seasonally adjusted) for the state was 6.2 percent. Danville is the small black area mostly enclosed by Pittsylvania County. SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/ro3/valaus.htm; accessed September 2011). age market value of products sold increased by 10 percent,20 despite a 5 percent decline in the total acreage of farmland. The county’s key agricultural products include livestock and grain as well as various fruits and vegetables. Tobacco remains a key agricultural product and also brings in revenue from the federal government. In 2007, Pittsylvania County was the top-ranked Virginia county for tobacco production (USDA, 2009). Between 2000 and 2010, Pittsylvania County received $16M in federal tobacco subsidies, approximately $10M of which was in the form of tobacco transition payments.21 These payments began in 2004 as a method to end tobacco quotas (P.L. 108-357), and are due to end in 2014. In addition to federal tobacco subsidies, Pittsylvania County and the city of Danville received grants from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revi- talization Commission to promote economic growth and education in tobacco- dependent regions (VTICRC, 2010). Between 1995 and 2010, the county received an additional $21.5M for disaster payments, wheat subsidies, corn subsidies, and payments from the Conservation Reserve Program.22 In 2010, Pittsylvania County was the 2nd ranked county in Virginia for U.S. Department of Agriculture subsidies,23 and was ranked seventh in the state for the period 1995-2010.24 20 http://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2007/Online_Highlights/County_Profiles/Virginia/ index.asp; accessed April 2011. 21 http://farm.ewg.org/progdetail.php?fips=51143&progcode=tobacco. 22 http://farm.ewg.org/region.php?fips=51000. 23 h ttp://farm.ewg.org/progdetail.php?fips=51000&progcode=total&page=county&yr=2010& regionname=Virginia. 24 http://farm.ewg.org/progdetail.php?fips=51000&progcode=total&page=county®ionname= Virginia.

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52 URANIUM MINING IN VIRGINIA Although not officially part of Pittsylvania County, Danville—on the county’s southern border—is its largest proximate city. The population size and economy of Danville have been even more stagnant than those of Pittsylvania County, hav- ing experienced two decades of declining growth (−11.1 percent from 2000 to 2010, and −8.7 percent from 1990 to 2000),25 and with a current unemployment rate of 10.7 percent (Table 2.5). Danville’s two main industries have historically been tobacco and textiles, which by the 1980s were no longer competitive with manufacture in others parts of the world (Johnson et al., 2010). FINDINGS AND KEY CONCEPTS The committee’s analysis of the physical and social context within which uranium mining and processing might occur has produced the following findings: • Virginia has a diverse natural and cultural heritage. Each of the five physiographic provinces—the Appalachian Plateau, Valley and Ridge, Blue Ridge Mountains, Piedmont, and Coastal Plain—has distinct geological, climatic, ecological, agricultural, and cultural characteristics, as do subregions within each province. To protect Virginia’s valued resources, a detailed assessment of both the potential site and its surrounding area (including natural, historical, and social characteristics) would be needed if uranium mining and processing were to be undertaken. Virginia’s natural resources include a wide range of plants, animals, and ecosystems, a large number of which are currently under significant stress. • Statewide demographic statistics mask significant socioeconomic dis- parities within Virginia. Although the statewide demographic statistics for Virginia are similar to those for the entire United States, the demographic makeup of the state varies greatly, both among and within its physiographic provinces. A comparison of Culpeper and Pittsylvania counties, in the northern and southern Piedmont, respectively, reveals that Pittsylvania County has a much lower educa - tion, household income, and population growth profile, with much higher rates of poverty and smoking. Pittsylvania County is currently the most likely possibil - ity to host a uranium mining and processing operation, based on the location of known uranium deposits (see Chapter 3). • Virginia is subject to extreme natural events, including relatively large precipitation events and earthquakes. Virginia has a positive water balance (a wet climate with medium to high rainfall), and is subject to extreme precipitation events associated with convection, frontal activity, tropical storms, and hurri - canes, with the potential to result in record flood discharges, debris flows and ava - lanches, landslides, extensive property damage, and loss of life. In addition, parts of Virginia do have some seismic risk, and the state experienced a 5.8-magnitude 25 http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/QTTable?_bm=n&_lang=en&qr_name=DEC_1990_STF1_ DP1&ds_name=DEC_1990_STF1_&geo_id=05000US51590.

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53 VIRGINIA PHYSICAL AND SOCIAL CONTEXT earthquake in 2011. Although very difficult to accurately forecast, the risks and hazards associated with extreme natural events would need to be taken into account when evaluating any particular site’s suitability for uranium mining and processing operations.