A group of energy companies launched a series of television ads Monday to promote the potential benefits of mining a rich uranium deposit in Southside Virginia.
The Virginia Energy Independence Alliance spots, airing in Lynchburg, Danville and Roanoke, tout the job creation, energy independence and economic benefits of mining one of the world's largest uranium deposits.
Virginia Uranium Inc., which has proposed tapping the 119-million-pound deposit in Pittsylvania County, is listed among the alliance's corporate members. It is expected to ask the General Assembly, as early as 2012, to end a nearly three-decade moratorium on uranium mining.
"Developing Southside Virginia's vast uranium resources is the single largest opportunity in our state for helping to reduce America's reliance on imported energy," the alliance's chairman, Ray Ganthner, said in a statement.
The ads, and videos posted on the alliance's website, argue that mining would bring hundreds of jobs to an economically hard-hit region of the state and ease the nation's dependence on uranium mined elsewhere in the world. The U.S. imports 90 percent of its uranium.
The videos posted on the alliance's website show a lineup of world leaders, from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, to illustrate the message the U.S. should not bank its energy future on foreign powers. A portion of the video promoting energy independence includes the chirpy sounds of Jerry Garcia.
"For the sake of our energy security and our economy, it is important that we harness our own domestic resources at each stage of the nuclear cycle, including fuel and component manufacturing," Ganthner said.
The ads also promote the environmental benefits of nuclear power.
Environmental groups and others opposed to uranium mining, collectively known as the Keep the Ban Coalition, contend the mining and milling cannot be conducted safely and would threaten water supplies.
The National Academy of Sciences is expected to deliver a study in December on the statewide impacts of uranium mining. It will not deliver a recommendation on whether mining should occur.
Ganthner said the alliance conditionally endorses uranium mining and will wait for the NAS study's conclusion before taking a position. He said it wants solid evidence uranium mining can be done safely.
"Let's wait until good science tells us what the risks and safety requirements are needed for such an endeavor," he said in an interview.
Ganthner said the spots, which will run for five or six weeks, are aimed at locations where the issue is being debated. "The idea, really, is to educate the public to what could be the benefits of uranium mining," he said.
The alliance, which was formed in 2009, bills itself as a grass-roots coalition of more than 1,500 people. Besides Virginia Uranium, the alliance's corporate members include Alpha Natural Resources, Atlantic Wind Energy, AREVA and Old Dominion Electric Cooperative.
Online: Virginia Energy Independence Alliance: www.VirginiaEnergy.org; Keep the Ban Coalition: www.keeptheban.org; Virginia Uranium Inc.: www.virginiauranium.com; Steve Szkotak can be reached at www.twitter.com/sszkotakAP