McDonnell flies to France next week, but not to see uranium

As we reported Friday, more than a dozen Virginia legislators are flying to France this month on trips paid for by a company pushing lawmakers to lift a ban on uranium mining in the state.


Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is heading to France next week. (AP Photo/The Daily Progress, Sabrina Schaeffer)

McDonnell will fly to the City of Light for the Paris Air Show, an international trade fair for the aerospace business held every other year. But he did have some comments on the uranium issue.

The lawmakers’ trip stems from Virginia Uranium Inc.’s attempts to persuade them to repeal the nearly three-decade ban on mining at its regular session in January.

The state’s Coal and Energy Commission has asked the National Academy of Sciences and the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research at Virginia Tech to review whether the uranium can be safely mined.

“The legislature has worked hard over the last couple of years to craft a study commission that’s being led by world class scientists to evaluate all the safety issues, from local radiation to groundwater contamination by the extraction of uranium deposits,’’ McDonnell said this week. “I don’t see it moving forward until we have the results back to see whether they’re conclusive one way or the other. I think all the policy makers would want to have good, sound science to hopefully be conclusive one way or the other on the safety of the extraction of the uranium deposit before we move forward.”

Tests indicate that about 119 million pounds of uranium — worth as much as $10 billion — are located in Coles Hill, near Chatham, a small town in Pittsylvania County.

"I do think, though, that it would help Virginia position itself as a leader in the nuclear industry,’’ McDonnell said. “It’s estimated those resources are worth as much as $10 billion...you’re talking about significant positive tax revenues for Virginia.”

McDonnell leaves Richmond Tuesday, arriving in Paris early Wednesday, and returns early Thursday.

Aircraft engine maker Rolls-Royce, which opened a manufacturing and research facility in Prince George’s County in May, and the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing, invited McDonnell to the event. He will be accompanied by Secretary of Commerce and Trade Jim Cheng and three representatives of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and European Trade Office.

The legislators leave Tuesday on a five-day trip — expected to cost $10,000 a person — that includes about three free days in Paris. Read the full story here.

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