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Nuclear reaction

Virginia recently affirmed a ban on uranium mining, dashing the hopes of enterprises hoping to tap one of the largest uranium deposits in the U.S.

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Digging monitoring wells for unranium mining

RICHMOND (Fortune Small Business) -- One of the largest uranium deposits in the U.S. lies in Virginia, beneath the family farms of Walter Coles and Henry Bowen, who are intent on tapping the ore and joining the nuclear-energy revival. But their hopes were dashed recently when a subcommittee of the Virginia House of Delegates voted to uphold the state's ban on uranium mining, leaving it the only state with that prohibition.

Although disappointed, the families aren't giving up on the deposit, worth $10 billion, and intend to complete exploratory drilling and geological studies. Their biggest task will be convincing area residents that new mining processes will prevent unsafe levels of uranium from leeching into area groundwater.

"We've lived right on top of it for six generations," says Walter Coles Jr., executive vice president of Virginia Uranium. "Uranium is in our water, and nobody in our family has ever died of cancer."

In the meantime, however, nuclear giant AREVA is not betting on Virginia. One day after the legislative ruling, the company announced that the state was off its short list of locations for a proposed uranium refinery. To top of page

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