Its proposal, however, has been opposed by a wide array of interests: farm groups, civil rights organizations, business associations, environmentalists and municipal groups.
"These entities don't normally agree with each other but they're all unanimous in opposition," Axselle said.
The crafting of legislation that limits mining to Virginia Uranium and the deposit in Pittsylvania County also hasn't won any fans, he said.
"It's not consistent with the good statewide approach balancing the risks and rewards," Axselle said. "I think everybody who's looked at this have said the rewards are few, the risks are many."Opponents contend the storage of waste from the uranium's processing would pose a risk for generations and threaten public water supplies. Virginia Uranium has said its below-grade storage would minimize risks. Watkins' legislation got off to a bad start when it was assigned to Senate Agriculture instead of his preferred committee, commerce, which is believed to be more favorable to uranium mining. The Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, the state's agriculture lobby, took a stand against uranium mining in December. Sen. Emmett Hanger, an Augusta County Republican and chair of Senate agriculture, declined to speculate how his committee would vote Thursday. He suggested pro-mining senators would work to keep the issue alive; if not in this session, then in 2014. "There is a lot of push to lift the moratorium and some want to move the ball forward a bit," he said. "I'm not sure we're going to do that or not, quite frankly." The proposal has been the subject of a raft of studies, including one by a National Academy of Sciences panel. It concluded the state would be challenged to create regulations to ensure safe mining and milling. Cale Jaffe, director of the Virginia office of the Southern Environmental Law Center, said the study made a convincing case against mining, which he predicted would fail in the full Senate if it got that far.