Jaffe, a senior attorney with the SELC, said the bureaucracy of regulating mining is "a hypothetical question that we haven't gotten to yet." He added, "We're deciding the public policy question and the consensus is moving to maintaining the ban."

The SELC and other opponents contend Virginia's wet, hurricane-susceptible climate is poorly suited for a mining industry that typically has been in the arid West.

"I understand this issue is critically important to many Virginians, and that it raises appropriate concern among many in the vicinity of Coles Hill and beyond," McDonnell said. "I believe it is crucially important that all voices be heard in the decision-making process ahead."

McDonnell said he will meet with representatives of both sides before deciding whether he will make a recommendation on the ban. He said he has formed "no prior opinion" on the matter.

"As I have previously noted, the overriding consideration is whether uranium mining and milling can be conducted with a high degree of public safety, and whether suitable assurances can be given that the air, water, health and well-being of the citizens will be protected," McDonnell said.

McDonnell created the working group in January after he asked the General Assembly to delay any action on the ban in the 2012 session. The issue appears headed to the 2013 session.

The working group included representatives from the state Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Health. The 125-page report examines the regulatory structure that would be required to oversee uranium mining, various public health issues and the long-term storage of radioactive-laced rock that would be stored on site for generations.

To illustrate the complexity of the subject, the report explains the meaning in more than two pages of acronyms that are peppered through its pages. Many passages contain the conditional message "if the moratorium is lifted."

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