Regulatory Issues - USA (2004 - 2008)
(last updated 16 Nov 2014)
This page provides information on recently published rules or rules under development, covering the operation and decommissioning of uranium mines and mills and the management of uranium mine wastes and mill tailings.
> see also:
> for more recent issues, see Current Regulatory Issues - USA
This final rule amends the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM)
emergency withdrawal regulation to remove language that directs the
Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) to immediately make an emergency
withdrawal upon notification by one of two congressional committees.
Federal Register: December 5, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 235) p. 74039-74047 (download full text )
> See also: Uranium exploration at the Grand Canyon
> Download U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission strategy for outreach and communication with Indian tribes potentially affected by uranium recovery sites (52k PDF)
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) will conduct a public hearing on September 16, 2008, to receive testimony regarding proposed revisions to 30 TAC Chapter 37, Financial Assurance; Chapter 39, Public Notice; Chapter 55, Requests for Reconsideration and Contested Case Hearings; Public Comment; Chapter 305, Consolidated Permits; Chapter 331, Underground Injection Control; and Chapter 336, Radioactive Substance Rules under the requirements of Texas Health and Safety Code, §382.017; and Texas Government Code, Chapter 2001, Subchapter B.
The rulemaking would implement Senate Bill (SB) 1604, 80th Legislature, 2007, Regular Session, House Bill 3838, 80th Legislature, 2007, Regular Session, and House Bill 1567, 78th Legislature, 2003, relating to radioactive material licensing, including uranium mining. SB 1604 also addresses the TCEQ's underground injection control program for regulation of in situ uranium mining and requires the TCEQ to establish and administer a new state fee for the disposal of radioactive wastes other than low-level radioactive waste. In addition, the rulemaking would establish the remaining technical requirements, application processing requirements, public notice requirements, licensing and application fees, low-level radioactive waste disposal fees, and financial assurance requirements for radioactive material licensing, including those programs transferred from the Department of State Health Services to the TCEQ.
The comment period closes October 6, 2008.
> View Notice of a Public Hearing on Proposed Revisions to 30 TAC Chapters 37, 39, 55, 305, 331, and 336, Texas Register, September 5, 2008, Volume 33 Number 36, Pages 7373-7642, In Addition
On May 15, 2008, the South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment approved revisions to existing rules for capping, sealing, and plugging exploration test holes and in situ leach mining.
> View Minerals and Mining Program Rule Revisions
> Download Adopted Revisions to ARSD 74:11:08 and 74:29:11 (PDF)
On April 3, 2008, the South Dakota Water Management Board approved new rules for injection wells for uranium mining operations proposed for the Black Hills region.
Now, the rules and a similar set before the state Board of Minerals and Environment must be reviewed by a legislative committee and checked by the Secretary of State, a process that could take two or three months.
(Rapid City Journal Apr. 4, 2008)
> See also: South Dakota adopts In Situ Leach Mine Regulations
NRC staff proposes a revision of NRC Regulatory Guide RG 3.5: Standard format and content of license applications for conventional uranium mills.
Public comments are being solicited on this draft guide. Comments will be most helpful if received by August 4, 2008.
Federal Register: May 30, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 105) p. 31152-31153 (download full text )
> Download Draft Regulatory Guide DG-3024
(Proposed Revision 2 of Regulatory Guide 3.5)
> Download Regulatory Guide 3.5 (Rev. 1, Nov. 1977)
Upon further consideration the NRC has decided not to revise RG 3.5 at this time. For this reason, DG-3024 will be withdrawn.
Federal Register: September 23, 2011 (Volume 76, Number 185) p. 59173-59174 (download full text )
On March 28, 2008, the Colorado House gave initial approval to a bill by Fort Collins legislators that would strengthen the rules for in-situ leach mining, a process that injects substances underground that critics say could lead to the poisoning of groundwater and the landscape.
"This bill ensures uranium mining doesn't leave behind a toxic legacy. By encouraging responsible mining practices now, we'll protect our drinking water, our communities and our public health well into the future," said Rep. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins.
The measure (House Bill 1161) would require mining companies to show they will reclaim and restore groundwater to pre-mining quality or to state standards. It also would require mine operators to notify all landowners within the vicinity about the proposed permit.
The bill was introduced after one mining company, Powertech, told the state it wants to begin in situ leach uranium mining in northern Colorado.
(The Coloradoan Mar. 28, 2008)
There was unanimous, bipartisan support on April 17, 2008, for a bill aimed at tightening uranium mining regulation in Colorado.
HB 1161, sponsored by Fort Collins Democrat lawmakers Reps. John Kefalas and Randy Fischer and Republican Sen. Steve Johnson, passed the Senate Local Affairs Committee by a 7-0 vote.
(The Coloradoan Apr. 17, 2008)
On Apr. 30, 2008, House Bill 1161 passed the Senate Second Reading with Amendments.
On May 2, 2008, House Bill 1161 passed Senate on Third Reading with a vote of 32-2.
Because minor amendments were added to the legislation after it passed the House, the bill must go back to the House for approval before heading to Gov. Bill Ritter's desk for consideration.
(The Coloradoan May 2, 2008)
On May 5, 2008, Senate amendments to HB 1161 were approved in the House by 49-15.
(The Coloradoan May 5, 2008)
On May 20, 2008, Governor Ritter signed the bill into law.
(Vail Daily May 20, 2008)
> Enacted Law, 2008 Session Law Chapter 252 - "An act concerning an increase in the regulatory authority of the mined land reclamation board over mining, and, in connection therewith, ensuring the protection of ground water and public health, and making an appropriation": View HTML · Download PDF
> View HB08-1161 regulations
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Independent External Review Panel has recommended several changes to the NRC's process for granting licenses to possess radioactive materials aimed at eliminating vulnerabilities that could be exploited by terrorists or other adversaries.
The panel was chartered in October 2007 as part of the NRC's response to a Government Accountability Office report that identified several vulnerabilities in the agency's materials licensing process. GAO investigators were able to obtain an NRC materials license under fraudulent pretexts and then alter the license in order to procure radioactive materials in excess of the amounts authorized by the license.
> View NRC release March 18, 2008
> Download Final Report of the Independent External Review Panel to Identify Vulnerabilities In the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Materials Licensing Program, March 11, 2008
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued for public
comment a draft regulatory guide titled "Design, Construction,
and Inspection of Embankment Retention Systems at Uranium Recovery
This draft guide updates and combines the guidance currently found
in Revision 2 of Regulatory Guide 3.11, "Design, Construction, and
Inspection of Embankment Retention Systems for Uranium Mills," and
Revision 1 of Regulatory Guide 3.11.1, "Operational Inspection and
Surveillance of Embankment Retention Systems for Uranium Mill
The NRC staff is of the opinion that the latest advances in
engineering, together with engineering experience and knowledge
available in the field of water storage dams and retention structures,
can be used in the design and construction of uranium recovery
retention systems. The basic concepts of conventional water storage
impoundments can be suitably modified to produce economical designs
that will ensure the stability of the retention system and minimal
Federal Register: March 18, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 53) p. 14501-14502 (download full text )
> Download Draft Regulatory Guide (DG)-3032, Design, Construction, and Inspection of Embankment Retention Systems at Uranium Recovery Facilities, Feb. 2008
> Download Regulatory Guide 3.11, Design, Construction, and Inspection of Embankment Retention Systems for Uranium Mills, Rev. 2, Dec. 1977
> Download Regulatory Guide 3.11.1, Operational Inspection and Surveillance of Embankment Retention Systems for Uranium Mill Tailings, Rev. 1, Oct. 1980
The final Regulatory Guide was issued on Nov. 4, 2008.
> Download Regulatory Guide 3.11 Rev. 3, Design, Construction, and Inspection of Embankment Retention Systems at Uranium Recovery Facilities, Nov. 2008
Federal Register: November 10, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 218) p. 66686 (download full text )
DOE issues Finding of No Significant Impact for sale of excess uranium inventory
Federal Register: July 1, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 125) p. 31420-31424 (download full text )
> Download Final Environmental Assessment for the Disposition of DOE Excess Depleted Uranium, Natural Uranium and Low-Enriched Uranium, DOE/EA-1607 (June 2009) (3.7M PDF)
> Download Draft Environmental Assessment for the Disposition of DOE Excess Depleted Uranium, Natural Uranium and Low-Enriched Uranium, DOE/EA-1607 (Dec. 23, 2008) (4.6M PDF)
The comment period on the draft EA ended Jan. 30, 2009.
DOE will issue a finding of "no significant impact" on the sale of portions of its excess uranium inventory in domestic uranium markets, DOE's William Szymanski told officials at NRC's annual fuel cycle conference June 24. The finding results from an environmental impact statement DOE began work on last year as the department surveyed how best to manage 59,000 metric tons of DOE-owned uranium now stored in cylinders.
(Platts June 24, 2009)
DOE issues Excess Uranium Inventory Management Plan (including HEU downblending and DU re-enrichment options)
On Dec. 16, 2008, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) issued its Excess Uranium Inventory Management Plan, which outlines the Department's strategy for the management and disposition of its excess uranium inventories.
The Plan addresses the disposition of the identified excess uranium inventories through potential sales or transfers, based on a combined annual quantity of no more than ten percent of the annual U.S. nuclear fuel requirements, although additional quantities of uranium could be sold or transferred for special purposes such as to supply initial cores for new reactors.
> View DOE release Dec. 16, 2008
> Download Excess Uranium Inventory Management Plan, Dec. 16, 2008 (324k PDF)
> See also: DOE presents downblending options for its unallocated HEU
> See also: DOE presents re-enrichment options for its higher assay depleted uranium tails
DOE announces policy for managing excess uranium inventory
On March 12, 2008, U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman released a Policy Statement on the management of the Department of Energy's (DOE) excess uranium inventory, providing the framework within which DOE will make decisions concerning future use and disposition of its inventory. During the coming year, DOE will continue its ongoing program for downblending excess highly enriched uranium (HEU) into low enriched uranium (LEU), evaluate the benefits of enriching a portion of its excess natural uranium into LEU, and complete an analysis on enriching and/or selling some of its depleted uranium. Specific transactions are expected to occur in the near future. Consistent with applicable law, DOE will review the impacts of particular sales and transfers from its excess uranium inventory on the market and the domestic uranium industry, before undertaking these sales and transfers.
> View DOE release March 12, 2008
> Download Secretary of Energy's Policy Statement on Management of the Department of Energy's Excess Uranium Inventory, March 11, 2008 (166k PDF)
A bill creating a revenue source for cleaning up contamination from abandoned uranium mines and mills was vetoed on March 3, 2008, by Gov. Bill Richardson.
Richardson said the funding level provided in the bill was inadequate, and that New Mexico "deserves better."
The uranium bill SB487 , which was opposed by environmental organizations, created a funding source linked to future uranium production.
It would have taken half the proceeds of an existing excise tax on uranium and diverted it to a cleanup fund. It also would have imposed a new surtax of 50 cents a pound on mined and milled uranium and directed it to the same fund.
Richardson said in a veto message that it's estimated the cleanup of hundreds of uranium sites across the state would cost tens of millions of dollars, at least. The funding mechanism in the bill wouldn't provide enough, he said.
The bill's opponents had said it inappropriately tied cleanup of old mining sites to production from new mines and mills, which some residents of communities that would be impacted by new production oppose. And they said it would let companies responsible for past production off the hook, even if they were still financially viable.
There is no uranium mining in New Mexico currently, although skyrocketing prices have prompted plans by some companies to resume production.
(Las Cruces Sun-News Mar. 3, 2008)
On Feb. 26, 2008, the Navajo Nation Council approved the Navajo Nation Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (NNCERCLA).
The legislation, which must be signed by Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr., serves the same purposes as the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), known as the Superfund law.
It would allow Navajo officials to monitor and remove all hazardous substances, pollutants and contaminants on the 27,000 square-mile reservation that could endanger the health and safety of residents.
Navajo EPA officials said there are about 1,000 abandoned uranium mines sites on the reservation that could be addressed under the legislation as well as other sites that are leaking toxic chemicals.
The next step for the tribe is to develop regulations that would spell out the parameters of the Superfund program and set the rate of a tariff that would fund the program. Officials expect to accomplish that within a year.
(AP Feb. 26, 2008)
On Feb. 8, 2008, the New Mexico House approved a proposal (HB342 Uranium Legacy Cleanup Act ) to pay for cleaning up contamination from abandoned uranium mines and mills.
The measure would earmark money from taxes on future uranium mining and processing for a cleanup fund administered by the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.
The legislation would establish a surtax on uranium mining and processing. A portion of revenues from an existing severance tax on mining also would go into the proposed cleanup fund.
The proposed cleanup program would apply to sites in which mining and milling took place before July 2008. The House passed the measure on a 54-11 vote and sent it to the Senate for consideration.
(Las Cruces Sun-News Feb. 8, 2008)
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is proposing to amend
its regulations to improve decommissioning planning, and thereby reduce
the likelihood that any current operating facility will become a legacy
The comment period has been extended to May 8, 2008.
> Federal Register: March 20, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 55) p. 14946
(download full text )
> View NRC release Jan. 22, 2008
> Federal Register: January 22, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 14) p. 3811-3846
(download full text )
> View docket NRC-2008-0030 (regulations.gov)
> See also: NRC issues Rule on Decommissioning Planning
With uranium mining potentially starting up again in North Dakota's western counties, some state officials want to meet with the public to talk about uranium mining rules.
State geologist Ed Murphy said he's organizing a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 12, 2008, at the Belfield Memorial Hall.
Murphy said the time to put rules in place is before uranium activity gets under way.
Murphy said 60 pages of rules and regulations patterned after South Dakota are being reviewed now by the North Dakota Attorney General's office.
(Bismarck Tribune Jan. 12, 2008)
The Utah Radiation Control Board has proposed a rule that will impact persons who submit documents to the Division of Radiation Control. The proposed change will require that official submissions to the Division shall also be submitted in a searchable (!) electronic format. This requirement extends to all attachments to these documents (!).
The Division is soliciting public comments through 5:00 p.m. on January 14, 2008.
> View Utah Division of Radiation Control - Rulemaking Actions
> View proposed change to Section R313-12-111 of the Utah Administrative Code
The Navajo Nation is pushing for a federal moratorium on uranium mining both within the reservation's boundaries and beyond.
The tribe banned uranium mining and processing on its land in 2005, but companies have been trying to revive it as uranium prices soar.
Navajo President Joe Shirley Junior says his people's health has suffered due to past uranium mining operations.
(The Arizona Daily Star Nov. 9, 2007)
> See also: Navajo Nation outlaws uranium mining
The Railroad Commission of Texas proposes the repeal of all rules in 16 TAC Chapter 11 , relating to Surface Mining and Reclamation Division, and proposes several new rules under newly titled Chapter 11, relating to Uranium Exploration and Surface Mining.
The proposed rules that are new and not currently found in Chapter 11 are §§11.23 - 11.33 and §§11.151 - 11.165. New rules §§11.23 - 11.33 are proposed to address expanded statutory authority for uranium exploration enacted by House Bill 3837, 80th Legislature (2007) .
The comment period ended Nov. 26, 2007.
Railroad Commission of Texas Proposed Rules :
Aerial View: Google Maps · MSRMaps
On Oct. 23, 2007, Valhi, Inc. reported that its wholly owned subsidiary, Waste Control Specialists LLC ("WCS"), received notification that the Executive Director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality ("TCEQ") has prepared a draft license and made a preliminary decision that this license meets all statutory and regulatory requirements for the disposal of byproduct material at WCS' site in Andrews County, Texas. Byproduct material includes uranium or thorium mill tailings as well as equipment, pipe and other materials used to handle and process the mill tailings.
Written public comments and requests for public meeting or a contested case hearing must be submitted within 30 days from Nov. 9, 2007.
> View Notice of Completion of Technical Review Proposed Radioactive Material License, Texas Register, November 9, 2007, Volume 32, Number 45, Pages 8061-8222, In Addition
> Download related documents (TCEQ)
> Download license application (WCS)
On May 21, 2008, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved the license in a 2-1 vote. The company still has about nine months of construction before it can begin burying about 3,700 canisters of the uranium byproduct waste.
(AP May 21, 2008)
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff is
revising, withdrawing portions of, and describing the process for
updating guidance in "Consolidated Decommissioning Guidance:
Characterization, Survey, and Determination of Radiological Criteria"
(NUREG-1757, Vol. 2, Rev. 1), Appendix N, "ALARA Analyses."
Federal Register: August 16, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 158) p. 46102-46103
(download full text )
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is seeking public comment for a “generic environmental impact statement” (GEIS) the agency intends to develop for uranium recovery operations, including in-situ leach (ISL) recovery facilities and conventional mills.
The NRC is expecting numerous applications for new uranium recovery operations in the next two to three years. This GEIS is intended to address the common issues associated with environmental reviews of ISL and conventional milling facilities located in the western United States. Because there are environmental issues common to both types of facilities, the NRC staff will be addressing these common issues generically to aid in a more efficient environmental review for each separate license application, if and when these applications are submitted.
Members of the NRC staff will hold public meetings Aug. 7, 2007, in Casper, Wyo., and Aug. 9, 2007, in Albuquerque, N.M., to discuss the scope of the GEIS. Members of the public will be invited to comment on environmental issues that will be addressed in the GEIS, including land use, public and occupational health, waste management, water resources, air quality, historical resources and others.
The agency will also be accepting written comments on the scope of the GEIS. Comments were accepted through November 30, 2007 (Comment period extended three times).
> View NRC release July 23, 2007
> View Notice of Intent to Prepare a Generic Environmental Impact Statement for Uranium Milling Facilities, Federal Register: July 24, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 141) p. 40344-40346 (download full text - this is an "emergency publication" [!], as requested by NRC from the Office of Federal Register on July 20, 2007)
> View Revised Notice of Intent To Prepare a Generic Environmental
Impact Statement for Uranium Milling Facilities, Federal Register: August 31, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 169) p. 50414-50416 (download full text )
> View Revised Notice of Intent To Prepare a Generic Environmental Impact Statement for Uranium Milling Facilities, Federal Register: September 27, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 187) p. 54947-54949 (download full text )
> View Revised Notice of Intent To Prepare a Generic Environmental Impact Statement for Uranium Milling Facilities, Federal Register: November 1, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 211) p. 61912-61913 (download full text )
In a statement released Aug. 1, 2007, New Mexico Governor (and former Energy Secretary) Bill Richardson blasted NRC's efforts to create a Generic Environmental Impact Statement for Uranium Milling Facilities: "There is nothing generic about the concerns that many New Mexicans have with proposals to reopen or start new uranium mining and milling operations in their communities," said Governor Richardson. "I believe that this proposal will negatively impact the ability of New Mexico's citizens to participate in the NRC licensing process for individual facilities."
On Dec. 3, 2007, Richardson announced that he had called on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to abandon the Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) process for new uranium mining activities in New Mexico and across the West, citing concerns about the lack of site-specific environmental review and public participation. "The west is a diverse, unique, and vast area where one size does not fit all. As such, the State of New Mexico does not support the scope and approach of the proposed process", Richardson said.
The New Mexico Environmental Law Center issued an Action Alert against the GEIS.
On July 2, 2008, NRC released the Scoping Summary Report, Generic Environmental Impact Statement for In-Situ Leach Uranium Milling Facilities, June 2008 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML081560476 ).
On July 21, 2008, NRC released the NUREG-1910 Draft Report for Comment: Generic Environmental Impact Statement for In-Situ Leach Uranium Milling Facilities: Vol. 1 (Cover - Chpt 3) ·
Vol. 1 (Chpt 4) ·
Vol. 2 (Chpt 5 - 12 and Append. A - F) ·
Vol. 2 (Errata)
Submit comments by November 7, 2008 (Comment period extended).
> View NRC release July 28, 2008
Federal Register: July 28, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 145) p. 43795-43798 (download full text )
Federal Register: September 19, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 183) p. 54435-54436
(download full text )
Federal Register: October 3, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 193) p. 57687-57688
(download full text )
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has published its final Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) for in situ leach uranium recovery (ISR) operations in the Western United States, and is announcing a change in the agency’s approach for environmental reviews of new ISR facilities.
The agency has decided to issue full Supplemental Environmental Impact Statements (SEIS) for new recovery operations, instead of Environmental Assessments as originally planned. Under the National Environmental Policy Act, an Environmental Impact Statement is the most thorough review of potential impacts of a proposed licensing action on the environment. It involves extensive opportunities for public participation, with a draft report issued for public comment before a final report is prepared.
> View NRC release June 4, 2009
> Federal Register: June 5, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 107) p. 27052-27054 (download full text )
> Download NUREG-1910 Generic Environmental Impact Statement for In-Situ Leach Uranium Milling Facilities, Final Report, May 2009:
from NRC website ·
Alternate source for final report (ADAMS Acc. No. ML091530075)
In its comment on the final EIS, EPA continues to have environmental concerns about the lack of analysis of impacts of other leaching solutions that are proposed for use including acid lixiviants.
Federal Register: August 28, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 166) p. 44359 (download full text )
Texas Governor signes Bill transferring regulatory authority for uranium mining to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)
On June 15, 2007, the Governor signed Senate Bill 1604, transferring regulatory authority to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for commercial radioactive waste processing, source material recovery (uranium mining), and by-product material disposal.
A stakeholder group was created to provide input on appropriate rule standards to implement Senate Bill 1604 and House Bill 3838, 80th Legislature.
> View Stakeholder Group on Rulemaking to Implement SB 1604 and HB 3838 (TCEQ)
Residents fear Texas uranium bill would remove their right to a hearing before granting of permits
Senate Bill 1604 would put the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in charge of regulating the storage, processing and disposal of uranium mining and radioactive waste. Those activities are now divided between the commission and the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Some South Texas residents object to a provision in the bill eliminating the ability of local governments and citizens to contest applications for certain new production areas for uranium mining. They say it would reverse a 1999 court case and eliminate opportunities for public participation in uranium-mining regulation.
The state Senate already has approved the bill.
(Houston Chronicle May 2, 2007)
After holding a public hearing on January 18, 2007, the Board of Minerals and Environment adopted new In-Situ Leach Mining Rules (revision of ARSD 74:29:01:01 and adoption of new chapter 74:29:11).
> View: In situ leach mine regulations (South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources)
The meeting will be held on January 10, 2007.
Federal Register: December 13, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 239) p. 74847-74848 (download full text )
American uranium mining major W M Mining has agreed on a contract with India's Nuclear Fuel Complex to sell 500 metric tonnes of uranium a year and is waiting for the Indo-US civil nuclear deal to go through to execute it.
(PTI Nov. 30, 2006)
On Nov. 22, 2006, the New Mexico Court of Appeals upheld a 2004 New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission decision to lower the human health standard for uranium in groundwater from 5 mg/L to 0.03 mg/L.
The mining industry had challenged the new standard on grounds that the standard is unattainable and economically infeasible when applied to abatement of contamination at uranium mills or mines.
November 22, 2006 - New Mexico Mining Association and New Mexico Oil and Gas Association v. New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission, New Mexico Environment Department, and New Mexico Department of Health, Nos. 25,186 & 25,191
Case Summary: Commission's lowering of numeric human health standard for uranium in water from 5 mg/L to .03 mg/L was supported by scientific data and statutory authority and appellants' arguments that the standard is unattainable and economically infeasible can be dealt with in the future on a case by case basis when there are specific facts before the court, which there are not now; commission's selection of federal drinking water standard was supported by evidence that New Mexicans get their drinking water from places not regulated by the federal law.
> Download court's Slip Opinion (160k PDF)
In this paper, EPA outlines proposed changes in EPA's methodology for estimating radiogenic cancers, based on the contents of BEIR VII and some ancillary information.
Modifying EPA Radiation Risk Models Based on BEIR VII, Draft White Paper , U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, August 1, 2006
> See also: BEIR VII: Health Risks From Exposure To Low Levels Of Ionizing Radiation
> View more recent issues
Conservation groups threaten Department of Energy with additional legal action for Endangered Species Act violations with Uranium Leasing Program
On April 15, 2009, conservation groups notified the Department of Energy and Bureau of Land Management that they intend to add claims of Endangered Species Act violations to litigation challenging the Department's 2007 decision to continue and expand its 42-square-mile uranium leasing program on public lands around the Dolores and San Miguel Rivers in western Colorado.
The groups are the Center for Biological Diversity , Colorado Environmental Coalition , Information Network for Responsible Mining , and Center for Native Ecosystems .
Newly obtained documents reveal that the Department of Energy failed to consider the impacts of water depletion and contamination to threatened and endangered species - including Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker , and humpback and bonytail chubs - despite warnings from the Bureau of Land Management that those threats exist.
> View Center for Biological Diversity release April 15, 2009
Environmentalists sue DOE over uranium leasing program
Environmental groups have filed a federal lawsuit claiming that a program clearing the way for uranium mines in western Colorado is illegal.
The lawsuit filed July 31, 2008, in U.S. District in Denver says the Department of Energy's environmental analysis of the leasing program on federal land last year was inadequate. The groups want the court to make DOE do a more comprehensive analysis of the impacts of past uranium mining and potential impacts of new mines.
(AP July 31, 2008)
Five companies win bids for DOE uranium mining leases
On May 22, 2008, the US Department of Energy said it has provisionally accepted
bids from five companies that want to lease federal land in southwestern
Colorado and mine the parcels for uranium.
The companies submitted the high bids for 17 parcels. DOE said it did not
receive any bids for two parcels. Golden Eagle Uranium won seven leases,
Energy Fuels Resources and US Uranium Corp. won four leases each and Black
Range Minerals Colorado and Sweetwater Holding won one lease each.
The new leases are expected to be awarded by the end of June 2008.
(Platts 23 May 2008)
U.S. DOE uranium leasing program faulted over royalty collections
DOE's Inspector General found that the Department of Energy had not re-evaluated the methodology for calculating lease royalties since 1982, despite changing market conditions; and, collected final production royalty payments in a timely manner.
> Download Audit Report Management Controls over the Department of Energy's Uranium Leasing Program, OAS-M-08-05, January 2008 , U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General (295k PDF)
U.S. DOE announces intent to offer uranium leases for competitive bid
On Oct. 10, 2007, the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Legacy Management (DOE–LM) announced its intent to offer its inactive uranium lease tracts to the domestic uranium industry through a competitive web-based solicitation. The lands to be offered for bid are located within the Uravan Mineral Belt in the western portions of Mesa, Montrose, and San Miguel Counties, Colorado, and include lands withdrawn from the public domain in the late 1940s and early 1950s for use by the U.S. Government, plus patented mining claims acquired by the U.S. Government in 1949.
The invitation to bid is scheduled to be formally issued on or about December 1, 2007.
> Download DOE-LM News Release Oct. 10, 2007 (PDF)
On July 6, 2007, the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Legacy Management
(DOE–LM) announced that the Uranium Leasing Program Programmatic Environmental
Assessment (PEA) has been finalized and that a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) is being issued for the preferred "Expanded Program" alternative. Under this alternative, DOE–LM will continue the Uranium Leasing Program, extending the 13 existing leases for a 10-year period, and offering additional leases (up to 25 lease tracts) to the domestic uranium industry for the same 10-year period. This decision supports the intent of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 while also providing a source of revenue to the federal government from mining royalties.
> Download DOE-LM News Release July 6, 2007 (PDF)
> Download Uranium Leasing Program - Final Programmatic
Environmental Assessment, July 2007, DOE/EA 1535 (2.7M PDF)
> Download Finding of No Significant Impact (PDF)
> View Uranium Leasing Program details
The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Legacy Management (DOE-LM) invites interested citizens to review and comment on the draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment for the Uranium Leasing Program. DOE will host three public meetings to present information and receive comments regarding the draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment. The comment period was extended to August 25, 2006.
Through the Uranium Leasing program, DOE-LM currently administers 38 lease tracts located in Mesa, Montrose, and San Miguel counties, Colorado. The draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment, prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, evaluates three alternatives for the future of the program. In the "Expanded Program" alternative (DOE-LM's preferred alternative) the Department’s Legacy Management (LM) office would continue leasing the 13 active lease tracts and offer leases on up to 25 inactive lease tracts to the domestic uranium industry.
> View DOE-LM announcement
> Download DOE News Release July 11, 2006 (PDF)
> Download Uranium Leasing Program, Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment, DOE/EA-1535D, July 2006 (2.7M PDF)
> Download DOE Uranium Leasing Sites, Lease Tract Location Map, Mesa, Montrose, and San Miguel Counties, July 6, 2006 (1.1M PDF)
Ever since the Utah Radiation Control Division took over regulation of International Uranium Corp.'s recycling mill near Blanding in 2004, the watchdogs say it has been a long-distance struggle to keep up with the company's requests to take contaminated material.
When the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission had oversight, they say, it was much easier to know when new shipments of uranium-saturated dirt might soon be rolling down U.S. 191 to the mill.
Now, State Radiation Director Dane Finerfrock and Department of Environmental Quality Director Dianne Nielson said many future - and key historical - records will go online as soon as April 2006.
(Salt Lake Tribune March 26, 2006)
First files (for Plateau Resources' Shootaring Canyon mill) were put online on April 10, 2006.
> Access Utah Division of Radiation Control - Uranium Mill Facilities
> See also: Utah assumes State regulation of uranium mills and tailings
NRC resumes rulemaking process for groundwater protection at in situ leach uranium extraction facilities
The Commission has approved resumption of the rulemaking process for groundwater protection at in situ leach uranium extraction facilities to conform to EPA's 40 CFR Part 192.
> View COMSECY-07-0015 (April 30, 2007) · COMSECY-07-0015 SRM (June 8, 2007)
On March 23, 2006, the Commission has approved initiation of a rulemaking effort specifically tailored to groundwater protection programs at in situ leach (ISL) uranium recovery facilities. The staff should focus on eliminating dual regulation by the NRC and EPA of groundwater protection. The NRC should retain its jurisdiction over the wellfield and groundwater under its Atomic Energy Act authority, but should defer active regulation of groundwater protection programs to the EPA or the EPA-authorized state through EPA’s underground injection-control permit program.
A workshop on the proposed rulemaking will be held on June 29, 2006, in Denver (Download Meeting Notice - PDF ADAMS ML061440071).
> COMJSM-06-0001 - REGULATION OF GROUNDWATER PROTECTION AT IN SITU LEACH URANIUM EXTRACTION FACILITIES, January 17, 2006: HTML · PDF · PDF (ADAMS)
> STAFF REQUIREMENTS - COMJSM-06-0001 - REGULATION OF GROUNDWATER PROTECTION AT IN SITU LEACH URANIUM EXTRACTION FACILITIES (Revised), March 24, 2006: HTML · PDF · PDF (ADAMS)
Comments can be submitted by December 30, 2005.
> Download NUREG-1757, Supplement 1: Consolidated NMSS Decommissioning Guidance, Updates to Implement the License Termination Rule Analysis, Draft Report for Comment, Sep. 2005
On Aug. 9, 2005, EPA extended the scope of its radiation protection standards for the Yucca Mountain High-Level radioactive waste deposit beyond 10000 years, as ordered by a court ruling.
The proposed standards set a maximum dose level of 0.15 mSv/a for the first 10,000 years. To provide safety beyond 10,000 years to 1 million years, EPA is proposing a separate, higher dose limit of 3.5 mSv/a. The proposed standards also require that the facility must withstand the effects of earthquakes, volcanoes and significantly increased rainfall while safely containing the waste during the 1 million-year period.
Comments must be received on or before October 21, 2005.
Federal Register: August 22, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 161) p. 49013-49065
(download full text )
> For details, see Yucca Mountain Standards (EPA)
So far, uranium mill tailings had been the radioactive waste required to meet a radiation standard for the longest period of time (1000 years, 40 CFR 192). But, given the long half-lives of the radionuclides contained in the uranium mill tailings, it was also clear that the hazard would persist for much longer periods of time. The 1000-year standard was chosen for practical reasons, since it was believed that no engineered structure could be proven to remain protective for longer periods of time.
The proposal of a 1-million year standard for the high level waste now raises the question for a long-term standard also for uranium mill tailings - in particular, since the half-lives of the radionuclides contained in uranium mill tailings are much longer than those in high-level nuclear waste.
"SUMMARY: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is publishing for
public comment a notice of receipt of a petition for rulemaking, dated
May 6, 2005, which was filed with the Commission by James Salsman. The
petition was docketed by the NRC on May 13, 2005, and has been assigned
Docket No. PRM-20-26. The petitioner requests that the NRC amend its
regulations to modify exposure and environmental limits of heavy metal
Federal Register: June 15, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 114) p. 34699-34700 (download full text )
> Access Ruleforum PRM-20-26
"The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is denying a petition
for rulemaking (PRM-20-26) submitted by James Salsman (petitioner). The
petitioner requested that NRC amend its regulations to modify exposure
and environmental limits for heavy metal radionuclides, in particular
uranium. NRC is denying the petition because current NRC regulations
provide adequate protection of public health and safety. The petitioner
has not presented sufficient peer-reviewed data, pertinent to the types
and levels of exposures associated with the concentration values used
in NRC's regulations, to provide a sufficient reason for NRC to
initiate a revision of its regulations. Thus, the NRC has decided not
to expend limited resources on initiating a rulemaking at this time."
Federal Register: July 25, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 144) p. 43381-43385 (download full text )
The NRC will consider all written comments received before September 30, 2005 (date revised).
Draft Report for Comment: Documentation and Applications of the Reactive Geochemical Transport Model RATEQ, NUREG/CR-6871 · alternate source (2.69MB PDF, USGS)
RATEQ home page (USGS)
Federal Register: May 2, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 83) p. 22730-22731 (download full text )
Federal Register: June 21, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 118) p. 35743-35744 (download full text )
The NRC will consider all written comments received before August 31, 2005 (date revised).
Draft Report for Comment: Consideration of Geochemical Issues in Groundwater Restoration at Uranium In-Situ Leach Mining Facilities, NUREG/CR-6870
Federal Register: May 2, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 83) p. 22728-22729 (download full text )
Federal Register: June 21, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 118) p. 35744-35745 (download full text )
On April 29, 2005, Navajo Nation President Joseph Shirley Jr. signed the Diné Natural Resources Protection Act of 2005 that outlaws uranium mining and processing on the Navajo reservation. The bill had been passed on April 19, 2005, by the Navajo Nation Council by a vote of 63-19.
The final language read: "No person shall engage in uranium mining and processing on any sites within Navajo Indian Country."
(Farmington Daily Times, Apr. 20, 2005, Arizona Republic, Apr. 30, 2005)
> Download Diné Natural Resources Protection Act of 2005 (282k PDF, SRIC)
> Download Navajo Nation President release, April 30, 2005 (PDF, SRIC)
The Karl Souder Water Protection Award of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center was awarded to three Navajos, including a youth and a tribal councilman, for their role in banning uranium mining on the Navajo Nation:
Navajo Tribal Council Delegate George Arthur, Navajo activist and SRIC Navajo Liaison Harris Arthur (posthumous), and the Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM) for their work to pass the Dine Natural Resources Protection Act, which bans uranium mining and processing in Navajo Indian Country.
(Indian Country Today, Sep. 5, 2005)
On Feb. 24, 2005, the U.S. NRC issued export license XSNM03034-R to Westinghouse Electric Co for the export of 542 MT of enriched uranium in nuclear fuel assemblies to China. The fuel assemblies are designated for use as the initial core and one reload region for each of the four pressurized water reactor units (AP1000 design) authorized for export pursuant to export license XR169 to the San Men and/or the Yang Jiang sites in China.
On May 15, 2007, NRC issued a license amendment replacing the Yang Jiang site by the Haiyang site.
On May 11, 2004, the NRC approved a staff recommendation to allow intentional mixing of contaminated soil to meet License Termination Rule (LTR) release criteria in limited circumstances, on a case-by-case basis. This is in addition to the current practice of allowing intentional mixing to meet waste acceptance criteria (WAC) so that contaminated soil can be removed offsite, and for other limited waste disposal situations, on a case-by-case.
> Download SECY-04-0035 - RESULTS OF THE LICENSE TERMINATION RULE ANALYSIS OF THE USE OF INTENTIONAL MIXING OF CONTAMINATED SOIL (March 1, 2004) · Attachment 1 · Attachment 2 (PDF)
> Download Staff Requirements Memorandum (SRM), May 11, 2004 · Voting Record (VR), May 11, 2004 (PDF)
On Aug. 16, 2004, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved a request from Utah to amend its Agreement under Section 274 of the Atomic Energy Act to assume regulatory authority over uranium mill tailings and certain other radioactive material.
NRC release Aug. 18, 2004
Federal Register: September 7, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 172) p. 54162-54164 (download full text )
NRC has released its Staff Draft Assessment of the State of Utah's proposal to extend its Agreement State status with the U.S. NRC to the regulation of uranium mills and tailings.
NRC release Feb. 12, 2004
Federal Register: February 12, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 29) p. 7026-7029
(download full text )
Federal Register: February 19, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 33) p. 7803-7806 (download full text )
Federal Register: February 25, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 37) p. 8703-8706 (download full text )
Federal Register: March 4, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 43) p. 10269-10272 (download full text )
> Download NRC Staff Draft Assessment of the Utah Proposed 11e.(2) Amendment Application, Feb. 6, 2004 (ML040370585) (PDF)
> See also: Utah seeking State regulation of uranium mills and tailings (1999)
The issue of dual or multiple regulation by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and state agencies of NRC-licensed facilities that are undergoing decommissioning has been a subject of considerable debate and controversy. As a step toward developing consistent approaches to decision-making by NRC and EPA on the cleanup of radiologically contaminated nuclear sites, the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements
(NCRP) has been requested by NRC to prepare this report.
> Download Draft Report SC 87-5: Risk Management in Decommissioning of Radioactively Contaminated Sites (1M PDF - temporary link)
Individuals desiring to comment on the draft report should forward their comments to email@example.com. Deadline for comments is February 27, 2004.
SECY-03-0186, Options and recommendations for NRC deferring active regulation of ground-water protection at in situ leach uranium extraction facilities, October 29, 2003
(download full text - PDF , also available through ADAMS )
Staff recommends that the Commission adopt Option 2, Approach 2(a): "Defer regulation of ground-water protection at ISLs to EPA-authorized non-Agreement States through development of MOUs".
- Option 1 - Reduce or eliminate duplicate ground-water protection reviews by placing greater reliance on technical reviews performed by non-Agreement States, to support NRC licensing actions.
- Option 2 - Defer active regulation of ground-water protection at ISLs to EPA-authorized non-Agreement States through: (a) the development of MOUs with individual affected States; or (b) rulemaking.
- Option 3 - Continue with the current licensing review program of staff performing independent technical reviews of license amendment requests, separate from the reviews conducted by the UIC-permitting States.
On November 19, 2003, the Commission approved staffs recommendation in Option 2a. (SRM-SECY-03-0186)
On Feb. 23, 2004, NRC issued Regulatory Issue Summary 2004-02 describing the adopted approach and containing a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for non-Agreement States (the States concerned at present being Nebraska and Wyoming).
> Download NRC REGULATORY ISSUE SUMMARY 2004-02, DEFERRAL OF ACTIVE REGULATION OF GROUND-WATER PROTECTION AT IN SITU LEACH URANIUM EXTRACTION FACILITIES (PDF)
> Federal Register: March 12, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 49) p. 11899 (download full text )
On June 7, 2004, NRC issued Regulatory Issue Summary 2004-09, summarizing the
comments received from interested parties and superseding RIS 2004-02. The RIS summarizes the process that the NRC plans to use to assure that EPA-authorized States’ ground-water protection programs provide adequate protection of public health and safety, and the environment, equivalent to the NRC program.
> Download NRC REGULATORY ISSUE SUMMARY 2004-09, STATUS ON DEFERRAL OF ACTIVE REGULATION OF GROUND-WATER PROTECTION AT IN SITU LEACH URANIUM EXTRACTION FACILITIES
> Federal Register: June 24, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 121) p. 35397 (download full text )
> see also: NRC discusses In situ leaching regulations (1999)
On August 18, 2004, NRC issued its final "Policy Statement on the Treatment of Environmental Justice Matters in NRC Regulatory and Licensing Actions"
Federal Register: August 24, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 163) p. 52040-52048 (download full text )
> View NRC release Aug. 23, 2004
> View NIRS/Public Citizen release: Government Bows to Nuclear Industry Pressure by Gutting Its Environmental Justice Policy (Aug. 24, 2004): NIRS · Public Citizen
> View NIRS Comments on NRC's Environmental Justice Policy (Feb. 4, 2004)
For the Draft Policy Statement, see:
> View NRC release Oct. 31, 2003
> Federal Register: November 5, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 214) p. 62642-62645 (download full text )
> Federal Register: December 12, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 239) p. 69428 (download full text )
> Executive Order 12898 (February 11, 1994), in: Federal Register February 16, 2003 (Vol. 59, No. 32) p. 7629: HTML version · PDF version
> See also NRC Ruleforum
> View related NIRS alert (Nov. 14, 2003)
> for older issues, see Regulatory Issues - USA: (1995 - 1997) · (1998 - 1999) · (2000 - 2003)