Current Regulatory Issues - USA
(last updated 28 Feb 2015)
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:
> See also Issues for:
New Mining Projects ·
Operating Mines ·
> See also Data for:
Deposits, Proposed and Active Mines ·
Old Mines and Decommissioning
NRC releases Technical Basis Document for extension of Regulatory Guide 4.14 on "Radiological Effluent and Environmental Monitoring at Uranium Mills" to in situ leaching and heap leaching, among others:
The existing Regulatory Guide 4.14 (RG 4.14), Revision 1, Radiological Effluent and Environmental Monitoring at Uranium Mills, issued in April 1980, is limited to conventional mills. The basis for inclusion of in situ recovery (ISR) and heap leach facilities, respectively, is included in this report, as well as recommendations for the
preoperational and operational environmental and effluent monitoring programs at these three types of uranium recovery facilities. In addition, the current monitoring programs described in RG 4.14 have been expanded to include non-radiological contaminants for groundwater and surface water for each recovery method. The addition of a land use census is described, and an integrated, risk-informed, decision-making process is introduced. The revised RG 4.14 will also support the acquisition of defensible environmental and effluent data for licensees at existing and new uranium recovery facilities.
However, the revision will remove radon flux monitoring as a recommendation for environmental monitoring.
> Download: Technical Basis Document to support the revision of Regulatory Guide 4.14, Revision 1, "Radiological Effluent And Environmental Monitoring At Uranium Mills" (Final Report) , by D.G. Maldonado, M.J. Diaz, A.J. Boerner, et al., Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), Feb. 2014 (17MB PDF - released on Jan. 30, 2015)
> Download: Presentation by James Webb (NRC) at National Mining Association Meeting, Rockville, MD, April 2, 2014 (1.4MB PDF)
> Download: Regulatory Guide 4.14, Revision 1, "Radiological Effluent And Environmental Monitoring At Uranium Mills" , April 1980 (1.3MB PDF)
In an upcoming Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, EPA will propose a revised 40 CFR 192 with new ground water protection standards at facilities that extract uranium using the in-situ recovery (ISR) process. The EPA Administrator signed the proposal on December 31, 2014. The public will have 90 days to submit comments on this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking after its publication in the Federal Register.
> Submit comments by April 27, 2015.
> Federal Register Volume 80, Number 16 (Monday, January 26, 2015) p. 4155-4187 (download full text )
> View Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: Health and Environmental Protection Standards for Uranium and Thorium Mill Tailings (40 CFR 192)
> View current Health and Environmental Protection Standards for Uranium and Thorium Mill Tailings (40 CFR 192)
> Access Docket ID EPA-HQ-OAR-2012-0788
Natural Resources Defense Council welcomes long-sought safeguards for in situ leach uranium mining, calls for improvements:
The Environmental Protection Agency's first-ever proposal to protect groundwater from the hazards of uranium mining is a good start, but more needs to be done, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) .
The following is a statement by NRDC Senior Attorney Geoffrey Fettus on the new proposed rules published today by the EPA:
"We are pleased EPA has taken this important step forward. These standards to protect western ground water from the dangerous pollution associated with uranium mining are years overdue. But the standards need to be clarified in order to ensure that the quality of the underground water is documented before mining -- and they need to be strengthened to ensure protection of groundwater quality in surrounding aquifers."
(NRDC Jan, 26, 2015)
> See also: EPA to review its Health and Environmental Standards for Uranium and Thorium Milling Facilities (40 CFR 192)
Submit comments by March 18, 2015.
> Federal Register Volume 79, Number 243 (Thursday, December 18, 2014) p. 75597-75598 (download full text )
> Download Draft Standard Review Plan for Conventional Uranium Mill and Heap Leach Facilities, NUREG-2126 , Nov. 2014 (1.7MB PDF)
> Access Docket ID NRC-2014-0178
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Threatened Status for Gunnison Sage-Grouse; Final Rule
> Federal Register Volume 79, Number 224 (Thursday, November 20, 2014) p. 69191-69310 (download full text )
> View FWS Gunnison sage-grouse page
> See also: Future development of uranium mines in San Miguel Basin could pose a threat to already small and vulnerable population of Gunnison sage-grouse (Colorado)
The Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), is reviewing its overall approach to managing chemical exposures in the workplace and seeks stakeholder input about more effective and efficient approaches that addresses challenges found with the current regulatory approach. This review involves considering issues related to updating permissible exposure limits (PELs), as well as examining other strategies that could be implemented to address workplace conditions where workers are exposed to chemicals.
The current (1989) limits for uranium in workplace air (as U) are:
> Submit comments by April 8, 2015
- Time-weighted Average (TWA): 0.05 mg/m3 for soluble compounds, and 0.2 mg/m3 for insoluble compounds.
- Short-term Exposure Limit (STEL) is 0.6 mg/m3 for insoluble compounds.
> Federal Register Volume 79, Number 197 (Friday, October 10, 2014) p. 61383-61438 (download full text )
> Access Docket No. OSHA-2012-0023
[It appears that a revision for the permissible exposure limits for insoluble uranium is overdue: with a breathing rate of workers of 1.2 m3/h over 2000 hours per year and the dose coefficients of ICRP 68, the current TWA values result in inhalation doses of 1.6 mSv/a for soluble and 96 mSv/a (almost 5 times the 20 mSv/a annual exposure limit!) for insoluble compounds of natural uranium. For enriched uranium (e.g. 3.5 weight-% U-235), the inhalation doses even reach 5.4 mSv/a for soluble and 332 mSv/a (more than 16 times the 20 mSv/a annual exposure limit!) for insoluble compounds.]
NRC invites comment on Proposed Revision of Regulatory Guide "Applications of Bioassay for Uranium":
Submit comments by December 5, 2014.
> Federal Register Volume 79, Number 193 (Monday, October 6, 2014) p. 60190-60191 (download full text )
> Download: Draft Regulatory Guide DG-8054 (Proposed Revision 1 of Regulatory Guide 8.11, dated June 1974) Applications of Bioassay for Uranium , Sep. 2014
> Download: Regulatory Analysis
> Access Docket ID NRC-2014-0210
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing this
advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) to obtain input from
stakeholders on the development of a draft regulatory basis. The draft
regulatory basis would support potential changes to the NRC's current
radiation protection regulations. The goal of this effort is to achieve
greater alignment between the NRC's radiation protection regulations
and the 2007 recommendations of the International Commission on
Radiological Protection (ICRP) contained in ICRP Publication 103
(2007). Through this ANPR, the NRC has identified specific questions
and issues with respect to a possible revision of the NRC's radiation
Submit comments by November 24, 2014.
> Download NRC release July 25, 2014 (PDF)
> Federal Register Volume 79, Number 143 (Friday, July 25, 2014) p. 43284-43300 (download full text )
> Access Docket ID NRC-2009-0279
Submit comments by November 17, 2014. (Comment period extended)
> Federal Register Volume 79, Number 117 (Wednesday, June 18, 2014) p. 34792-34794 (download full text )
> Federal Register Volume 79, Number 170 (Wednesday, September 3, 2014) p. 52374-52375 (download full text )
> Download draft ISG: FSME-ISG-02, "Guidance for Conducting the Section 106 Process of the National Historic Preservation Act for Uranium Recovery Licensing Actions" , June 2014 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML14163A049)
> Download: NUREG-1748, "Environmental Review Guidance for Licensing Actions Associated With Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards Programs" , Aug. 2003 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML032450279)
> Access Docket ID NRC-2014-0142
The proposed rulemaking would implement House Bill (HB) 1079, 83rd Legislature, 2013.
The comment period closes June 30, 2014.
> View Texas Register, May 30, 2014
> View Notice of Public Hearing, Texas Register - In Addition, May 30, 2014
A bill that would ensure higher levels of well-water cleanup at the Cotter Uranium Mill Superfund site in Cañon City and other radioactive remediation sites across the state won support of Democrats in its first committee Thursday (Apr. 24) and is moving forward.
Senate Bill 192 would require radioactive contamination to groundwater wells be cleaned up to levels that meet the standards of the Water Quality Control Commission for the well's historic use. For example if the well was historically used for drinking water, but that stopped when contamination was detected, the higher standard would still apply.
The bill also would place stricter controls over the 32 uranium mines that are still operational in Colorado and any new operations that apply for licenses.
(Colorado Springs Gazette Apr. 25, 2014)
> Access Bill SB14-192 Uranium Processing Groundwater Protection
The Colorado Senate passed Senate Bill 192 on Apr. 29, 2014.
The Colorado House passed Senate Bill 192 on May 5, 2014.
The Colorado House passed rerevised Senate Bill 192 on May 7, 2014.
Colorado legislature approves measure to ensure cleanup of Cañon City groundwater contamination:
Impacted residents and members of the Colorado conservation community hailed the passage of bipartisan legislation by the Colorado legislature today (May 7) that will help rectify 30 years of groundwater contamination by Cotter Corporation in Cañon City, Colorado. The landmark legislation will help clean up water wells and provide more public process around the siting of uranium mills.
Although pleased that residents of Lincoln Park's contaminated water will be addressed, supporters expressed concern that licensing requirements to protect against future contamination from experimental uranium extraction were left out of the final legislation.
"We are disappointed the Colorado Senate removed important protections for experimental uranium milling proposed for our community," said Cathe Meyrick, resident of the Tallahassee Area in Fremont County. "The legislation would have clarified that licensing is required before the industry deploys experimental uranium recovery techniques with potentially grave impacts on our groundwater. Regardless of this setback, we will rely on a committed community and look for other mechanisms to protect our groundwater."
(Conservation Colorado May 7, 2014)
Written comments will be accepted until the close of business on Monday, May 19, 2014.
> View DRC notice Apr. 17, 2014
> Download Preliminary Draft Rules: Rules to implememt federal statute regarding question and answer hearings for specified byproduct license actions, Working Draft, March 31, 2014 (156k PDF)
Comments will be accepted until April 25, 2014.
> Access Docket ID NRC-2014-0057
> Download Draft NUREG-1556, Vol. 15, Rev. 1 , March 2014
On March 4, 2014, NRC issued a revision to its Information Notice IN1999-03 on Exothermic reactions involving dried uranium oxide powder (yellowcake). The revision reacts to several incidents with gas buildup in yellowcake drums and subsequent uranium contamination.
> Download IN1999-03 Rev.1
> See also NRC takes action in case of contamination incident in Canadian refinery caused by yellow cake shipped from Uranium One's in situ leach mine in Wyoming
> See also: CDPHE issues Notice of Violation to Cotter on exothermic reaction leading to worker being covered in yellowcake at Cañon City mill (Colorado)
A measure that sought to create water restoration processes for uranium mining projects failed in the House Ag committee on Feb. 13, 2014. (SDPB Feb. 13, 2014)
> View House Bill No. 1193 history and text
EPA issues Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on update of radiation protection standards for nuclear power operations and uranium fuel cycle facilities:
Comments must be received on or before August 3, 2014 (comment period extended).
> Federal Register Volume 79, Number 23 (Tuesday, February 4, 2014) p. 6509-6527 (download full text )
> Federal Register Volume 79, Number 108 (Thursday, June 5, 2014) p. 32521-32522 (download full text )
> View Environmental Standards for Uranium Fuel Cycle Facilities: Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) (EPA)
> Access Docket ID EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0689
The CDPHE Radiation Program is accepting stakeholder comments until January 7, 2014 on proposed revisions to 6 CCR 1007-1 Part 18, "Licensing Requirements for Uranium and Thorium Processing."
> View: Uranium Processing Stakeholder Comment Meetings (CDPHE)
Comments must be submitted by December 24, 2013.
> Download: Draft Regulatory Guide DG-8031 (Proposed Revision 1 of Regulatory Guide 8.34, dated July 1992), Monitoring criteria and methods to calculate occupational radiation doses , Oct. 2013, Rev. 1
> Download Regulatory Analysis , Oct. 2013
> Download Draft Regulatory Guide 8.34 (Draft was issued as DG-8031), Monitoring criteria and methods to calculate occupational radiation doses , May 2014, Rev. 1
> Download Draft Regulatory Guide 8.34 (Draft was issued as DG-8031), Monitoring criteria and methods to calculate occupational radiation doses , December 2014, Rev. 1
> NRC Regulatory Guides
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
proposes to amend its existing standards for occupational exposure to
respirable crystalline silica. The basis for issuance of this proposal
is a preliminary determination by the Assistant Secretary of Labor for
Occupational Safety and Health that employees exposed to respirable
crystalline silica face a significant risk to their health at the
current permissible exposure limits and that promulgating these
proposed standards will substantially reduce that risk.
This document proposes a new permissible exposure limit, calculated
as an 8-hour time-weighted average, of 50 micrograms of respirable
crystalline silica per cubic meter of air (50 µg/m3).
Written comments must be submitted by December 11, 2013.
> Federal Register Volume 78, Number 177 (Thursday, September 12, 2013)
p. 56273-56504 (download full text )
Wyoming governor signs law aming at state taking over uranium mining regulation
Gov. Matt Mead signed into law a bill authorizing him to begin negotiations with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to seek an agreement for the state to assume regulation of source materials from uranium mining and milling and the wastes.
(Casper Star-Tribune Feb. 27, 2015)
The Legislature's Joint Minerals Committee on Monday (Nov. 24) unanimously approved a proposed bill for the state to negotiate an agreement with the NRC to take over sole regulation of uranium mining.
The full Legislature will consider the proposal when it convenes in January.
(Daily Journal Nov. 24, 2014)
Study estimates cost for state takeover of uranium mining regulation in Wyoming
It would cost at least $4.5 million dollars for Wyoming to take over regulatory control of the uranium and thorium mining industries from the federal government, according to a new feasibility study from the Department of Environmental Quality.
Deputy Director Nancy Nuttbrock says that estimate only takes into account the six years it would take to get the program running -- not it's actual operations.
The mining industry has been pushing the state to take over, saying the Nuclear Regulatory Commission charges too much and moves too slowly. But Nuttbrock says it will be up to the legislature to decide whether the costs are worth it.
The report suggests that the DEQ's Land Quality Division would need to add an additional 10 staff members.
The Legislature's Joint Minerals Committee will discuss the report at its upcoming meeting, on December 12.
(Wyoming Public Media Dec. 2, 2013)
Wyoming receives first draft of feasibility study about uranium mining regulation
Wyoming has received the first draft of a study it commissioned to determine whether it would be feasible to regulate uranium exclusively in-state.
Uranium extraction is currently regulated by a number of state and federal agencies. But if Wyoming decides to become what's called an "agreement state," it could cut the federal agencies out of the process. That would potentially expedite the permitting process for operators.
The contents of the draft will be presented to the Minerals Committee, which will meet on September 26th and 27th.
(Wyoming Public Media Aug. 8, 2013)
> House Bill No. HB0217: Atomic Energy Act agreement state study
> Wyoming Energy Strategy, Theme: Efficient, Effective Regulation , Office of Governor Matt Mead, Draft Wyoming Energy Strategy Initiatives, 2013, November 28, 2012:
"4H. Radiation Protection Program under the Atomic Energy Act of 1958
A study will need to be commissioned to determine the feasibility of managing a radiation protection program that is consistent with Federal statutes and regulations. This study should focus on how Wyoming can become an Agreement State under the Atomic Energy Act of 1958, which will eliminate dual Federal and State regulation of the uranium industry in Wyoming. By becoming an Agreement State, it assures that Wyoming is able to regulate the uranium industry to the benefit of its economy and environment. In order to best establish the intent of this initiative, the Legislature will need to enact statutes that will authorize DEQ to promulgate and enforce rules that are, at a minimum, consistent with Federal regulation of radioactive materials and establish a budget for this program."
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) agreed with Uranium Watch's allegation that the Utah Division of Radiation Control's (DRC's) administrative procedures did not comply with the public participation requirements for certain licensing actions. These requirements apply to the DRC as an Agreement State and the regulation of uranium mills and 11e.(2) byproduct material (mill tailings).
By letter of May 20, 2013 , the NRC addressed Uranium Watch's concern that the State of Utah did not have any statue or regulation that designates procedures for a hearing required by the Atomic Energy Act (42 U.S.C. §2021(o)(3)(A)) prior to 11e.(2) byproduct material licensing actions. The NRC letter states: "The DRC is in the process of drafting a procedure to address these issues. After implementing this procedure on a current licensing action, the DRC plans to codify these procedures in a rulemaking process." It is unclear which "current licensing action" the NRC is referring to.
Section 2021(o)(3)(A) requires procedures for an opportunity for written comments and a public hearing, with a transcript and an opportunity for cross examination. The AEA also requires that an environmental analysis be available before the comment and hearing opportunity and prohibits any major construction prior to the issuance of the environmental analysis and public participation process.
Although the DRC has provided opportunities for public comment, since 2004, when Utah became an Agreement State for 11e.(2) byproduct material, they have never provided an opportunity for a hearing with a transcript and opportunity for cross examination. These procedures are supposed to take place before the DRC's final decision on an application.
(Uranium Watch June 8, 2013)
On May 23, 2013, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1079 (HB 1079 ), eliminating, among others, several opportunities for a contested case hearing related to groundwater restoration at in situ leach uranium mines.
On Feb. 11, 2013, Uranium Energy Corp. submitted a Petition for Rulemaking to eliminate the uranium soil concentration standard from the TCEQ decommissioning standards for release of outdoor areas for unrestricted use at uranium mining sites. The petitioner explains that the uranium soil concentration standard is redundant to the radium benchmark dose approach and could unnecessarily increase the costs for decommissioning.
On April 10, 2013, TCEQ's Executive Director initiated the related rulemaking.
On June 18, 2013, TCEQ approved the amendment of 30 TAC Section 336.1115.
> Download Docket No. 2013-0402-RUL (PDF)
> Download Docket No. 2013-0711-RUL (PDF)
> View TCEQ Rule Project 2013-029-336-WS: Uranium Soil Concentration Standard (TCEQ)
On February 12, 2013, the United States Nuclear Regulatory
Commission (NRC) and the Bureau of Land Management, United States
Department of the Interior (BLM) entered into a Memorandum of
Understanding (MOU) concerning the development of uranium or thorium
resources on BLM administered public lands, including Federal mineral
> Federal Register Volume 78, Number 62 (Monday, April 1, 2013) p. 19540-19541 (download full text )
> Download: Memorandum of Understanding , Feb. 12, 2013 (2.5MB PDF)
> Access Docket ID NRC-2013-0061
> See also: NRC issues Notice of Availability of a Memorandum of Understanding between NRC and BLM
> Federal Register Volume 78, Number 54 (Wednesday, March 20, 2013) p. 17213 (download full text )
> Download Toxicological Profile for Uranium , February 2013
> Access Docket ID CDC-2011-0005
> See also: ATSDR invites comment on draft update of Toxicological Profile for Uranium
At the NRC Briefing on Uranium Recovery held on Feb. 20, 2013, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to establish more protective regulations for the in situ leach mining of uranium. According to an NRDC report released in 2012, current regulations are not sufficient to protect groundwater in the long term.
The EPA representative present at the meeting indicated that EPA's draft regulations would become available later this year.
> Access Agenda, Slides, Transcript, and Webcast Archive of Feb. 20, 2013, Briefing on Uranium Recovery (NRC)
> See also: Natural Resources Defense Council issues study on environmental impacts of uranium in situ leach mining and related regulatory failures in the U.S.
> See also: EPA to review its Health and Environmental Standards for Uranium and Thorium Milling Facilities (40 CFR 192)
Legislation to lift Virginia uranium mining ban withdrawn by sponsor
> View here
The Utah Radiation Control Board (Board) is soliciting public comment regarding proposed changes to the administrative rules for control of radiation. During the 2012 General Session, the Utah Legislature passed and Governor Herbert signed S.B. 21, Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Board Revisions. In addition to making changes to the authority and makeup of the five environmental boards in DEQ, S.B. 21 also transferred various authorities from the Board and the Executive Secretary of the Board to the Division Director. As a result of these statutory revisions, corresponding changes to the administrative rules are necessary.
The proposed changes that involve transferring authority from the Board to the Division Director are substantive. These substantive changes require a public comment period and subsequent final approval by the Board.
Written comments must be received no later than the close of business (5 pm) on March 4, 2013.
> Download S.B. 21 Rule Changes (DEQ DRC)
Responding to public concern about key water resources in the southern Black Hills, state environmental officials are asking the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for more authority in regulating a proposed uranium mine near Edgemont.
At the same time, opponents of the mine proposal by Powertech USA Inc. have submitted proposed legislation to restore portions of state permitting authority over the project that lawmakers suspended in 2011.
The state outreach to the NRC comes in part because the 2011 Legislature approved and Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed a bill (SB158) that suspended the state's power to permit and directly regulate the injection-extraction well system, known as in-situ, that Powertech wants to use to mine uranium.
Legislators left that part of the permitting process to the NRC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But that wasn't good enough for some critics.
"In a state where we value keeping government close to the people, it makes sense for the state to regulate uranium mining, rather than some distant federal government official," Lilias Jarding, an organizer for the Clean Water Alliance of Rapid City, said Monday (Jan. 21).
The state still has authority to grant or deny water rights, a wastewater discharge plan and a large-scale mining permit needed by the Powertech project. None of those offer direct authority over the in-situ mining process itself, however. DENR hopes to get at least part of that authority back through an agreement with the NRC.
DENR official Eric Holm said the agency is working with NRC officials on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that would give the state a bigger role in setting reclamation bonds and inspecting Powertech's mining operation. Citizen contacts led to that process, Holm said.
The MOU would not reinstate in-situ permit authority for the state; that would take legislative action.
Jarding supports the effort by DENR for increased authority under an agreement with the NRC, but also wants the provisions of SB158 repealed and full permitting authority returned to the state.
That's part of what is proposed in the package of bills developed by the Clean Water Alliance, with support from another organizing group, Dakota Rural Action .
Sen. Jim Bradford, D-Pine Ridge, filed three bills Friday (Jan. 18) to strengthen state regulations on uranium mining and restore the state permitting authority over in-situ uranium mining.
(Rapid City Journal Jan. 22, 2013)
> Senate Bill No. 150 - An Act to revise certain permitting requirements relating to in situ leach mining
> Senate Bill No. 148 - An Act to reestablish the force and effect of certain administrative rules relating to underground injection control and in situ leach mining
> Senate Bill No. 141 - An Act to revise certain financial assurance provisions relating to mining
South Dakota Senate panel rejects uranium mining bill: A plan to restore some of the state's permitting authority over a proposed uranium mine was rejected by a South Dakota Senate panel Thursday (Feb. 7) after lawmakers said they see no need to spend state money duplicating federal regulatory programs.
The Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee voted 7-1 to kill the bill, which was promoted by ranchers and others who fear the mine near Edgemont in southwestern South Dakota will deplete and pollute the underground water supplies that will be used in the mining process.
(Ventura County Star Feb. 7, 2013)
> See also: South Dakota suspends state regulation of in-situ leach uranium mining (2011)
The federal government has no idea how much gold, copper and other hard-rock minerals are being extracted from public lands each year - nor how much the minerals are worth - because the companies licensed to operate the mines pay no royalties, according to a report the Government Accountability Office will make public Wednesday (Nov. 12).
The new report, requested by Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), could spur a renewed push to reform the 140-year-old law governing U.S. hard-rock mining.
Responding to an inquiry last year from Grijalva about the value of uranium that Denison Mines Corp. had extracted from public land, company chief executive Ron F. Hochstein did not divulge any specific figures.
(Washington Post Dec. 12, 2012)
> Download GAO report GAO-13-45R, Dec. 12, 2012
Federal officials have given energy and mining companies permission to pollute aquifers in more than 1,500 places across the country, releasing toxic material into underground reservoirs that help supply more than half of the nation's drinking water.
In many cases, the Environmental Protection Agency has granted these so-called aquifer exemptions in Western states now stricken by drought and increasingly desperate for water.
EPA records show that portions of at least 100 drinking water aquifers have been written off because exemptions have allowed them to be used as dumping grounds.
The EPA is only supposed to issue exemptions if aquifers are too remote, too dirty, or too deep to supply affordable drinking water. Applicants must persuade the government that the water is not being used as drinking water and that it never will be.
Sometimes, however, the agency has issued permits for portions of reservoirs that are in use, assuming contaminants will stay within the finite area exempted.
In Wyoming, people are drawing on the same water source for drinking, irrigation and livestock that, about a mile away, is being fouled with federal permission. In Texas, EPA officials are evaluating an exemption for a uranium mine - already approved by the state - even though numerous homes draw water from just outside the underground boundaries outlined in the mining company's application.
The EPA declined repeated requests for interviews for this story, but sent a written response saying exemptions have been issued responsibly, under a process that ensures contaminants remain confined.
Yet EPA officials say the agency has quietly assembled an unofficial internal task force to re-evaluate its aquifer exemption policies.
Advances in geological sciences have deepened regulators' concerns about exemptions, challenging the notion that waste injected underground will stay inside the tightly drawn boundaries of the exempted areas.
The recent surge in domestic drilling and rush for uranium has brought a spike in exemption applications, as well as political pressure not to block or delay them, EPA officials told ProPublica.
The biggest problem now, experts say, is that the EPA's criteria for evaluating applications are outdated. The rules - last revised nearly three decades ago - haven't adapted to improving water treatment technology and don't reflect the changing value and scarcity of fresh water.
Aquifers once considered unusable can now be processed for drinking water at a reasonable price.
(ProPublica Dec. 11, 2012)
> Download Guidance for Developing and Implementing Long-Term Surveillance Plans for UMTRCA Title I and Title II Disposal Sites , LMS/S00336, U.S. Department of Energy Legacy Management, November 2012 (1.7MB PDF)
On Nov. 16, 2012, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality Land Quality Division issued Guideline No. 4, In Situ Mining - Noncoal, which focuses on in situ uranium mining.
> Download Guideline No. 4, In Situ Mining - Noncoal , Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality Land Quality Division, Nov. 2012 (2.4MB PDF)
Tribal Policy Statement:
Submit comments by March 31, 2015.
> Federal Register Volume 79, Number 230 (Monday, December 1, 2014) p. 71136-71141 (download full text )
Tribal Protocol Manual: Guidance for NRC Staff:
Submit comments by June 1, 2015.
> Federal Register Volume 79, Number 230 (Monday, December 1, 2014) p. 71134-71136 (download full text )
> Download Tribal Protocol Manual: Guidance for NRC Staff, Revision 1 (ML14274A014)
> Download NRC release Dec. 1, 2014 (PDF)
> Access Docket ID NRC-2012-0235
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is seeking comments on draft agency procedures for consulting with Native American tribes and suggestions for a policy statement on tribal consultations that the staff will develop.
The NRC will take comments on the draft manual and input into the policy statement until April 1, 2013.
> Download NRC release Oct. 15, 2012 (PDF)
> Download draft tribal protocol manual (ADAMS Acc. No. ML12261A423)
> Access Docket ID NRC-2012-0235
Sensational breakthrough: NRC attempts to use SI radiation dose units!
After decades of ignoring that the rest of the world has adopted SI units, NRC finally makes first attempts to use SI radiation dose units, though they are still struggling with orthography:
"Contrary to the above, on April 16, 2012, the licensee failed to survey Precipitation Tank Number 3 in the Central Processing Plant, to evaluate the magnitude and extent of radiation levels. On this date, the inspector determined that the radiation level near the Precipitation Tank Number 3 was 0.05 milliSeiverts per hour (5 millirem per hour) at 30 centimeters from the tank surface, making it a radiation area as defined by 10 CFR 20.1003."
(NRC INSPECTION REPORT 040-08502/12-001 AND NOTICE OF VIOLATION , June 20, 2012 - emphasis added)
On June 11, 2012, NRC issued an export license to Global Advanced Metals USA, Inc.
of Boyertown, PA, for the export of 3 million kilograms of tantalum and niobium ores. These ores contain 30,000 kilograms of U3O8 and 30,000 kilograms of ThO2 as "contaminants". The ores are destined for tantalum and niobium recovery facilities in Brazil, Canada, China, Estonia, Germany, Japan, Kazakhstan, and Thailand.
So, the concentrations of these "contaminants" are 1% each - that is higher than in most uranium ores. The license contains no conditions on the safeguarding of the extraction residue.
> Download NRC Export License No. XSOU8828
"Having adequate financial assurances to pay for reclamation costs for federal land disturbed by uranium operations is critical to ensuring that the land is returned to its original state if operators fail to complete the reclamation as required. BLM, the Forest Service, DOE, and NRC play key roles in establishing and reviewing these financial assurances for uranium operations on federal land. We found that nearly all of the uranium operations on federal land had adequate financial assurances, according to our analysis of agency data. However, we found some limitations in agencies' oversight of uranium operations' financial assurances, which raise some concerns about these financial assurances. In particular, ISR operations account for a large proportion of financial assurances in place for uranium operations on federal land and have recently been increasing for some operations, yet there is little coordination between BLM and NRC when establishing and reviewing these assurances. This lack of coordination raises concerns about the adequacy of the financial assurances in place for existing ISR operations and for those ISR operations that are awaiting approval. Both BLM and NRC have specific expertise in assessing certain aspects of the reclamation activities that are required at ISR sites, but have no process in place to share this information and leverage their expertise. Without such coordination, the agencies cannot be confident that the assurances they establish for ISR operations will be adequate to cover the costs of reclamation. [...]"
> Download URANIUM MINING - Opportunities Exist to Improve Oversight of Financial Assurances , GAO-12-544, U.S. Government Accountability Office, May 2012
Excerpt from Conclusions and Policy Recommendations:
"ISL uranium mining, alone and in concert with other resource extraction activities, contaminates groundwater. ISL operations in the United States have repeatedly failed to restore aquifers to a pre-mining state, often leaving them unusable for any alternative future use. ISL uranium mining is a poor choice to contaminate scarce western groundwater and harm iconic western landscapes chasing an increase in domestic uranium production that will provide only a small number of short-term jobs and will not fundamentally alter U.S. dependence on foreign sources of uranium.
Considering uranium recovery's poor environmental record,
the federal government has an obligation to impose a more
protective regulatory framework on all types of uranium
recovery before more environmental damage is done.
Therefore, NRDC recommends a moratorium on any new ISL
uranium mining licenses until such time as:
- the federal government adopts key elements of
Colorado's 2008 Land & Water Stewardship Act, which
requires substantially more stringent protections than
currently exist in law;
- EPA standards and NRC regulations are updated to reflect
the best available data on what is required to protect
the environment from the contamination inflicted by all
types of uranium recovery; and
- the White House Council on Environmental Quality
(CEQ) has undertaken a full interagency review of the
cumulative and connected impacts of all current Federal
programs and proposed agency actions to facilitate and
regulate extraction of mineral and fossil-energy resources
in the arid West, including but not limited to the NRC's
program to license new uranium recovery operations. [...]"
> Nuclear Fuel's Dirty Beginnings, Environmental Damage and Public Health Risks From Uranium Mining in the American West , by Geoffrey H. Fettus and Matthew G. McKinzie, Natural Resources Defense Council, March 2012, 104 p. (4.1MB PDF)
Submit comments by May 11, 2012.
> Federal Register Volume 77, Number 49 (Tuesday, March 13, 2012) p. 14837 (download full text )
> Download: Draft Regulatory Guide DG-8051 (Proposed Revision 2 of Regulatory Guide 8.22, dated August 1988) Bioassay at Uranium Mills (ADAMS Acc. No. ML110960333)
> Access Docket ID NRC-2012-0057
> Federal Register Volume 79, Number 119 (Friday, June 20, 2014) p. 35387-35388 (download full text )
> Download Regulatory Guide 8.22, Bioassay at Uranium Mills, Rev. 2, May 2014 · Regulatory Analysis · Staff responses to public comments
Virginia Governor orders preparation of regulatory framework for uranium mining
> View here
"NRC's oversight of Title I and Title II uranium recovery decommissioning is largely effective. In particular, recent NRC initiatives to improve knowledge management have addressed self-identified areas of inefficiency and have enhanced the agency's oversight efforts. However, the Office of the Inspector General has identified two opportunities for more effective oversight of uranium recovery decommissioning by:
> Download Audit Report - Audit of NRC's Oversight of Decommissioned Uranium Recovery Sites and Sites Undergoing Decommissioning, OIG-12-A-06, Office of the Inspector General, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, December 13, 2011 · alternate source (1MB PDF)
- Improving compliance with the terms of the site-specific MOUs with EPA.
- Reducing reliance on DOE's inspection program to alert NRC to problems at decommissioned uranium recovery sites in DOE custody."
This guide describes a method acceptable to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for use in implementing the Decommissioning Planning Rule (DPR) that revises Title 10, Section 20.1406, "Minimization of Contamination," and Section 20.1501, "Surveys and Monitoring, General," of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR 20.1406 and 20.1501) (Ref. 1). Licensees of operating facilities are required to minimize contamination and radioactive waste generation, conduct appropriate radiological surveys, and maintain records. The DPR revisions to 10 CFR 20.1406 and 10 CFR 20.1501 apply during the operational phase of facilities' life cycles.
Comments will be most helpful if received by February 10, 2012.
> Federal Register Volume 76, Number 239 (Tuesday, December 13, 2011) p. 77431-77432 (download fullt text )
> Download Draft Regulatory Guide DG-4014 "Decommissioning Planning during Operations", Dec. 2011 · Regulatory Analysis
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a public meeting and concurrent Webinar on July 12, 2012 [the very date this notice was published in the Federal Register!], on a revised draft regulatory guide DG-4014, "Decommissioning Planning During Operations."
> Federal Register Volume 77, Number 134 (Thursday, July 12, 2012) p. 41107 (download full text )
> Download Revised Draft Regulatory Guide DG-4014 (July 2, 2012)
The final Regulatory Guide was issued on December 27, 2012.
> Download Regulatory Guide 4.22 Decommissioning Planning during Operations, December 2012
> See also: NRC issues Rule on Decommissioning Planning
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing this Regulatory Issue Summary
(RIS) to reiterate its policy regarding the Long-Term Surveillance Charge (LTSC) for applicable uranium recovery facilities.
> Download NRC Regulatory Issue Summary 2011-11 regarding long-term surveillance charge for conventional or heap leach uranium recovery facilities licensed under 10 CFR Part 40 , September 29, 2011 (153k PDF)
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is proposing to issue a regulatory issue summary (RIS) to inform addressees of the NRC's policy regarding receipt and processing, without a license amendment, of equivalent feed at an NRC and Agreement State-licensed uranium recovery site, either conventional, heap leach, or in situ recovery. The NRC is issuing this RIS to clarify the NRC's policy regarding alternate feed, such as obtained from community water treatment facilities and mine dewatering operations.
Submit comments by November 14, 2011 (comment period extended).
> Download NRC release Oct. 12, 2011 (PDF)
> Federal Register: September 30, 2011 (Volume 76, Number 190) p. 60941-60945 (download full text )
> Federal Register: October 12, 2011 (Volume 76, Number 197) p. 63330-63331 (download full text )
> Download SECY-99-012 : Use of Uranium Mill Tailings Impoundments for the Disposal of Other Than 11e.(2) Byproduct Materials, and Reviews of Applications to Process Material Other Than Natural Uranium Ores, April 8, 1999 (NRC)
> Download NRC Regulatory Issue Summary 2000-23, Recent Changes to Uranium Recovery Policy (November 30, 2000)
> Access Docket ID NRC-2011-0217
> See also: Cameco plans to test extraction of uranium from ion exchange resins generated at phosphate mining facilities (Smith Ranch, Wyoming)
The Regulatory Issue Summary was released on April 18, 2012.
> Download NRC Policy Regarding Submittal of Amendments for Processing of Equivalent Feed at Licensed Uranium Recovery Facilities, NRC Regulatory Issue Summary 2012-06 , April 16, 2012 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML110470571)
> Download enclosures
> Download NRC release May 8, 2012 (PDF)
Uranium Recovery Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) Lessons Learned Workshop, September 28, 2011, Denver:
The purpose of this meeting is for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to share lessons learned from the development and recent completion of the Moore Ranch, Nichols Ranch, and Lost Creek SEISs with the uranium recovery industry.
Please inform the meeting contact of your intention to attend by September 21, 2011.
> Download NRC Meeting Notice Aug. 31, 2011 (PDF)
NRC staff has developed a draft Staff Interim Guidance: Evaluations of Uranium Recovery Facility Surveys of Radon and Radon Progeny in Air and Demonstrations of Compliance with 10 CFR 20.1301:
"This guidance focuses on surveys of radon and progeny in air and compliance with the NRC's 100 mrem/year public dose limit for uranium recovery facilities. Based on review of licensee reports, staff determined there is a need for detailed guidance to
(1) ensure consistency in staff evaluations of licensee radon and radon progeny surveys and associated demonstrations of compliance with 10 CFR 20.1301 and
(2) assist licensees with technical details necessary for compliance."
Submit comments by January 20, 2012.
> Federal Register Volume 76, Number 224 (Monday, November 21, 2011) p. 72006-72007 (download full text )
> Download NRC Staff interim guidance: Evaluations of uranium recovery facility surveys of radon and radon progeny in air and demonstrations of compliance with 10 CFR 20.1301, Draft Report for Comment, September 2011
> Access Docket ID NRC-2011-0266
On March 27, 2014, NRC invited comment on a revised draft Interim Staff Guidance.
Submit comments by May 27, 2014.
> Federal Register Volume 79, Number 59 (Thursday, March 27, 2014) p. 17194-17195 (download full text )
> Download revised draft ISG, FSME-ISG-01, March 2014 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML13310A198)
"It has come to the attention of the Utah Division of Radiation Control (DRC) of the Department of Environmental Quality that many Generator Site Access Permitees (GSAPs) have been misclassifying blended Uranium waste as "Natural Uranium (U-Nat.)." The DRC has investigated the rationale of this practice and has determined that this classification practice is not appropriate." [...]
> Download Utah DEQ DRC letter July 27, 2011 (PDF)
"The GSAPs involved with this investigation informed the DRC that Uranium waste was blended to meet EnergySolutions Waste Acceptance Criteria and that blending is also done to remove the material from Safeguards and Security requirements" [...]
"GSAPs may still dispose of the Uranium blended waste at the EnergySolutions' Clive facility. GSAPs will need to manifest the Uranium by isotope and comply with all waste classification and Special Nuclear Material limits."
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is seeking input from the public, licensees, Agreement States, non-Agreement States, and other stakeholders on a potential rulemaking to address prompt remediation of residual radioactivity during the operational phase of licensed material sites and nuclear reactors.
Submit comments by September 16, 2011.
> Download NRC news release July 20, 2011
> Federal Register: July 18, 2011 (Volume 76, Number 137) p. 42074-42076 (download full text )
> Download Draft Proposed Technical Basis For Prompt Remediation, Rev. 4 , June 30, 2011 (302k PDF)
> Docket ID NRC-2011-0162
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is seeking additional input from the public, licensees, Agreement States, non-Agreement States, and other stakeholders on a potential rulemaking to address prompt remediation of residual radioactivity during the operational phase of licensed material sites and nuclear reactors.
Submit comments by August 2, 2013.
> Federal Register Volume 78, Number 106 (Monday, June 3, 2013) p. 33008-33010 (download full text )
(An environmental report (ER) is submitted by the applicant or licensee "to assist the NRC in conducting an expeditious environmental review".)
> Download Draft Interim Staff Guidance for NUREG-1537, Part 1, Section 12.12, June 15, 2011 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML11116A166)
As there have been rumours around for some time now that radioactive decay is not - as believed so far - governed by physical constants, the following possibly must be seen in a new light:
At an Industry/NRC Health Physics Focus Group meeting held on April 11, 2011,...
"Industry stated that beta surveys should be a function of the milling product. In uranium mills, yellowcake is not stored for any length of time; therefore, beta-emitting progeny do not grow in. In-growth requires four months to attain equilibrium, and yellowcake is shipped before then. Consequently, beta surveying should not be required." [emphasis added]
According to NRC's meeting summary, NRC staff apparently concurred on this industry statement, while there was only some discussion about the possible impacts of aged yellow cake that could occur in scale or in filters.
(Industry/Agency Health Physics Focus Group meeting summary , May 10, 2011 - ADAMS Acc. No. ML111250213)
Given that the ingrowth of the beta emitters in question (Th-234 and Pa-234m) occurs at a rate given by the 24.1 day half-life of Th-234, a look at the actual lengths of stay of yellow cake at U.S. uranium mills may be warranted. While such data generally is not readily available, the data for Cameco's U.S. operations can be extracted from the Export Notifications required for each transport to Cameco's Blind River refinery in Ontario.
For Cameco's Crow Butte in situ leach operation in Nebraska, for example, the following departure dates for transports of yellow cake to Blind River have been made available in NRC's ADAMS document management system in 2011, so far:
|Departure date||Days since last transport
|28 September 2010||
|13 October 2010||15
|05 November 2010||23
|19 November 2010||14
|07 December 2010||18
|04 January 2011||28
|17 January 2011||13
|3 February 2011||17
|22 February 2011||19
Assuming that the yellow cake is produced at a constant rate, and that all yellow cake produced in Crow Butte is exported, we find that the yellow cake remained on site for up to 28 days during the period surveyed. After 28 days, the beta emitters already have attained 55% of their equilibrium state, which is not negligible.
> View here
To be considered, comments on this draft toxicological profile must be received not later than July 29, 2011.
Federal Register: April 27, 2011 (Volume 76, Number 81) p. 23600-23601 (download full text )
> Download Draft Toxicological Profile for Uranium, May 2011
> View Docket ID CDC-2011-0005
Uranium mining companies would have to pay 12.5 percent royalties and bid competitively for leases under legislative changes proposed by two New Mexico Democrats.
All other fuels - coal, oil and gas - are governed by leasing systems, which allow the government to better protect the public's economic and environmental interests. Under the 1872 mining law, uranium-mining companies pay no royalty for the minerals they take from public lands. Historic uranium development in the West has polluted surface and ground water and left a toxic legacy in some communities that has yet to be addressed. The 1872 law even allows sites sacred to Native American communities to be mined and gives tribes little recourse to stop the destruction.
The bill (H.R. 1452 ) introduced in Congress by Rep. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján would shift the regulation of uranium mining from the antiquated mining law to the Mineral Leasing Act. Under the leasing act, companies looking to mine uranium would have to go through a similar leasing process as oil and gas companies operating on public lands - as opposed to the industry-initiated claim and patent system.
"Taxpayers have been fleeced out of millions of dollars in royalties from uranium companies mining on public lands," said Lauren Pagel, policy director for Earthworks , a mining watchdog group. "The Uranium Resources Stewardship Act charges a moderate 12.5 percent royalty on uranium, which will allow the industry to contribute to cleaning up old uranium mine sites that continue to pollute water and harm nearby communities."
"The antiquated 1872 Mining Law allows some of our most treasured places, such as the Grand Canyon, to be threatened by uranium mining," said Pagel. "The Uranium Resources Stewardship Act will give land managers more discretion to decide where uranium mining is and is not appropriate."
(Summit County Citizens Voice Apr. 9, 2011)
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is proposing to
issue a regulatory issue summary (RIS) to re-affirm its existing
interpretation of the regulatory policy regarding the scope and
corresponding dollar amount of the long-term surveillance charge (LTSC)
to be paid to the general treasury of the United States, or to an
appropriate State agency. This LTSC is paid prior to the transfer of
title to a uranium mill, covered by Title II of the Uranium Mill
Tailings Radiation Control Act (UMTRCA) of 1978 (UMTRCA Title II site),
to the long-term custodian for long-term care and license termination.
Comment period expires May 5, 2011.
Federal Register: April 5, 2011 (Volume 76, Number 65) p. 18807-18809 (download full text )
> View NRC Docket Number NRC-2011-0073
> Download NRC Regulatory Issue Summary 2011-11 regarding long-term surveillance charge for conventional or heap leach uranium recovery facilities licensed under 10 CFR Part 40 , September 29, 2011 (PDF)
> See also: South Dakota wants to regain some state regulation of in-situ leach uranium mining from NRC
South Dakota suspends state regulation of in-situ leach uranium mining:
The governor of South Dakota on Tuesday (Mar. 15) signed into law a bill to ease oversight of a proposed uranium mine near a popular tourist destination despite protests from environmental groups.
The measure signed by Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard will suspend state regulation of an operation near the Black Hills that will engage in so-called "in-situ leach uranium mining."
(Reuters Mar. 15, 2011)
House passes bill to reduce state rules for uranium mining:
The South Dakota House easily approved a measure Wednesday (Mar. 2) to suspend some state rules dealing with uranium mining in the Black Hills, sending the bill on to a likely signing by Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
The House passed Senate Bill 158 on a 57-11 vote, with supporters arguing that experts for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission already handle the core regulatory duties for injection-well uranium mining. South Dakota's rules in that regard are duplicative, they said.
(Rapid City Journal Mar. 2, 2011)
South Dakota House committee approves bill aiming at halt of state regulation of in-situ leach uranium mining:
A South Dakota House committee has approved a measure that would allow the company behind a controversial uranium mining project to bypass some state regulations.
A bill passed Friday (Feb. 25) by the House State Affairs Committee would suspend state rules for the form of uranium mining proposed at the Dewey Burdock site in the Black Hills. That suspension would remain in place unless the state takes over authority from federal agencies that now enforce certain mining rules.
Powertech USA, the company that has proposed Dewey Burdock, says many state regulations duplicate federal laws. It wants to save time by only getting federal permits for certain parts of the project. Environmental advocates opposed the bill.
It now moves to the full House. The Senate already has approved the measure.
(AP Feb. 25, 2011)
> View: Bill History - Senate Bill 158 (South Dakota Legislature - 2011 Session)
> Download: South Dakota Senate Bill 158, as introduced (76k PDF)
> See also: South Dakota revises rules for reclamation of exploration test holes and in-situ leach mining (2008)
> See also: South Dakota adopts In Situ Leach Mine Regulations (2007)
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved a final rule designed to prevent future "legacy sites" with insufficient funds for decommissioning by requiring licensees to minimize the introduction of residual radioactivity at their sites during operations.
> Download NRC release Nov. 30, 2010 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML103340277)
> Final rule Decommissioning Planning SECY-09-0042, March 13, 2009: View HTML · Download 1.6MB PDF
The final rule was released only on June 17, 2011:
> Download NRC release June 17, 2011 (PDF)
Federal Register: June 17, 2011 (Volume 76, Number 117) p. 35511-35575 (download full text )
> See also: NRC issues Proposed Rule on Decommissioning Planning for comment
> See also: U.S. NRC invites comment on Draft Regulatory Guide "Decommissioning Planning during Operations"
Powertech Uranium Corp. is suing the state of Colorado claiming rules state mining regulators adopted in August requiring the company to keep the groundwater clean beneath the proposed Centennial Project uranium mine are unlawful and unreasonable.
The lawsuit was filed in Denver District Court on Nov. 1, 2010.
Powertech, which previously called some of the provisions of the rules "fatal" to future in situ uranium mining in Colorado, proposes to open the Centennial Project uranium mine about 15 miles northeast of Fort Collins in Weld County.
The rules, mandated by HB-1161, signed by Gov. Bill Ritter in 2008, require Powertech to establish the level of groundwater purity before it begins prospecting for uranium and then establish a similar baseline for water quality before mining begins.
Another 2008 law, SB-228, provides some public transparency into a mining company's prospecting work.
When the company is finished mining, it must fully decontaminate the groundwater so it and return it to its original purity to ensure the water is no longer polluted.
Powertech's lawsuit calls that rule irrational.
Fully cleaning up the groundwater will be too expensive and will require the use of too much water from somewhere else to do the job, the lawsuit claims.
And, Powertech claims, making the company completely decontaminate the water will hold the company to a higher standard than any other mining company in Colorado.
Before the state will approve a permit for Powertech to begin in situ leach, or ISL, mining, the rules require Powertech to show it can fully decontaminate the groundwater by pointing to five other ISL mines elsewhere in the United States that have returned the groundwater to its original purity.
Powertech's lawsuit claims the state has no authority to require mining companies to test groundwater purity before it begins prospecting for uranium, and says the state’s rule to show how other mines have reclaimed the groundwater is arbitrary.
"These rules require information about other operations permitted at some time in the past or at other locations by an operator unrelated" to Powertech, the lawsuit claims, dismissing the rules as overly burdensome.
Powertech, Rep. John Kefalas said, told lawmakers in 2008 that the in situ leach mining technology was proven and will protect the groundwater and public health.
"Here it is at this juncture, they're singing a different tune and I find that quite curious," Kefalas said.
Robin Davis, who lives near the Centennial Project site, called the lawsuit "insulting."
"Powertech has told us from the very beginning they could and would restore our water," Davis said in a statement. "Now that we have regulations in place that will hold them accountable to their word, they sue the state of Colorado for protecting its resources."
(Coloradoan Nov. 11, 2010)
On July 13, 2012, the District Court completely dismissed Powertech's lawsuit.
> View details (powertechexposed.com)
Powertech quits legal fight against Colorado mining regulations: Attorneys for Powertech Uranium Corp. will not be filing an appeal of a judicial order dismissing the company's lawsuit against the State of Colorado, according to someone with knowledge of the matter. This marks the end of an over two-year legal effort by the Canadian start-up company to overturn strict new regulations governing in-situ leach uranium mining. (powertechexposed.com Jan. 1, 2013)
> See also: Colorado approves regulations for groundwater protection at in situ leach uranium mine sites
Wyoming's mineral industries are lobbying for the right to hire their own contractors to speed up permitting normally performed by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.
The bill will be considered by the Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Interim Committee when it meets Monday and Tuesday (Sep 20/21) in Jackson.
DEQ administrator John Corra testified to Wyoming lawmakers during this year's legislative session that the agency was effectively fulfilling its regulatory duties despite an ever increasing workload. However, things have changed since, Corra told the Star-Tribune this week.
A more detailed analysis now reveals that the permitting backlog at DEQ's Land Quality Division is indeed growing. Corra said he has recommended hiring seven more people to handle the workload in the Land Quality Division.
"It's primarily related to, first of all, the amount of uranium permits that came at us all at once. And they're going to keep coming at us," said Corra, adding that the backlog also includes coal mining permit applications.
(Casper Star Tribune September 19, 2010)
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is proposing to amend its regulations to require that the
initial distribution of source material to exempt persons or general
licensees be explicitly authorized by a specific license, which would
include new reporting requirements.
The proposed rule is intended to
provide the Commission with more complete and timely information on the
types and quantities of source material distributed for use either
under exemption or by general licensees. In addition, the NRC is
proposing to modify the existing possession and use requirements of the
general license for small quantities of source material to better align
the requirements with current health and safety standards. Finally, the
NRC is proposing to revise, clarify, or delete certain source material
exemptions from licensing to make the exemptions more risk informed.
Submit comments on the rule by November 23, 2010.
> View NRC news release July 27, 2010
Federal Register: July 26, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 142) p. 43425-43446 (download full text )
> Download Proposed Rule (148k PDF)
> View NRC Docket ID NRC-2009-0084
> Download: NUREG-1717, Systematic Radiological Assessment of Exemptions for Source and Byproduct Materials , June 2001.
> Download: PNNL-16148, Rev. 1 - Dose Assessment for Current and Projected Uses of Source Material under U.S. NRC General License and Exemption Criteria, , Feb. 2007 (1.2MB PDF - ADAMS Accession Number ML070750105)
NRC approved the final rule on Oct. 23, 2012.
> Download NRC release Oct. 23, 2012 (PDF)
> Download SECY-12-0099 (1.4MB PDF) (includes rule text in Enclosure 1)
> Download NRC release May 29, 2013 (PDF)
> Federal Register Volume 78, Number 103 (Wednesday, May 29, 2013) p. 32309-32343 (download full text )
Bill introduced in Congress to allow New Mexico to spend federal funds to cleanup abandoned uranium mines
U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman proposed a bill that would allow New Mexico to spend federal funds to cleanup abandoned uranium mines. He submitted that proposal along with cosponsor U.S. Sen. Tom Udall to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Under the Abandoned Mine Land program, the U.S. Department of the Interior is authorized to collect revenue from coal companies for a fund that cleans up those abandoned mines. Each state receives a share of the AML fund, but the Interior Department currently restricts the ability of states to use some of that funding to clean up non-coal mines. As a result, New Mexico has not been able to focus the funding on one of its priorities - to clean up uranium mines.
Bingaman's legislation makes clear that those funds can be used for non-coal cleanup.
"New Mexico has more than 15,000 remaining mine openings with a vast majority of these being non-coal. Uranium mine reclamation is a particular priority in our state, but right now the state cannot tap into all of these federal funds to clean up abandoned uranium mines," said Bingaman, who chairs the Senate Energy Natural Resources Committee. "That doesn't make sense. This legislation would make it possible for New Mexico to use its share to clean up uranium mines and other non-coal mine sites."
The bill is now ready to be considered by the full Senate.
(KVII Jun 22, 2010)
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Offices of Nuclear Regulatory Research
(RES) and the Federal and State Materials and Environmental Management Programs
(FSME) are organizing a Workshop on Engineered Barrier Performance Related to Low-
Level Radioactive Waste, Decommissioning and Uranium Mill Tailings Facilities.
Workshop will focus on engineered surface covers and bottom liners designed to isolate waste by impeding surface water infiltration into the waste systems or by retarding the migration of contaminants from the waste disposal site. Topics will include engineered barrier performance, modeling, monitoring, and regulatory experiences at low-level radioactive waste, decommissioning, and uranium mill tailings sites.
Workshop Dates: August 3-5, 2010
Location: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Headquarters Auditorium,
11545 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland
> View details (ADAMS Acc. No. ML101620617)
Comments will be accepted until 5:00 p.m. on Monday, June 7, 2010.
> View Railroad Commission announcement (Texas Register May 7, 2010)
> View Request for Comments on Surface Mining and Reclamation Division Forms (Texas Register In Addition May 7, 2010)
> View Railroad Commission of Texas Proposed Rules
The Railroad Commission adopted the revised rules on Oct. 12, 2010.
Withdrawn Rules · Adopted Rules · Notice of Changes to Four SMRD Forms
(Texas Register, October 29, 2010, Volume 35 Number 44, Pages 9567-9800)
On Mar. 5, 2010, the Interior Department declared that an iconic Western bird deserves federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, but declined to offer that protection immediately -- a split decision that will allow oil and gas drilling to continue across large swaths of the mountainous West.
The department issued a so-called "warranted but precluded" designation for the Greater Sage Grouse, meaning that the bird merits protection but won't receive it for now because other species are a higher priority.
For practical purposes, the ruling leaves sage grouse protection largely in the hands of states.
(Los Angeles Times Mar. 5, 2010)
Federal Register: March 23, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 55) p. 13909-13958 (download full text )
> See also: JAB and Antelope ISL projects, Wyoming
The proposed rule would resolve inconsistencies in the NRC's regulations that currently exist between various Parts of Title 10 with respect to the terms "construction" and "commencement of construction," and would enable applicants for materials licenses to engage in non-safety or non-security related site preparation activities not related to radiological health and safety or common defense and security considerations without being in violation of the NRC's licensing requirements. Such activities may include clearing land, site grading and erosion control, and construction of main access roadways, non-security related guardhouses, utilities, parking lots, or administrative buildings not used to process, handle or store classified information.
> Download SECY-10-0018 Rulemaking Issue (Notation Vote) Feb. 5, 2010 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML100360429)
> See also: U.S. NRC issues draft Regulatory Issue Summary on Pre-Licensing Construction Activities at Proposed Uranium Recovery Facilities for comment
The proposed rule was published on July 27, 2010.
Submit comments by September 27, 2010.
> View NRC release Aug. 5, 2010
Federal Register: July 27, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 143) p. 43865-43876 (download full text )
> View Docket ID NRC-2010-0075
> Download SECY-11-0039, March 18, 2011 (391k PDF)
The final rule was published on Sep. 15, 2011.
> Download NRC release Sep. 15, 2011 (PDF).
Federal Register: September 15, 2011 (Volume 76, Number 179) p. 56951-56966 (download fullt text )
On Tuesday (Jan. 26), environmental activists announced legislation that will be proposed in the Colorado state House of Representatives soon.
The Uranium Processing Accountability Act would require uranium processors to comply with clean-up orders before new applications are processed, strengthen public oversight of bonding requirements; require processors to inform residents about threats to their water if they have registered wells in close proximity to known groundwater contamination; and require processors to amend their operating license before accepting new sources of "alternate feeds."
The legislation would affect the Cotter uranium mill south of Cañon City.
The bill will be sponsored by Rep. Buffie McFadyen in the House and Sens. Ken Kester and Bob Bacon in the Senate.
(The Cañon City Daily Record Jan. 27, 2010)
The state House Transportation and Energy Committee, Thursday (Mar. 18), unanimously passed the Uranium Processing Accountability Act.
(The Cañon City Daily Record Mar. 19, 2010)
A bill that would require uranium mills to clean up past toxic pollution before applying to expand processing operations passed the state House on third reading Monday (Apr. 5), sailing through on a 62-2 vote. The bill now moves on to a Senate committee. (Colorado Independent Apr. 5, 2010)
The Senate voted 24-9 in favor of the bill Wednesday (Apr. 28). Later the House agreed with changes made in the Senate and readopted the bill by a vote of 60-3. It now goes to Gov. Bill Ritter.
Mills are now allowed to postpone cleanup until they finish production and decommission their facilities.
(AP Apr. 29, 2010)
Gov. Bill Ritter will be in Cañon City on Tuesday (June 8) to sign the Uranium Processing Accountability Act into law.
HB 1348 requires uranium processors to comply with clean-up orders before new applications are processed, strengthen public oversight of bonding requirements; require processors to inform residents about threats to their water if they have registered wells in close proximity to known groundwater contamination; and require processors to amend their operating license before accepting new sources of "alternate feeds."
Cotter Corp. mill officials have said the bill will make it impossible for them to begin processing ore again in the future.
In 2009, the company announced a plan to reopen as a heap leach facility in 2014, processing ore from the Mount Taylor mine in New Mexico.
Colorado Citizens Against ToxicWaste, a local group that has opposed Cotter restarting operations, partnered with Environment Colorado in developing the bill.
(Cañon City Daily Record June 7, 2010)
Colorado Governor Bill Ritter stood by the banks of the Arkansas River near a neighborhood contaminated by a uranium mill today and signed legislation that will force uranium mills to clean up existing messes before launching new projects.
"This just gives us a better hold on the milling process," Ritter said before signing the bill, a bipartisan measure sponsored by Rep. Buffie McFadyen, and Sens. Ken Kester and Bob Bacon.
"It's a relief to have it finalized," said Sharyn Cunningham, coordinator of Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste, which formed in 2002 to challenge Cotter's practices.
"Now we will begin to see - hopefully - clean up of the groundwater and soil in the area."
(Denver Post June 8, 2010)
> Download House Bill 10-1348 (Uranium Processing Accountability Act)
> Access Uranium Leasing Program (DOE-LM)
DOE releases Mitigation Action Plan for the Final Uranium Leasing Program Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement
> Download: Uranium Leasing Program Mitigation Action Plan for the Final Uranium Leasing Program Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement DOE/EIS-0472 , November 2014
DOE issues Record of Decision for the Uranium Leasing Program Programmatic
Environmental Impact Statement
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announces its decision to
continue management of the Uranium Leasing Program (ULP) for 31 lease
tracts for the next 10 years, consistent with DOE's preferred
alternative identified in the Final Uranium Leasing Program
Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (Final ULP PEIS) (DOE/EIS-
> Federal Register Volume 79, Number 91 (Monday, May 12, 2014) p. 26956-26960 (download full text ) · alternate source (190k PDF)
DOE issues Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Uranium Leasing Program
> Download: EIS-0472: Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, Uranium Leasing Program, Colorado , March 2014
DOE issues Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Uranium Leasing Program
The U.S. Department of Energy is again proposing opening up 25,000 acres [101 square kilometers] of land in western Colorado to uranium mining.
The department released the proposal Friday (Mar. 15) for 31 tracts it manages in Mesa, Montrose and San Miguel counties.
A federal judge in 2011 blocked the energy department's plans to relaunch mining there, saying it needed to conduct a detailed analysis of the plan and take public comment.
(AP Mar. 15, 2013)
On Apr. 18, 2013, DOE announced an extension of the comment period.
On May 28, 2013, DOE announed the re-opening of the comment period.
Submit comments by July 1, 2013 (comment period reopened).
> Federal Register Volume 78, Number 51 (Friday, March 15, 2013) p. 16483-16485 (download full text )
> Federal Register Volume 78, Number 78 (Tuesday, April 23, 2013) p. 23926-23927 (download full text )
> Federal Register Volume 78, Number 106 (Monday, June 3, 2013) p. 33090 (download full text )
> Download EIS-0472: Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, Uranium Leasing Program, Colorado , March 2013
Judge mostly stands by order halting DOE Uranium Leasing Program in Colorado
A judge has rejected a request by the U.S. Department of Energy for him to rescind his suspension of a federal uranium leasing program in western Colorado, but has revised it to allow for certain necessary activities by the agency.
U.S. District Court Judge William J. Martinez of Colorado ruled Monday (Feb. 27) on the request for him to revisit the injunction he issued last October. It applies to some 40 square miles in the Uravan Mineral Belt in Mesa, San Miguel and Montrose counties. The injunction invalidated the department’s approval of the program, suspended 31 existing leases, barred issuing new leases, and prevented further exploration, drilling or mining at all 43 mines approved under the program until new environmental review occurs in accordance with federal law.
Martinez this week rejected the DOE's argument that he erred legally in issuing his injunction. He also was unswayed by the fact that it has completed a draft schedule for completion of an environmental impact statement.
After the DOE last summer told Martinez it was planning to prepare the EIS, he said in his October ruling that the injunction was needed because the agency wasn't otherwise bound to complete the document.
Martinez this week did agree to revise his order to allow the DOE to do work on the lands that is "absolutely necessary" for completing the environmental review, for conducting mine reclamation activities, and for complying with state and other regulatory agency requirements involving the lands and existing leases.
(Grand Junction Sentinal Feb. 29, 2012)
Federal judge halts DOE Uranium Leasing Program in Colorado
In a major victory for clean air, clean water and endangered species on public lands, a federal judge on Tuesday (Oct. 18) halted the Department of Energy's 42-square-mile uranium-leasing program that threatened the Dolores and San Miguel rivers in southwestern Colorado. Five conservation groups had sued to halt the leasing program, charging that the Department of Energy was failing to adequately protect the environment or analyze the full impacts of renewed uranium mining on public lands.
The 53-page ruling invalidates the Department's approval of the program; suspends each of the program's 31 existing leases; enjoins the Department from issuing any new leases; and enjoins any further exploration, drilling or mining activity at all 43 mines approved under the program pending satisfactory completion of new environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act.
(Center for Biological Diversity Oct. 19, 2011)
> View/Download Court Opinion Oct. 18, 2011
(United States District Court for the District of Colorado ,
Judge William J. Martínez,
Civil Action No. 08-cv-01624-WJM-MJW,
Colorado Environmental Coalition; Information Network for Responsible Mining; Center for Native Ecosystems; Center for Biological Diversity; and Sheep Mountain Alliance, Plaintiffs, v. Office of Legacy Management; and United States Department of Energy, Defendants.)
DOE issues Notice of Intent To Prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact
Statement for the Uranium Leasing Program
DOE announces its intent to prepare a Programmatic
Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS)
to analyze the reasonably foreseeable environmental impacts, including
the site-specific impacts, of alternatives for the management of DOE's
Uranium Leasing Program (ULP), under which DOE administers tracts of
land for the exploration, development, and extraction of uranium and
vanadium ores. DOE's ULP includes tracts of land located in Mesa,
Montrose, and San Miguel counties in western Colorado that cover a
cumulative acreage of approximately 25,000 acres.
Federal Register: June 21, 2011 (Volume 76, Number 119) p. 36097-36100 (download full text )
The scoping period has been extended and will now close on September 9, 2011.
> Federal Register: July 21, 2011 (Volume 76, Number 140) p. 43678 (download full text )
District Court rules in favor of environmentalists regarding DOE Uranium Leasing Program
U.S. District Court Judge Wiley Daniel ruled Thursday (Jan. 14) that a coalition of conservation groups suing the DOE could now question officials and obtain leasing records for a 42-square-mile uranium mining program environmentalists claim threatens water quality and wildlife habitat near the Dolores and San Miguel rivers in southwestern Colorado and eastern Utah.
"This is a big victory for the Dolores and San Miguel rivers and a good sign for our litigation," Travis Stills of the Durango-based Energy Minerals Law Center said in a release. His organization is representing the Colorado Environmental Coalition, Information Network for Responsible Mining, Center for Native Ecosystems and Center for Biological Diversity in a lawsuit filed against the DOE and the Bureau of Land Management in July of 2008.
(Colorado Independent Jan. 20, 2010)
> View older issues
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Bureau of Land
Management (BLM) have finalized a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to
define the cooperative working relationship between the agencies in
each agency's preparation of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
documents related to the extraction of uranium and thorium on public
lands administered by BLM.
> View NRC Docket ID NRC-2009-0578 [a Notice of Unavailability would have been more appropriate, though...]
Federal Register: January 8, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 5) p. 1088 (download full text )
The Railroad Commission of Texas requests comments on proposed Surface Mining and Reclamation Division forms, SMRD-3U, SMRD-5U, SMRD-38U, and SMRD-39U, as part of proposed repeals, new rules, and amendments in 16 TAC Chapter 11 (relating to Surface Mining and Reclamation Division), published in this issue of the Texas Register. The rulemaking proposal, pursuant to House Bill 3837, 80th Legislature (2007), implements the Commission's expanded statutory authority to regulate uranium exploration. The Commission is requesting comments on the proposed rulemaking, as well as the proposed forms.
The Commission will accept comments until 5:00 p.m., December 7, 2009.
Texas Register Volume 34, Number 45, November 6, 2009, Pages 7717-7924:
Proposed 16 TAC Chapter 11. SURFACE MINING AND RECLAMATION DIVISION, Subchapter C. SUBSTANTIVE RULES--URANIUM EXPLORATION AND SURFACE MINING
Request for Comments on Surface Mining and Reclamation Division Forms
The NRC has issued a Regulatory Issue Summary clarifying its position on the licensing requirements for satellite facilities for existing uranium in situ leach operations: For NRC staff to consider approving additions or enhancements to facilities not located at the existing licensed site through amendment of the existing ISR license, the licensee must show a "strong connection" between the proposed additions or enhancements and the existing licensed operations. The strong connection can be met by either of two ways:
> Download NRC Regulatory Issue Summary 2009-14, Licensing approach for uranium in situ recovery facility applications, November 5, 2009 (168k PDF)
- Operational Connection - Demonstrating that the new facility would not be
functional without the existing facility.
- Hydrogeologic Connection - An existing ISR licensee is proposing the addition of
a new ISR/resin operation involving well fields containing the ore zone, and
hydrogeologic conditions that are the same as the existing licensed ISR/resin
> See also: Powertech sues Colorado over state's rules for groundwater protection at uranium in situ leach mines
Colorado agency approves new rules to protect groundwater during in-situ leach uranium mining:
State officials have approved new rules intended to protect Colorado's groundwater during a type of uranium mining that extracts the mineral by injecting a solution underground.
The requirements approved Thursday (Aug. 12) by the Mined Land Reclamation Board include detailed environmental protection plans for uranium mines and maintaining existing groundwater quality or at state standards.
Mine applications must include detailed information on the pre-mining water quality. Public input will be allowed.
The rules carry out three laws passed by the Legislature in 2008 out of concern about in-situ, or "in place," mining, which injects a solution underground to dissolve and extract the mineral.
An in-situ uranium mine has been proposed about 70 miles north of Denver.
(AP Aug. 12, 2010)
Among the key provisions of the new rules:
The rules must be reviewed by the Attorney General for consistency with statute and the state Constitution. Following the Attorney General’s review, the final rules will be published by the Secretary of State and become effective 20 days later.
(Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, Aug. 12, 2010)
- All uranium mines are now Designated Mining Operations, requiring detailed environmental protection plans.
- In-situ leach uranium mine applications must protect groundwater to existing conditions or to state ground water standards.
- In-situ leach uranium mine applications must demonstrate that the proposed mining technology has been used at five other locations without harming groundwater quality.
- In-situ leach uranium mine applications must include detailed baseline hydrology information.
- In-situ leach uranium mine applicants cannot receive a permit if the applicant is in violation at another operation.
- Prospecting notices are now largely public information.
- Public comment is now allowed on prospecting notices.
- DRMS may now assess in-situ leach uranium mine applicants for extraordinary costs associated with permit reviews.
> Download Colorado DRMS release Aug. 12, 2010 (PDF)
On Jan. 28, 2010, the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board scheduled the rulemaking:
> Download Rulemaking Press Release January 28, 2010 (PDF)
- February 23, 2010 - Deadline for requests for party status.
- March 15, 2010 - Deadline for written public comments by non-parties. - Deadline extended -
On Oct. 20, 2009, the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (DRMS) issued a redraft of the rules for HB08-1161.
Deadline for written comments is November 10, 2009.
A stakeholder meeting will be held on December 3, 2009.
> View Colorado DRMS Rulemaking
> Download Draft Set of Proposed New Rules and Revisions to Hard Rock Rules October 20, 2009 (511k PDF)
> View HB08-1161 details
At the request of the Commission, NRC staff assessed the groundwater impacts of some currently licensed in-situ leach uranium mines:
COGEMA's Irigaray/Christensen Ranch facility and PRI's Smith Ranch/Highland Uranium Project facility in Wyoming and Crow Butte Resources' Crow Butte facility in Nebraska; sites in Texas were not included, however.
The following failure mechanisms were analyzed (surface spills of liquids were not considered):
- Residual constituent concentrations in excess of baseline concentrations after the restoration of the production aquifer
"[...] NRC has approved 11 groundwater restorations at the 3 facilities. The data show that over 60 percent of the constituents were restored to their pre-operational concentrations. Although the remaining constituents were restored to concentrations that were above baseline levels, they were all restored to levels that NRC staff found to be protective of public health and the environment."
- Migration of production liquids from the production aquifer to the surrounding
aquifers during operation
"[...] The data show over 60 events had occurred at the 3 facilities. For most of those events, the licensees were able to control and reverse them through pumping and extraction at nearby wells. Most excursions were shortlived, although a few of them continued for several years. None had resulted in environmental impacts."
- Mechanical failure of the subsurface well materials releasing production fluids into the overlying aquifers
"[...] The data indicates that a small percentage of the wells tested failed and they were replaced. One licensee also investigated the overlying aquifers and found no impacts for five of six MIT failures and mitigated the impact found from the remaining failure. The other two licensees did not specifically investigate the overlying aquifers; however, the aquifer above the production zone is continually monitored as part of the excursion monitoring program and data from that monitoring did not identify any impact attributable to well failure."
- Movement of constituents to groundwater outside the licensed area
"[...] The data from those monitoring programs do not show impacts attributable to the ISR facility. The staff is unaware of any situation indicating that: (1) the quality of groundwater at a nearby water supply well has been degraded; (2) the use of a water supply well has been discontinued; or (3) a well has been relocated because of impacts attributed to an ISR facility."
> Download Memorandum: Staff assessment of groundwater impacts from previously licensed in-situ uranium recovery facilities, July 10, 2009 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML091770187) · Enclosure: Data on groundwater impacts at the existing ISR facilities (ADAMS Acc. No. ML091770385)
> View: Staff Requirements Memorandum M081211 - Briefing on Uranium Recovery, Jan. 8, 2009
> Download Regulatory Issue Summary 2009-09 on use of multiple dosimetry and compartment factors in determining effective dose equivalent from external radiation exposures, July 13, 2009
On July 13, 2009, the U.S. EPA announced that it has identified the hardrock mining industry as its priority for developing financial assurance requirements. Financial assurance requirements help ensure that owners and operators of these facilities, not taxpayers, foot the bill for environmental cleanup. These requirements will be developed under section 108(b) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, commonly called "Superfund." EPA plans to propose the rule by spring of 2011. The agency will publish a notice of this priority in the Federal Register, which is the first step toward developing the requirements.
Hardrock mining facilities include those that extract, beneficiate and process metals (including uranium) and non-metallic, non-fuel minerals.
> View Superfund Financial Responsibility (EPA)
> Download: Identification of Priority Classes of Facilities for Development of CERCLA Section 108(b) Financial Responsibility Requirements, July 10, 2009 (119k PDF)
Federal Register: July 28, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 143) p. 37213-37219 (download full text )
> View Further information under Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-SFUND-2009-0265
This document describes the process that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Legacy Management (LM) will use as guidance for assuming perpetual responsibility for a closed uranium mill tailings site. The process specifically addresses sites regulated under Title II of the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act (UMTRCA) but is applicable in principle to the transition of sites under other regulatory structures, such as the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program.
Process for Transition of Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act Title II Disposal Sites to the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Legacy Management for Long-Term Surveillance and Maintenance, June 2009, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Legacy Management
A revised edition of the document was released on March 29, 2012:
> Download Process for Transition of Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act Title II Disposal Sites to the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Legacy Management for Long-Term Surveillance and Maintenance , U.S. DOE Legacy Management, LMS/S05096, March 2012 (9.2M PDF)
EPA Science Advisory Board recommends expansion of EPA's Draft Technical Report entitled "Considerations Related to Post-Closure Monitoring of Uranium In-Situ Leach/In-Situ Recovery (ISL/ISR) Sites":
The SAB recommends that the EPA expand greatly this draft technical report so that it is protective and realistic in guiding the monitoring program and evaluating its results.
> Download: Advisory on EPA's Draft Technical Report entitled Considerations Related to Post-Closure Monitoring of Uranium In-Situ Leach/In-Situ Recovery (ISL/ISR) Sites , EPA-SAB-12-005, Feb. 17, 2012
EPA to hold teleconference and public meeting on draft report "Considerations Related to Post-Closure Monitoring of Uranium In-Situ Leach/In-Situ Recovery (ISL/ISR) Sites":
The EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) Staff Office announces a public meeting (July 18-19, 2011) and teleconference (July 12, 2011) of the Radiation Advisory Committee (RAC) augmented for an advisory review of EPA's draft report "Considerations Related to Post-Closure Monitoring of Uranium In-Situ Leach/In-Situ Recovery (ISL/ISR) Sites."
Written statements should be supplied by noon July 5, 2011 for the teleconference, and by noon on July 14, 2011.
> Federal Register: June 23, 2011 (Volume 76, Number 121) p. 36918-36919 (download full text )
The EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) Staff Office announces
two teleconferences of the SAB Augmented Radiation Advisory Committee
(RAC) to discuss the draft advisory report related to uranium and
thorium in-situ leach recovery and post-closure stability monitoring.
The public teleconferences will be conducted on Tuesday,
September 6, 2011 and Wednesday, October 5, 2011, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
(Eastern Daylight Time).
> Federal Register: August 16, 2011 (Volume 76, Number 158) p. 50728-50729 (download full text )
> Access review materials (EPA SAB)
> Download Draft Technical Report: Considerations Related to Post-Closure Monitoring Of Uranium In-Situ Leach/In-Situ Recovery (ISL/ISR) Sites, June 2011
Request for Nominations of Experts for Review of EPA's Draft Technical Report Pertaining to Uranium and Thorium In-Situ Leach Recovery and Post-Closure Stability
The EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) Staff Office is requesting public nominations for technical experts to augment the SAB's Radiation Advisory Committee (RAC) to review and provide advice on EPA's draft scientific and technical report on Health and Environmental Protection Standards for Uranium and Thorium Mill Tailings.
Nominations should be submitted by December 15, 2010.
Federal Register: November 24, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 226) p. 71702-71703 (download full text )
> Download EPA announcement June 30, 2009 (PDF)
> View background information
> View EPA Rulemaking Gateway
> View EPA Discussion Forum
EPA releases proposed rule for revisions of radon emission standards for operating uranium mill tailings
On April 17, 2014 Administrator McCarthy signed the proposed rule for the Revisions to National Emission Standards for Radon Emissions from Operating Mill Tailings. The proposed rule will be published soon in the Federal Register, beginning a 90-day public comment period. In addition, EPA may conduct public hearings on the proposed rulemaking.
The proposal would eliminate the numeric limit on radon emissions for pre-1989 impoundments, while it would establish a numeric minimum moisture content for heap leach piles, among others.
> Submit comments by October 29, 2014 (comment period extended).
> Federal Register Volume 79, Number 85 (Friday, May 2, 2014) p. 25387-25412 (download full text )
> Federal Register Volume 79, Number 139 (Monday, July 21, 2014) p. 42275-42276 (download full text )
> Access Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2008-0218
> Download signed copy of the proposed rule (305k PDF)
> Download Fact Sheet on the Proposed Rule (PDF)
> Download Background Information Document Economic Impact Analysis in Support of the Subpart W Proposed Rulemaking, April 2014 (2.2MB PDF)
> See also: Ute Mountain Tribe and environmentalists oppose relaxation of EPA uranium mill tailings standards affecting White Mesa uranium mill (Utah)
EPA presents dose and risk estimates for radon emissions from existing and hypothetical uranium mills and from in situ leach uranium mines in USA
On Nov. 10, 2011, EPA released a report presenting dose and risk estimates for radon releases from each uranium in situ leach mine, from each licensed uranium mill and its associated tailings impoundments, and from two generic mill sites in the Western U.S. (New Mexico) and Eastern U.S (Virginia). The assessment calculates collective doses, and individual doses for the "reasonably maximally exposed individual", using the CAP88 software.
The maximum annual population dose determined is 200.3 person-rem [2.003 person-Sv], and the maximum annual dose received by a reasonably maximally exposed individual is 28.2 mrem [0.282 mSv] (both for the Eastern Generic site); these doses are the highest by far among all sites.
> Download: Risk Assessment Revision for 40 CFR Part 61 Subpart W - Radon Emissions from Operating Mill Tailings, Task 4 - Detailed Risk Estimates , November 10, 2011 (2MB PDF)
EPA and plaintiffs reach agreement on review and possible revision of radon emission standard for operating uranium mill tailings
An agreement reached between the Environmental Protection Agency and plaintiffs in a lawsuit could result in stronger limits on radon emissions from uranium mills, including a proposed operation near Naturita, between Durango and Grand Junction.
Colorado Citizens Against ToxicWaste , representing concerned residents living near the Cotter mill in Cañon City, and WildEarth Guardians filed the suit in 2008, according to a news release from the Cañon City group.
The lawsuit and settlement were reached with the help of the Energy Minerals Law Center, a Durango-based nonprofit.
Travis Stills, an attorney with the law center, said in a phone interview Sunday that the settlement compels the EPA to revisit its limits on the radioactive gas, which haven't been reviewed or changed in 20 years.
It also requires the agency to take various strides to ensure the public is included in the drafting of the new rules.
(Durango Herald Sep. 7, 2009)
Written comments on the proposed settlement agreement must be
received by October 5, 2009.
Federal Register: September 4, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 171) p. 45851-45852 (download full text )
> Docket Docket ID EPA-HQ-OGC-2009-0679
EPA to hold meeting on review and possible revision of radon emission standard for operating uranium mill tailings
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) , in conjunction with the Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste (CCAT) and Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action, will hold a public meeting in Cañon City, Colorado, on June 30, 2009. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss EPA's review and possible revision of 40 CFR 61 Subpart W.
The National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) Subpart W is the radon emission standard for operating uranium mill tailings. Members of EPA will discuss the Agency's plan in reviewing and possibly revising this standard. Additionally, members of the public will be invited to participate in a question and answer session after the presentation.
> View CDPHE notice June 23, 2009
> View Uranium Watch notice June 26, 2009 . Excerpt:
"Over twenty years ago, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recommended that the limit or standard be set at 2 pico Curies per square-meter per second (pCi/m2-sec). Instead, the EPA set the limit at 20 pCi/m2sec. The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 required EPA to review this standard and, if appropriate, revise it within ten years. EPA failed to perform this non-discretionary duty by 2001."
> Download EPA 40 CFR 61 Subpart W - National Emission Standards for Radon Emissions From Operating Mill Tailings (PDF)
> View EPA 40 CFR 61 Subpart W Rulemaking Activity
The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is
proposing to amend its regulations that govern the export and import of
nuclear equipment and material. In addition to updating, clarifying and
correcting several provisions, this proposed rule would allow Category
1 and 2 quantities of materials listed in the Commission's regulations
to be imported under a general license. The proposed rule would also
revise the definition of "radioactive waste" and remove the
definition of "incidental radioactive material."
The comment period for this proposed rule ends on September 8, 2009.
Federal Register: June 23, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 119) p. 29614-29630 (download full text )
The staff recognizes that NUREG-1569, "Standard Review Plan for In Situ Leach Uranium Extraction License Applications," provides guidance that is not consistent with the requirements in Criterion 5B of Appendix A discussed above. In particular, the NUREG-1569 discussion of groundwater restoration to "pre-operational class of use" as being a secondary standard is not
accurate, and is not an appropriate standard to use in evaluating license applications. Criterion 5B contains the appropriate standards that will be applied to groundwater restoration at ISR facilities. [emphasis added]
Regulatory Issue Summary 2009-05 (April 29, 2009)
As indicated above, the staff is now working with the EPA to resolve groundwater protection issues at ISR facilities and to revise Appendix A of 10 CFR Part 40 accordingly.
Uranium recovery policy regarding:
(1) the process for scheduling licensing reviews of applications for new uranium recovery facilities, and
(2) the restoration of groundwater at licensed uranium in situ recovery facilities
> Download RIS-2009-05 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML083510622)
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is seeking public comment on regulatory issues and options for potential changes to the agency's radiation protection regulations, to achieve greater alignment between the regulations and the 2007 recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP).
The NRC believes that the agency's current regulations continue to provide adequate protection of health and safety of workers, the public and the environment. The ICRP recommendations, contained in ICRP Publication 103 (2007), propose measures that go beyond what is needed to provide adequate protection. In a Staff Requirements Memorandum dated April 2, 2009, the Commission directed the staff to engage stakeholders and interested parties on the benefits and burdens of any potential regulatory changes based on the ICRP recommendations.
The staff will use public comments over the next two to three years to develop a technical basis for potential rulemaking, for presentation to the Commission.
"The Commission is concerned about the potential impact of effectively lowering the occupational dose limit to 2 rem [20 mSv] (from the current 5 rem [50 mSv]) per year," the Commission said in the memorandum.
> View NRC release Apr. 27, 2009
> Download Staff Notation Vote, SECY-08-0197, Dec. 18, 2008 (PDF)
> Download Staff Requirements Memorandum, SRM-08-0197, April 2, 2009 (PDF)
> See also: Options to Revise Radiation Protection Regulations and Guidance (NRC)
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is proposing to
issue a regulatory issue summary (RIS) to present its interpretation of
the regulations governing the commencement of construction found in 10
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing this regulatory issue summary (RIS) to inform addressees of the NRC's policy regarding pre-licensing construction activities at proposed uranium recovery facilities of all types (conventional mills, heap leach, and in situ recovery (ISR) facilities). The NRC is issuing this RIS in response to industry inquiries regarding the activities that applicants may undertake prior to receiving a license.
While the uranium industry interprets the regulations thus that pre-licensing construction activities are forbidden only for conventional mills, NRC staff maintains that this applies to all types of uranium recovery facilities. The applicant, therefore, must submit an exemption request before initiating any pre-licensing construction activities.
Comment period expires April 27, 2009.
Federal Register: March 27, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 58) p. 13483-13485 (download full text )
> See also: ADAMS Acc. No. ML083470668
On May 13, 2009, NRC announced the reopening of the public comment
period until May 15, 2009 (!).
Federal Register: May 13, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 91) p. 22599-22600 (download full text )
On Sep. 23, 2009, NRC issued the final NRC Regulatory Issue Summary 2009-12: Uranium recovery policy regarding site preparation activities at proposed, unlicensed uranium recovery facilities (ADAMS Acc. No. ML092090353 )
> Download NRC staff's evaluation of the comments received: ADAMS Acc. No. ML092100004
> for older issues, see Regulatory Issues - USA: (1995 - 1997) · (1998 - 1999) · (2000 - 2003) · (2004 - 2008)