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Regulatory Issues - USA (1998 - 1999)   flag

(last updated 18 Nov 2003)

This page provides information on recently published rules or rules under development, covering the operation and decommissioning of uranium mines and mills and the management of uranium mine wastes and mill tailings.


> see also:

> for more recent issues, see Current Regulatory Issues - USA

ATSDR releases Final Toxicological Profile for Uranium

The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has released its Final Toxicological Profile for Uranium (1999).
It is available for purchase from NTIS under the order no. PB99-163362.
> Now also available for download !
See announcement in Federal Register Dec. 16, 1999, p. 70263-70264: download full text

The draft toxicological profile had been released in 1997 and had been open for public comment.

Utah seeking State regulation of uranium mills and tailings

The State of Utah plans to extend its Agreement State status with the U.S. NRC to the regulation of uranium mills and tailings. This would allow the State to regulate the controversial alternate feed processing at the White Mesa mill and the reclamation of the Atlas Moab tailings pile by its own.
The public comment period for this proposal ended December 6, 1999.
> View UT DEQ DRC Scoping Document (Nov. 2, 1999)
> View Public Participation Document
> See also Deseret News Nov. 5, 1999

EPA proposes standard for Radon in drinking water

EPA proposes a conditional standard of 300 pCi/liter (11.1 Bq/liter) for Radon in drinking water. States developing programs addressing indoor radon may apply the weaker standard of 4000 pCi/liter (148 Bq/liter). (EPA Headquarters Press Release Oct. 19, 1999)
EPA must receive public comments, in writing, on the proposed regulations by January 3, 2000.
> View Federal Register Notice (Nov. 2, 1999): Part 1 · Part 2 · Part 3
> View Further information

> See also:
GAO criticizes EPA Radon Rule for Drinking Water

NRC discusses disposal of other wastes in tailings deposits and alternate feed material guidance for uranium mills

SECY-99-012 - Use of Uranium Mill Tailings Impoundments for the Disposal of Waste Other than 11e.(2) Byproduct Material and Reviews of Applications to Process Material Other than Natural Uranium Ores
"SUMMARY: In September 1995, the staff issued guidance on: (1) the disposal of material other than Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended (AEA) 11e.(2) byproduct material in uranium mill tailings impoundments; and (2) the processing of material other than natural uranium ores (hereinafter, "alternate feed material") at uranium mills. Both of these guidance documents are provided in Attachment 1. The uranium recovery industry has raised concerns about this guidance. In this paper, the staff discusses the industry's concerns and provides recommendations to the Commission on ways to address the issues raised."
In this paper, the NRC staff proposes to seek legislative change with regard to the types of materials to be disposed of in an Atomic Energy Act 11e.(2) tailings impoundment. The proposed legislative change would allow disposal of non-AEA 11e.(2) byproduct material and hazardous materials, that is material that is not similar to uranium mill tailings.
Regarding the processing of alternate feed materials at uranium mills, the staff proposes to focus its review solely on the public health and safety aspects of such applications and to revise its guidance to eliminate any discussion about economics and consider the "primarily" test to determine the acceptability of an application to process alternate feed sufficient.
The revised guidance would also allow mill licensees to process alternate feed material without always obtaining prior NRC approval. Under this approach, licensees could request a performance-based license amendment authorizing processing of alternate feed material primarily for its source material content. The performance-based amendment would make individual amendments each time alternate feed material is to be processed unnecessary.

> Access SECY-99-012 (April 8, 1999): View HTML · Download WordPerfect 5.1
> View transcript of related public meeting on June 17, 1999
> View also: Staff Requirements Memorandum SECY-99-0012 (July 26, 2000)

NRC discusses In situ leaching regulations

SECY-99-013 - Recommendations on Ways to Improve the Efficiency of NRC Regulation at in Situ Leach Uranium Recovery Facilities
"SUMMARY: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has historically regulated operations at ISL facilities under the authority of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended (AEA). The uranium recovery industry, however, believes that NRC's regulation of ground water at these facilities is duplicative of the ground-water protection programs administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or EPA authorized States under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The industry also has raised concerns about staff guidance documents that it believes preclude the disposal of certain types of wastes generated at ISL facilities at uranium mill tailings impoundments. In this paper, the staff discusses the industry's concerns and provides recommendations to the Commission on ways to address the issues raised."
In this paper, NRC staff recommends for NRC to rely on the EPA Underground Injection Control program, thus removing NRC from the review of ground-water protection issues at ISL facilities.
The staff also recommends to exempt certain wastes produced during in situ leaching of uranium deposits from NRC regulation, thus simplifying disposal of such wastes.

> Access SECY-99-013 (March 12, 1999): View HTML · Download WordPerfect 5.1
> View transcript of related public meeting on June 17, 1999
> View also: Staff Requirements Memorandum SECY-99-0013 (July 26, 2000)

> See also: NRC develops approach for reducing or eliminating dual regulation of ground-water protection at ISL uranium facilities (2003)

U.S. NRC Releases Draft Rulemaking Plan: Domestic Licensing Of Uranium And Thorium Recovery Facilities - Proposed New 10 CFR Part 41

This rulemaking would update and revise the regulatory requirements for uranium and thorium recovery facilities in a new 10 CFR Part 41, "Domestic Licensing of Uranium and Thorium Recovery Facilities."
> Download SECY-99-011 (January 15, 1999): WordPerfect 5.1 · PDF format
> View transcript of related public meeting on June 17, 1999
    1. Regulations For In Situ Leach Facilities
    2. Addition of Regulations for Disposal of Other Material in Tailings Piles
    3. Criteria for Construction of 11e.(2) Byproduct Material Disposal Cells
    4. Addition of Regulations for Processing Alternate Feed Material
    5. Operational Flexibility Provision
    6. Requirement for Standby Trust
    7. Addition of General License Provision for 11e.(2) Byproduct Material
    1. Deletions of Prescriptive Site and Design Requirements
      This proposal would, among others, delete the no active maintenance requirement for uranium mill tailings deposits in 10 CFR 40 Appendix A Criterion 12: "The final disposition of tailings or wastes at milling sites should be such that ongoing active maintenance is not necessary to preserve isolation."
    1. Clarify the Meaning of 11e.(2) Byproduct Material as it Relates to Uranium Recovery Facilities
    2. Clarification of Reporting Requirements
    3. Clarification of Applicability of Siting and Design Requirements for Existing Facilities
    4. Modification of Annual Surety Requirements
    5. Update the Long-Term Surveillance Fee

Utah Radiation Control Board adopts and suspends rule on alternate feed for uranium mills

On April 9, 1999, the Utah Radiation Control Board adopted a rule setting a requirement for a minimum uranium contents of 0.05% for materials to be accepted as alternate feed material for processing in a uranium mill.
Interested persons may present their views on this rule by submitting written comments no later than 5:00 p.m. on June 1, 1999. This rule may become effective on June 11, 1999.
> View Rule text R313-25-36, Alternate Feed Materials at Uranium Mills
> View Board Meeting Minutes of April 2 · April 9 , 1999

Meanwhile, however, the rule was tabled (= suspended). "The action was prompted by the threat of costly legal action and a decision to focus on other ways to confront the problem, said Dianne Nielson, director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality and a member of the radiation control board." (Salt Lake Tribune August 11, 1999 )
> View Board Meeting Minutes of August 6, 1999

> View background information: Processing of alternate feed material at White Mesa uranium mill (Utah)

NRC soliciting comments on Draft Standard Review Plan for Reclamation of Title II uranium tailings

from: Federal Register: February 3, 1999 (Vol. 64, No. 22) p.5321-5322 (download full notice ):

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is soliciting comments on a Draft Standard Review Plan for Review of a Reclamation Plan for Mill Tailings Sites Under Title II of the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act (NUREG-1620) from interested parties.
The areas include radon attenuation and long-term stability of the reclaimed site, soil cleanup, and groundwater restoration reviews.
Written comments must be received prior to May 4, 1999.
> View NUREG-1620 , Draft Standard Review Plan for the Review of a Reclamation Plan for Mill Tailings Sites Under Title II of the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act, January 1999 (636k)
> View NUREG-1623 , "Design of Erosion Protection for Long-Term Stabilization, Draft, Report for Comment, February 1999 (369k)

Note 1: the final NUREG-1620 was published in July 2000.
Note 2: the final NUREG-1623 was published in September 2002.

EPA conducting nationwide study of Class V underground injection wells

"The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water (OGWDW) is collecting information on Class V injection wells. This information collection is being conducted to meet the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and EPA’s modified consent decree with the Sierra Club. Section 1421 of the SDWA requires EPA to publish proposed and final regulations which prevent underground injection that endangers Underground Sources of Drinking Water (USDWs.) The consent decree requires EPA to conduct a study of Class V wells to determine if additional regulations for Class V injection wells are necessary to protect USDWs. If EPA determines that additional regulations are necessary, the information collected in the study will be used to develop them."

> View details: Class V Underground Injection Control Study
> Download Information Summaries:

Federal Register: July 13, 1999 (Vol. 64, No. 133) p. 37803-37805 (Environmental Protection Agency: Notice of Availability of Draft Summary of Class V Injection Well Study (EPA Working Draft))
EPA must receive public comment, in writing, on the draft Class V study by August 12, 1999.

> Federal Register January 7, 1999 (Vol. 64, No. 4) p. 1008-1009 (Environmental Protection Agency: Call for Peer Reviewers and Data on Aquaculture Injection Wells, Mining Wells, Sewage Treatment Effluent Wells, and Other Class V Injection Wells Including Certain Industrial Wells; Underground Injection Control (UIC) Class V Study)

See also further ongoing rulemaking in Federal Register July 29, 1998 (Vol. 63, No. 145), p. 40585-40619 (Environmental Protection Agency, 40 CFR Parts 144, 145, and 146, Class V Injection Wells Underground Injection Control Regulations, Revisions; Proposed Rule), and related Fact Sheet
> View DOE's Comments on Proposed UIC Class V Regulations (Nov. 30, 1998) (1M PDF format)

NRC to discuss uranium mine, mill, and tailings regulations

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold public meetings on August 24-27, 1998 in Austin, Texas; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Casper, Wyoming; and Denver, Colorado, to discuss improving the regulatory framework used to license and regulate uranium and thorium extraction facilities, mill tailings and associated activities.
> View Federal Register Notice of Aug. 10, 1998
> View NRC News Release 98-136 of Aug.3, 1998
> View Briefing by National Mining Association on Regulation of the Uranium Recovery Industry (NRC meeting transcript June 17, 1998) and related NRC Staff Requirements Memorandum
> View Briefing by National and Wyoming Mining Associations (NRC meeting transcript May 13, 1997) and related NRC Staff Requirements Memorandum
> View Uranium Industry Briefing of the NRC Commissioners, May 13, 1997 (WMA)

EPA Issues Final Treatment Standards for Metal and Mineral Processing Wastes

Federal Register: May 26, 1998 (Vol. 63, No. 100), Rules and Regulations, p. 28555-28753:

Environmental Protection Agency

40 CFR Parts 148, 261, 266, 268, and 271

Land Disposal Restrictions Phase IV: Final Rule Promulgating Treatment Standards for Metal Wastes and Mineral Processing Wastes; Mineral Processing Secondary Materials and Bevill Exclusion Issues; Treatment Standards for Hazardous Soils, and Exclusion of Recycled Wood Preserving Wastewaters; Final Rule

SUMMARY: This rule promulgates Land Disposal Restrictions treatment standards for metal-bearing wastes, including toxicity characteristic metal wastes, and hazardous wastes from mineral processing. The set of standards being applied to these wastes is the universal treatment standards. These standards are based upon the performance of the Best Demonstrated Available technologies for treating these, or similar, wastes. This rule also revises the universal treatment standards for twelve metal constituents, which means that listed and characteristic wastes containing one or more of these constituents may have to meet different standards than they currently do. [...]

Download: part 1 (p. 28555-28604) · part 2 (p. 28605-28654) · part 3 (p. 28655-28704) · part 4 (p. 28705-28753)

See also: Land Disposal Restrictions Phase IV Facts

Proposed Amendment to Wyoming Rules on In Situ Leaching

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Land Quality Division, has published the following proposed rules: There is also a version with changes marked available:
Draft Proposed Rules and Statement of Reasons Chapter VII & XI Rules Package 1L - In Situ: View or Download self-extracting WordPerfect 6.1 file

Radiological Criteria for License Termination

NRC releases soil screening values for implementation of the Final Rule on Radiological Criteria for License Termination

from: Federal Register, December 7, 1999 (Vol. 64, No. 234), p. 68395-68396 (download full text ):
"Summary: This notice provides supplemental information regarding implementation of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Final Rule on Radiological Criteria for License Termination (License Termination Rule (LTR)) which was issued on July 21, 1997, (62 FR 39058). This notice provides: (1) screening values for surface soil contamination release levels; and (2) information on additional NRC efforts in dose modeling. [...]"

The screening values apply for unrestricted use of the area and are based on a dose limit of 25 mrem/a (0.25 mSv/a). The value for radium-226, for example, is listed as 0.7 pCi/g, that is 0.0259 Bq/g.
This is by far lower than EPA's standard for cleanup of land at inactive uranium processing sites in 40 CFR 192.12, for example, listing radium-226 at 5 pCi/g (0.185 Bq/g), averaged over the first 15 cm of soil below the surface.

Comments on these tables may be submitted within 30 days from the date of this notice.

NRC issues Final Rule "10 CFR Part 40 - Radiological Criteria for License Termination of Uranium Recovery Facilities"

from: Federal Register, April 12, 1999 (Vol. 64, No. 69), p. 17506-17510 (download full text ):
"SUMMARY: The U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is amending its regulations regarding decommissioning of licensed thorium mills and uranium recovery facilities to provide specific radiological criteria for the decommissioning of lands and structures. This final rule uses the existing soil radium standard to derive a dose criterion (benchmark approach) for the cleanup of byproduct material other than radium in soil and for the cleanup of surface activity on structures to be released for unrestricted use. This final rule is intended to provide a clear and consistent regulatory basis for determining the extent to which lands and structures can be considered to be decommissioned."
> View NRC News Release No. 99-70 (April 8, 1999)
> Access related NRC Staff Recommendations SECY-99-046 (Feb. 10, 1999): View · Download (WordPerfect 5.1)

NRC soliciting comments on "Draft Guidance on the Benchmark Dose Modeling for the Radiological Criteria for License Termination of Uranium Recovery Facilities"

from Federal Register, April 12, 1999 (Vol. 64, No. 69), p. 17690-17695 (download full notice ):
"SUMMARY: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is soliciting comments on draft guidance for the radium benchmark dose approach, associated with the final rule, ``Radiological Criteria for License Termination of Uranium Recovery Facilities,'' that is in this publication. The guidance will be incorporated into the NRC final Standard Review Plan (SRP) for the Review of Reclamation Plans for Mill Tailings Sites and the SRP for In-Situ Leach Uranium Extraction License Applications. Public comments should be submitted within sixty (60) days of publication of this Notice."

U.S.NRC Final Rule excludes uranium mills and in-situ leaching mines
New Rule to be developed for mills and ISL mines

On 21 July 1997, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission published its regulations to establish maximum permissible radiation levels when a nuclear facility permanently shuts down, is released for other uses, and the license is terminated. Other than the Proposed Rule, the Final Rule does not apply for uranium mills and uranium in-situ leaching mines.
The text of the rule was published in Federal Register of July 21, 1997 (Vol.62, No.139) p.39057-39092 (download full rule (250k) )
See also NRC Technical Conference Forum: Final License Termination Rule

NRC now plans to develop a separate rule for the radiological cleanup criteria for uranium mills and in-situ leaching mines ("Radiological Criteria for License Termination: Uranium Recovery Facilities").
The NRC request for public comments on this issue was published in Federal Register of July 21, 1997 (Vol.62, No.139) p.39093- 39095 (download full text ). It is also available for online viewing .
View related NRC Press release No.97-106 of July 21, 1997.
> Watch NRC Rulemaking: "Request for Additional Comments on Uranium Recovery Facilities"
> View SECY-98-084 - Status of Efforts to Finalize Regulations for Radiological Criteria for License Termination: Uranium Recovery Facilities (April 15, 1998)

Comments on the proposed rule:

Background material:

Amendment of Occupational Radiation Protection - U.S. DOE Final Rule

U.S. Department of Energy: 10 CFR Part 835 - Occupational Radiation Protection; Final Rule. In: Federal Register, November 4, 1998 (Volume 63, Number 213) p. 59661-59689
> download full text of rule

See also:

U.S. Department of Energy: 10 CFR Part 835 - Occupational Radiation Protection; Proposed Rule. Notice of proposed rulemaking and public hearings. In: Federal Register, December 23, 1996 (Volume 61, Number 247), p.67599-67621, download via GPO Access

SUMMARY: The Department of Energy (DOE) is proposing to amend its primary standards for occupational radiation protection. This proposed rule amendment is the culmination of a systematic analysis to identify the elements of a comprehensive radiation protection program and determine those elements of such a program that should be codified. As a result of this analysis, DOE proposes amendments to all of the subparts of 10 CFR part 835 . The analysis included a review of the requirements in DOE Notice 441.1 , ``Radiological Protection for DOE Activities,'' (extended by DOE N 441.2) that resulted in the proposed codification of certain provisions of that Notice, including requirements for posting of areas where radioactive material is present and for control of sealed radioactive sources. Several additional changes are proposed to ensure continuity in DOE's system of radiation protection standards by codifying in part 835 critical provisions of the ``DOE Radiological Control Manual '' (Manual), which is no longer a mandatory standard. DOE also proposes to explicitly exclude from part 835 radioactive material transportation conducted in compliance with applicable DOE Orders and certain activities conducted on foreign soil.


For further information, see also Proposed 10 CFR 835 Amendment

> for older issues, see Regulatory Issues - USA (1995 - 1997)

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