Discussion Topic 1, Changes in the uranium industry
Changes in uranium industry technologies (such as the current use of the In-Situ Leaching (ISL) recovery process as the primary technology for extracting uranium) and their potential environmental impacts.
While 40 CFR Part 192 standards are applicable to any type of uranium or thorium extraction facility licensed by the NRC or its Agreement States, EPA originally wrote its current standards for conventional mills and mill tailings impoundments. Since publication of EPA’s original 40 CFR Part 192 regulations, ISL has become the principal means of uranium recovery in the United States. EPA is reviewing these standards to determine if the requirements are appropriate for ISL recovery, heap leaching, and co-mineral development technologies.
EPA is also evaluating the current standards because of the difference in the management of conventional and ISL facilities after their active lives. Conventional uranium mills and mill tailings impoundments are reclaimed, licensed, and maintained by the Department of Energy (DOE) in perpetuity. ISL recovery, heap-leach, and co-mineral development facilities are released for public and private use after they have been reclaimed.
In addition, we are looking to learn more about the operational history of current and previously licensed facilities.
We invite you to provide your thoughts on this topic.
The Library page provides recent EPA technical reports (2008) that describe activities and methods of uranium mining and milling, the wastes generated, potential human and environmental impacts, and reclamation methods, as well as regulatory and statutory background information. It also provides earlier EPA reports on uranium mining (1983, 1985, 1995), supporting background information documents, environmental regulatory impact documents for the original rule, and later updates of the regulation.
The NRC has published a final generic environmental impact statement for ISL facilities, which can be downloaded at:
Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.