Society News Archive

26 January 2015
EPA Proposes New Standards for Uranium In Situ Recovery

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to add new health and environmental protection standards to regulations promulgated under the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978 (UMTRCA or the Act). The proposed standards will regulate byproduct materials produced by uranium in situ recovery (ISR), including both surface and subsurface standards, with a primary focus on groundwater protection, restoration, and stability. The rationale is that ISR facilities have a greater potential to affect groundwater than do conventional uranium mills, which were the predominant processing mode when UMTRCA was enacted.

EPA proposes to add an additional subpart within 40 CFR 192 to explicitly address groundwater protection at uranium ISR operations. A new subpart F is being proposed that would set standards that would apply to uranium ISR facilities only. The overall purpose of this subpart is to address the most significant hazards represented by ISR activities. The section would include a new standards section to specify the minimum 13 constituents for which groundwater protection standards must be met. The list includes arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, selenium, silver, nitrate (as N), molybdenum, combined radium-226 and radium-228, uranium (total), and gross alpha-particle activity (excluding radon and uranium). A new monitoring section would detail the specific requirements of monitoring programs to be conducted during the preoperational, operational, restoration, stability, and long-term stability phases.

Comments are due on or before 27 April 2015.