United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Technical Assistance Request, Heritage Minerals, Inc., Possession and Transfer of Monazite-Rich Product

HPPOS-301 PDR-9306220344

Title: Technical Assistance Request, Heritage Minerals,

Inc., Possession and Transfer of Monazite-Rich Product

See the memorandum from R. L. Fonner to J. D. Kinneman

dated November 30, 1990, and the memorandum from J. E.

Glenn to R. R. Bellamy dated April 29, 1992. The memos

response to a TAR from Region I regarding the Heritage

Minerals, Inc. ("Heritage"), request which proposed onsite

disposal of monazite-rich sands by returning this monazite

material to the host material from which it was derived.

The disposal of the monazite sands involves complicated

issues because the radiation hazard is caused mostly by

naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) not

covered by the Atomic Energy Act (AEA).

Heritage discontinued operations in July 1990, and they

have decontaminated their building and equipment in

accordance with their license (enclosures). They estimate,

however, that 695 cubic yards of monazite sand remain on

the site. The monazite-rich sand contains about 2,000

picocuries of thorium-232 per gram based on analysis for

actinium-228 and a dry density for the monazite-rich sand

of approximately 2.7 grams per cubic centimeter. This sand

resulted from separation of the monazite- rich sands from

previously processed subsurface deposits. The licensee has

been unable to sell the monazite-rich sand and proposes

onsite disposal by mixing it with an estimated 102,500

cubic yards of processed sand located in the salvage

storage, recycled tailings, and original new feed areas

(also known as the blue and gray areas, after the coloring

of maps submitted by the licensee). The licensee intends

to also submit a proposal to the State of New Jersey

Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to place a

deed restriction on the property, cover the sand with a

layer of soil, and use the area as a golf course. This

approach will dispose of both the NRC licensed sand and the

other sand of much lower concentration about which NJDEP is


Senior personnel of OGC have met to considered the question

of NRC regulation of source material under NRC rules and

AEA as applied to the areas referred to in License

Condition 15 as the "original new feed area", "recycled

tailings area", and "salvage storage area". The areas

referred to as the gray and blue areas. The problem arises

from the fact that the source material content of the

materials in these areas is less that 0.05% source material

by weight, and therefore represents a preexisting

unimportant quantity under 10 CFR 40.13 (a) exempt from

regulation. It should be noted that the AEA required the

Commission to establish unimportant quantities (AEA Section

62). The first consensus reached was that regulation could

not be based upon a characterization of the areas as having

directly licensable material. That is, the contamination

is an unimportant quantity (the contamination is clearly

not byproduct material).

The second issue was whether the activities in the plant

(in the red area) that resulted in separating out a

monazite-rich product with source material in excess of

.05% by weight provided a basis for jurisdiction over the

blue and gray areas. The Commission has asserted

jurisdiction over activities of licensees that were

ancillary to the primary licensed activity. In the 1970s,

the NRC staff relied upon the NEPA theory to condition

uranium milling licenses for remediation of mill tailings

disposal areas prior to the enactment of the Uranium Mill

Tailings Radiation Control Act (UMTRCA) of 1978. All of

these cases and practices, however, are marked by a feature

that distinguishes them from Heritage Minerals. That is,

the fact that the ancillary matters regulated under the

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) theory would not

occur or be present but for the primary licensed activity,

i.e., the nuclear power plant or the uranium mill.

Initially, the separation of the monazite-rich product was

ephemeral. It was considered a waste and put back into the

waste stream. Indeed, during this period the process was

not considered a licensable operation. The dry mill

tailings were not stored (in the gray area) for

reprocessing because of their source material value, but

for other minerals such as ilmenite and rutile. Any source

material in this feedstock was an unimportant quantity.

The gray and blue areas would exist even if no

monazite-rich materials were ever separated in the process;

thus, the contamination is not the necessary consequence of

a licensed (in the Heritage situation-licensable) activity,

and which would not occur but for the licensed activity.

The consensus is that the NEPA theory provides no basis to

regulate the gray and blue areas. This result is

consistent with the analogous licensing of side stream

extraction of uranium at mineral processing facilities in

the western states. The NRC has licensed the side stream

extraction of uranium from the effluent of processing of

nonsource material ores. In so doing, it has not attempted

to regulated the process before the uranium extraction

step, nor after, particularly with respect to waste streams.

Although OGC is mindful of the staff's concern about the

radiation levels in the blue and gray areas, the OGC

conclusion is that it is doubtful that NRC should undertake

to regulate in the blue and gray areas. Accordingly, we

suggest that License Condition 15 be revised. We see two

options, although more may exist. First, remove reference

to the areas of questionable regulation altogether, which

would leave the question of regulation totally in the State

of New Jersey. This option would recognize that the

radiation hazard is caused mostly by naturally occurring

radioactive material not covered by the AEA (actinium-228

and lead-212 predominate), presenting a legal situation

identical to the radium in uranium mill tailings prior to

the enactment of UMTRCA, but lacking the NEPA link as

discussed above. Second, cover these areas in the license

on a basis of acceptance by Heritage, as a voluntary

commitment, to adhere to an NRC position (for example, to

Option 3 in the Branch Technical Position, 46 FR

52061-52063). In any case the State of New Jersey

authorities should be informed and included in any further

discussions of this matter. Based upon the conclusions

noted above, i.e., that the radiation hazard results

predominantly from NORM, we would not consider regulation

of the radiation hazards in the blue and gray areas to be


Regulatory references: Atomic Energy Act

Subject codes: 9.0, 12.9, 12.19

Applicability: Source Material

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, March 29, 2012