United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Title I Program

To provide for the disposal, long-term stabilization and control of uranium mill tailings in a safe and environmentally sound manner, and to minimize or eliminate radiation health hazards to the public, Congress enacted the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978 (UMTRCA).

Under Title I of the UMTRCA, Congress established a program under which Federal and State Governments would jointly fund remedial action at abandoned uranium and thorium milling sites, where tailings resulted largely from production of uranium for the weapons program. In that program, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is responsible for site cleanup and remediation, as well as the long-term care and maintenance of these abandoned disposal sites under a general license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The NRC, in turn, is required to evaluate DOE's design and implementation and, following remediation, to concur that the site meets the standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Under the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) Project, DOE was charged with completing surface reclamation at 24 inactive uranium mill tailings piles. Two sites in North Dakota were withdrawn, and tailings from some sites were combined, resulting in 19 tailings disposal sites to be remediated. These piles ranged in size from approximately 60,000 to 4.6 million cubic yards of material. Except for a site at Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, and an associated property at Burrell, Pennsylvania, the inactive sites are located in Western States. In addition, in 2001, the Atlas site near Moab, Utah, was transferred to DOE for remediation under Title I of UMTRCA.

By August 1999, remedial actions were completed at 18 sites in Ambrosia Lake, New Mexico; Burrell, Pennsylvania; Canonsburg, Pennsylvania; Durango, Colorado; Falls City, Texas; Green River, Utah; Gunnison, Colorado; Lakeview, Oregon; Lowman, Idaho; Maybell, Colorado; Mexican Hat, Utah; Naturita, Colorado; Rifle, Colorado; Salt Lake City, Utah; Shiprock, New Mexico; Slick Rock, Colorado; Spook, Wyoming, and Tuba City, Arizona. Those sites are now subject to long-term care and maintenance under the general NRC license. For more information, see Locations of Uranium Recovery Sites Undergoing Decommissioning.

The only sites remaining to be remediated are those at Grand Junction, Colorado, and Moab, Utah. Legislation allows a portion of the Grand Junction site to remain open until 2023 to accept additional waste from properties contaminated by mill tailings. By contrast, DOE has decided to transfer the Moab mill tailings to a site near Crescent Junction, Utah, and is preparing its proposed remedial action plan for NRC concurrence. For more information, see the Moab, Utah Remedial Action Plan Review.

In addition to its surface reclamation activities at these inactive tailings sites, DOE initiated the groundwater cleanup phase of the UMTRA Project in 1991. Since that time, DOE has completed all 20 scheduled baseline risk assessments for the groundwater cleanup phase and transmitted them to concerned parties. Two sites did not have groundwater contamination, and DOE developed (and submitted for NRC concurrence) Groundwater Compliance Action Plans for 13 sites. DOE has since demonstrated groundwater cleanup compliance at 8 of those 13 sites.

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Wednesday, April 01, 2015