Generic Environmental Impact Statement for In-Situ Leach Uranium Milling Facilities: Chapters 5–12 and Appendices A–G (NUREG-1910, Volume 2)
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Manuscript Completed: May 2009
Date Published: May 2009
Office of Federal and State Materials and Environmental Management Programs
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Land Quality Division
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality
The Atomic Energy Act of 1954 and the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978 authorize the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to issue licenses for the possession and use of source material and byproduct material. These statutes require NRC to license facilities that meet NRC regulatory requirements that were developed to protect public health and safety from radiological hazards. In-situ leach (ISL) uranium recovery facilities must meet NRC regulatory requirements in order to obtain a source material license to operate.
Under NRC's environmental protection regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 10, Part 51, which implement the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), issuance of a license to possess and use source material for uranium milling requires an environmental impact statement (EIS) or a supplement to an EIS. NRC has prepared a generic environmental impact statement (GEIS) to help fulfill this requirement. The GEIS assesses the potential environmental impacts associated with the construction, operation, aquifer restoration, and decommissioning of an ISL uranium recovery facility in four specified regions in the western United States. The intent of the GEIS is to determine which impacts would be essentially the same for all ISL facilities and which ones would result in varying levels of impacts for different facilities, thus requiring further site-specific information to determine the potential impacts. As such, the GEIS provides a starting point for NRC's NEPA analyses for site-specific license applications for new ISL facilities, as well as for applications to amend or renew existing ISL licenses.
NRC developed this GEIS using (1) knowledge gained during the past 30 years licensing and regulating ISL facilities, (2) the active participation of the State of Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality as a cooperating agency, and (3) public comments received during the preparation of the GEIS. NRC's licensing experience indicates that the technology used for ISL uranium recovery is relatively standardized throughout the industry and therefore appropriate for a programmatic evaluation in a GEIS.
Based on discussions between uranium recovery companies and the NRC staff, future ISL facilities could be located in portions of Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, and New Mexico. NRC is the licensing authority for ISL facilities in these states.