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EPA/OAR RIN: 2060-AP43 Publication ID: Fall 2016 
Title: Revision of 40 CFR 192--Health and Environmental Protection Standards for Uranium and Thorium Mill Tailings and Uranium In Situ Leaching Processing Facilities 
Abstract:

The EPA's regulations in 40 CFR 192 establish standards for the protection of public health, safety, and the environment from radiological and nonradiological hazards associated with uranium ore processing and disposal of resulting waste materials. These cross-media standards, which apply to pollutant emissions and site restoration, must be adopted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, their Agreement States, and the Department of Energy. The EPA reviewed the standards in the existing rule and proposed to revise the regulations in January 2016 (80 FR 4155), taking into particular account the significant changes in uranium industry extraction technologies and their potential impacts to groundwater. In addition, new facilities being proposed in states from Virginia to Alaska add to the importance of this effort. The final rule will incorporate comments from industry and public stakeholders received during the proposal, as well as the intra-agency workgroup.

 
Agency: Environmental Protection Agency(EPA)  Priority: Other Significant 
RIN Status: Previously published in the Unified Agenda Agenda Stage of Rulemaking: Final Rule Stage 
Major: No  Unfunded Mandates: No 
EO 13771 Designation: uncollected 
CFR Citation: 40 CFR 192   
Legal Authority: 42 U.S.C. 2011 et seq. Atomic Energy Act   
Legal Deadline:  None

Statement of Need:

In-situ uranium recovery (ISR) is now the dominant form of uranium recovery. ISR involves injection of chemical solutions to alter groundwater chemistry and mobilize uranium, which is then extracted. Monitoring and groundwater restoration must be conducted to limit the potential for contamination during operations and after facility closure. Rules specific to ISR do not exist at the federal level. The current rulemaking will provide national consistency in protecting groundwater at ISR facilities.

Summary of the Legal Basis:

EPA's authority to establish standards of general application to protect public health, safety, and the environment is provided by section 275 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended by section 206 of the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978. EPA's standards of general application are implemented and enforced by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

Alternatives:

The proposed rule would establish a framework for monitoring at ISR facilities. The primary alternatives proposed related to the length of the long-term stability monitoring period. EPA proposed a 30-year monitoring period, with provision to shorten using geochemical modeling. Alternative presented were a 30-year period, with no provision for shortening, and a narrative standard identifying performance goals with no specified time period, in which the NRC would determine whether monitoring is sufficient based on site-specific conditions.

Anticipated Costs and Benefits:

The proposed rule was estimated to increase the average cost of uranium production at ISR facilities by approximately $1.50 per pound of uranium (~2.9%), and that average costs per facility would range from $304,000 to $9.5 million, depending on the scale of the facility. Total annual costs attributable to the rule were estimated at approximately $13.5 million. Benefits are primarily the avoidance of remediation of contamination resulting from insufficient restoration and monitoring. Because current practice is to monitor for only a short period after restoration, it was not possible to determine how many sites could require remediation in the absence of the rule or quantify benefits, although it is estimated that the cost of remediation at any particular site would likely exceed the cost of compliance with the rule.

Risks:

Risk to public health would be from exposure to groundwater contamination resulting from insufficient restoration and monitoring. Because current practice is to monitor for only a short period after restoration, there is insufficient information to determine public exposures after monitoring is terminated. Therefore, it is not possible to quantify the health benefits of the rule, such as cancers averted.

Timetable:
Action Date FR Cite
NPRM  01/26/2015  80 FR 4155   
NPRM Comment Period Extended  04/24/2015  80 FR 22964   
Final Rule  11/00/2016 
Additional Information: SAN No. 5319
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: No  Government Levels Affected: State, Tribal 
Small Entities Affected: No  Federalism: No 
Included in the Regulatory Plan: Yes 
Sectors Affected: 212291 Uranium-Radium-Vanadium Ore Mining 
RIN Data Printed in the FR: No 
Agency Contact:
Ingrid Rosencrantz
Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Air and Radiation
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Mail Code 2844T,
Washington, DC 20460
Phone:202 566-0961
Email: rosencrantz.ingrid@epa.gov

Tom Peake
Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Air and Radiation
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Mail Code 6608J,
Washington, DC 20460
Phone:202 343-9765
Fax:202 343-2304
Email: peake.tom@epa.gov