HARPER'S MAGAZINE ARTICLE - States of Decay: A Journey Through America's Nuclear Heartland
The October 2017 issue of Harper's Magazine includes a lengthy article by Ben Mauk on the current and legacy impacts of the uranium industry in the western United States. Last year Ben visited the uranium mines in San Juan County and and spoke with White Mesa Ute residents whose lives have been impacted the operation of the White Mesa Uranium Mill.
• States of Decay - CLICK HERE
UAMPS SMALL MODULAR REACTOR PROGRAM
The Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) has a special committee, the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP) Committee, which has been meeting monthly to discuss the proposed Small Modular Reactor Project proposed by UAMPS. The SMR would be of the NuScale design and constructed at a site at the Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Falls, Idaho. Members of the public can sign up to receive notices of the CFPP and other UAMPS meetings.
Meetings of the CFPP Committee include presentations about the UAMPS decision making process. UW will be posting information about the proposed SMR project.
• Utah Public Notice Website (UAMPS is an Interlocal Entity)
• Uranium Watch UAMPS SMR Information - CLICK HERE
AZ DEPT. OF WATER RESOURCES FINDS ENERGY FUELS IMPROPERLY TRANSPORTED WATER FROM THE CANYON MINE TO WHITE MESA MILL
In response to a formal complaint filed by Uranium Watch, the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) found that Energy Fuels Resources Inc. illegally transported water from the Canyon Uranium Mine in Arizona to Utah. Over 100 tanker trucks of impacted mine water from the Canyon Mine workings were transported to the White Mesa Mill for use in the Mill processing circuit. Energy Fuels needed to get rid of the water, because of the limited storage capacity for excess mine water at the Mine site. Energy Fuels claimed that the intent was just to dispose of the water for environmental purposes.
Arizona law does not allow the transport of groundwater for use out of state without authorization by the Director and does not authroize the transport of water for direct disposal. Energy Fuels failed to submit the required application and receive the SDWR Director’s approval. Apparently, Energy Fuels was not aware of this legal requirement. The ADWR did not fine Energy Fuels, but made clear the requirement for an application, hearing, opportunity for public comment, and the Director’s approval if additional water is transported to the White Mesa Mill.
The 1986 Environmental Impact Statement that the US Forest Service developed for the Mine did not include any analysis of transport of mine water out of state. Energy Fuels does not want to construct a new evaporation pond, because that would require a new National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review.
• ADWR Decision Letter - July 27, 2017
• ADWR Decision - related documents
WHITE MESA MILL LICENSE RENEWAL COMMENTS
Comments on the White Mesa License Renewal, Groundwater Permit Renewal, Reclamation Plan, and Amendment Request to process waste from the Gore, Oklahoma, uranium conversion facility were submitted to the Utah Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control by Uranium Watch, Living Rivers, and the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club on July 31. The Grand Canyon Trust, Ute Mt. Ute Tribe, and other individuals and organizations also submitted comments.
Uranium Watch comments focused on the License Renewal, Reclamation Plan, and the Energy Fuels Resources Inc. request to process uranium-bearing waste from the Gore, Oklahoma, uranium conversion facility.
◊ WHITE MESA MILL LICENSE COMMENTS
• Uranium Watch, Living Rivers, Utah Chapter Sierra Club Comments
> License Renewal
> License Renewal - Exhibit A
> Reclamation and Decommissioning Plan
> License Amendment Request to Process Gore, Oklahoma, Waste
> Supplement to License Renewal Comments - August 2017
> Second Supplement to License Renewal Comments - September 2017
> Exhibit A to Second Supplement
• Grand Canyon Trust Comments
• Individual Comments - May 2017
WHITE MESA MILL LICENSE RENEWAL
◊ LICENSE RENEWAL SCHEDULE
• Hearing in Salt Lake City: June 8
• Hearing in Blanding: June 15
• Comments Due: July 31 (31-day extension granted)
The Utah Divisiion of Waste Managment and Radiation Control (DWMRC) has issued the Notice for Public Comment and Hearings on the Renewal of the White Mesa Uranium MIll License and the Ground Water Discharge Permit, the approval of the Reclamation Plan, and Approval of a License Amendment to process waste from the Sequoyah Fuels, Oklahoma, uranium processing facilty.
◊ June 8 Hearing: Dept. of Environmental Quality, 195 N 1950 West, Salt Lake City, Utah. Room 2125 or Room 1015, from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
The June 8 Hearing is to provide an opportunity for interested persons and organaizations to submit comments and to cross examine the DWMRC about the License and Permit Renewals, Reclamation Plan, and License Amendment. Questions to the DWMRC Staff must be submitted by Tuesday, May 30, to Scott Anderson, Director, DWMRC, PO Box 144880, Salt Lake City, UT 84116. Or, e-mail to Scott Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org.
◊ June 15 Meeting: USU Arts and Events Center, 715 West 200 South, Blanding, Utah. From 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm.
The June 15 Meeting is to provide an opportunity for the submittal of oral and/or written comments to the DWMRC.
◊ Written Comments: Written Comments on the License and Permit Renewals, Reclamation Plan, and License Amendment must be submitted by June 30 to Scott Anderson, Director, DWMRC, PO Box 144880, Salt Lake City, UT 84116. Or, e-mail to email@example.com. Subject Line: Public Comments on White Mesa RML Renewal.
• Public Notice and White Mesa Mill Documents and Information
NRC CITES CAMECO FOR VIOLATIONS RE
WASTE SLUDGE TRANSPORT TO WHITE MESA MILL
◊ Based on the results of an inspection of the Power Resources Inc. (Cameco Resources Inc.) Smith Ranch Highland insitu leach (ISL) Uranium Recovery Facility, conducted by the Nuclear Regulaory Commission (NRC) from Nov. 15-17, 2016, nine apparent violations were identified and are being considered for escalated enforcement action in accordance with the NRC Enforcement Policy. The failures involved transport of waste to the White Mesa Mill, where spills of the waste coming from the Smith Ranch site occurred in 2015 and 2016. The apparent violations involved:
• The failure to accurately assess the activity of pond sediment and barium sulfate sludge waste shipments;
• The failure to adequately report the total activity for waste and resin shipments on the associated shipping documents;
• The failure to accurately label waste shipment package;
• the failure to classify and ship the waste packages as Low Specific Activity level two (LSA-II) material;
• The failure to ship LSA-II waste material in appropriate containers;
• the failure to ensure by examination or appropriate tests that packages were proper for the contents to be shipped and closure devices were properly secured;
• The failure to perform evaluations or perform tests that ensured the transportation package would be capable of withstanding the effects of any acceleration and vibration normally incident to transportation;
• The failure to provide the name of each radionuclide listed and an accurate chemical description of contents; and
• The failure to provide function specific training to a hazmat employee concerning the requirements that are specifically applicable to the functions the employee performed.
• NRC Inspection Report, April 3, 2017
• NRC News Release: Predecisional Conference, April 25, 2017
• NRC May 4 Predecisional Conference Summary, May 9, 2017
THE BOARD OF UTAH DIV. OF OIL, GAS & MINING
APPROVES NEXT STEP IN RULEMAKING FOR TEMPORARY CESSATION OF OPERATION REGULATIONS
◊ At the April 26, 2017, meeting of the Board of the Utah Division of Oil, Gas & Mining, the Division staff briefed the Board on the rulemaking that would provide clarity and improvements to the Division’s regulations regarding temporary cessation of operation of hard rock mines. The rulemaking is the result of concerns brought to Division staff by Uranium Watch in 2015. The Division’s regulations regarding temporary cessation of operation were vague and were not being properly enforced. Some permitted uranium mines have been on standby for 25 years or more. The proposed rules will define “operation” and include a requirement for Interim Management Plans.
The Board approved moving ahead with the rulemaking process. The Division staff will provide a draft rule to an informal review group of stakeholders, including Uranium Watch. Once a draft is finalized it will be noticed for public comment.
For information about the process and Board discussion, view the You-Tube Video (minutes 29:00 to 53:40, approximately).
WHITE MESA UTE COMMUNITY PROTEST
AND SPIRITUAL WALK - May 13
◊ Saturday May 13 there will be a Protest and Spiritual Walk from the White Mesa Ute Community to the White Mesa Uranium Mill—about 4 miles. The alk is to protest the operation of the Mill and to protect our community, health, air, land, culture, and sacred sites from the Mill. Gather at the White Mesa Community Building at 11 am.
The Walk is sponsored by the White Mesa Concerned Community and co-sponsored by Canyon Country Rising Tide, Grand Canyon Trust, Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice, Haul No, Living River,and Uranium Watch.
Directions: The White Mesa Ute Community is between Bluff and Blanding. The community center is located slightly off Hwy. 191, on the west side of the road, behind the Mobil Gas Station. Look for a large red building with “White Mesa Community Center” written in white letters on the side.
Wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water! For more information, call White Mesa Concerned Community (435) 485-0265.
WESTINGHOUSE FILES FOR BANKRUPTCY - CALLING INTO QUESTION FEASIBILITY OF BLUE CASTLE PROJECT
◊ On March 29, Westinghouse Electric Company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy of Westinghouse, a unit of the Japanese Toshiba Corp., was expected, due to the billions of dollars lost by Toshiba associated with the construction of four AP1000 nuclear reactors—two each in Georgia and South Carolina. The problems involved cost overruns, technical, design, and construction difficulties, contract terms, project delays, and financial and legal issues associated with the four reactors.
In 2014 Blue Castle Holdings Inc. and Westinghouse signed a Memorandum of Understanding indicating that the companies would work together on marketing, nuclear safety licensing, permitting, design, engineering, procurement, construction, installation, commissioning, startup, testing, nuclear fuel, refueling, and operation and maintenance of two AP1000 reactors at Green River.
Statements made by Toshiba indicate that Westinghouse would no longer be involved in reactor construction. The cost overruns and construction delays and billions of dollars of economic losses will discourage utility commitment to nuclear power and new reactor investment, as it should. The full impacts will take years to become apparent and to assess. The feasibility of the Blue Castle Project is now even more in doubt.
• Southern Alliance for Clean Energy News Release
• Toshiba News Release
• Westinghouse files for bankruptcy over U.S. projects
• Toshiba troubles drive credit downgrades for reactor builders
• Mining Awareness Article
US GOVERNMENT AND NAVAJO NATION ANNOUNCE SETTLEMENT FOR CLEANUP OF 94 ABANDONED URANIUM MINES ON THE NAVAJO NATION
◊ The US Justice Department, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Navajo Nation have entered into a Settlement Agreement with Cyprus Amax Minerals Company and Western Nuclear for the reclamation and remediation of 94 uranium mines on the Navajo Nation. The largest mining area is 177 acres in Monument Valley. The other mine areas are much smaller. Under the settlement, the companies will perform the work and the US will contribute about half the costs. This settlement and others commits funds to begin the process to cleanup at over 200 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation. The work is subject to EPA oversight, in collaboration with the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency.
◊ The EPA awarded $380,000 to Diné College for abandoned uranium mine study.
◊ Adriano Tsinigine and Tommy Rock Appointed to Diné Uranium Remediation Advisory Commission.
• DOJ, EPA, Navajo Nation Consent Decree
• Navajo Nation News Release
• Navajo Nation Abandoned Uranium Mines Cleanup Gets $600 Million
• Diné Uranium Remediation Advisory Committee
• EPA News Release
SPILLS OF RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS GOING
TO WHITE MESA MILL
◊ In January drums of radioactive materials from the Honeywell Metropolis uranium conversion facility in Illinois leaked during shipment to the White Mesa Mill for processing. Leakage from drums and the van was discovered at the Mill, but the van was cleaned up by the employees before the Radiation Safety Officer was able to evaluate the extent and nature of the contamination. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued an event report.
• NRC Event Notification - January 23, 2017
• WISE Uranium Information
◊ Cameo/Power Resources, Inc., the licenses for the Smith Ranch-Highlands in-situ leach uranium recovery operation in Wyoming provided a report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on the 2015 and 2016 spills of ISL waste (radium/barium sludge) that is shipped to White Mesa for disposal in Cell 3. Cameo is finally going to ship the materials in containers designed for the type of material shipped. The waste is over 6,000 pico Curies per gram gross alpha.
• NRC Confirmation Action Letter
• Cameo Response to NRC Confirmatory Action Letter
EPA ISSUES FINAL RADON EMISSION STANDARDS
Uranium Watch was very disappointed with the final radon emission standards for operating uranium mills recently released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA Final Rule met the needs and desires of the uranium industry, rather than giving primary consideration to the public impacted by the mills. The rule did not establish a numerical emission standard for new tailings cells (Cells 4A and 4B at the White Mesa Mill), next to the White Mesa Ute Community. The final rule kept the emission standard and annual measurement and reporting requirements for older impoundments at the White Mesa Mill (Cell 3) and two mills on standby, Shootaring Canyon (Utah) and Sweetwater (Wyoming). The new rule limits the number of operating impoundments with solid tailings to two, but allows any number of ponds or cells with liquids at conventional mills, in-situ leach operations, and heap-leach operations. The rule does not establish a limit on radon emissions from heap leach operations while the leaching is taking place.
• EPA Rulemaking Documents
• EPA Final Rule: Federal Register Notice and Supporting Documents
~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~