NEWS ARCHIVE ◊ 2019
◊ NEWS ARCHIVE - 2018
◊ NEWS ARCHIVE - 2017
◊ NEWS ARCHIVE - 2016
◊ NEWS ARCHIVE - 2015
◊ NEWS ARCHIVE - 2014
◊ NEWS ARCHIVE - 2013
◊ NEWS ARCHIVE - 2012
◊ NEWS ARCHIVE - 2011
◊ NEWS ARCHIVE - 2010
◊ NEWS ARCHIVE - 2009
◊ NEWS ARCHIVE - 2008
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KCWCD NEW WATER RIGHTS AGREEMENT WITH
BLUE CASTLE HOLDINGS
The Kane County Water Conservancy District (KCWCD) has held 2 closed executive sessions to discuss a new water agreement with Blue Castle Holdings Inc. (BCH).
In 2007, KCWCD leased 29,600 acre-feet of water to BCH (in the name of their predecessor). BCH is the promoter of the Blue Castle Project nuclear reactor near Green River, Utah. In September 2016 BCH was supposed to start annual payments of $100,000 for the lease of the KCWCD water from the Green River. BCH has not made any payments. The annual payments, late fees, and interest to KCWCD now add up to $400,500, with an additional $320,400 owed to the San Juan Water Conservancy District.
The agendas for the December 2018 and January 2019 KCWCD Board meetings state the Board would discuss a new water agreement with BCH in closed executive sessions. If a new lease is agreed upon, to replace the defaulted lease, the agreement will be made publicly available.
BCH last wrote to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in 2011, indicating they would submit an Early Site Permit Application (ESPA) in late 2012. Since then, BCH has not written the NRC. Clearly, the BCP is not moving forward, and BCH does not have the funds to pay the Districts as required by the agreements. In 2017 the State Engineer extended the time to show proof of beneficial use of the water rights for an additional 10 years, beyond the original 50 years).
APPLICATION FOR SAGE MINE
The Sage Mine is a small uranium mine in Summit Canyon in SE San Juan County, Utah, near the Colorado boarder. The mine, on land administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), last operated in 1990, but without BLM authorization. On December 31, 2018, Piñon Ridge Mining LLC, Corp., a subsidiary of Western Vanadium and Uranium Corp. (WVUC), submitted a Notice For Exploration Activities to the BLM Monticello Office. At this time the Monticello and other BLM offices are closed due to the government shutdown.
WVUC is promoting the mining for vanadium and shipping vanadium ore or vanadium concentrate out of the US for processing. George Glasier, the mining speculator who heads WVUC, is talking publicly about building a vanadium mill near the Sage Mine and producing vanadium at the Sage and the Sunday Mine Complex in Colorado. None of these plans appear to be feasible.
SAGE MINE (UT) - The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a February 25, 2019, Decision approving an ore sampling proposal submitted by Pinon Ridge Mining LCC, a Canadian company centered in Nucla, Colorado. The BLM and the Utah Division of Oil, Gas & Mining have requested an increased in the reclamation surety to $37,630, an increase of almost $7,000. Pinon Ridge must submit the increased surety before any work commences.
URANIUM MINE UPDATES
LA SAL MINES COMPLEX (UT) - Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc. is in the process of conducting rehabilitation work the Pandora Mine and La Sal Mine portals. Energy Fuels has also undertaken exploration drilling and ore sampling program to evaluate the possibility of reopening the Mine Complex for the production of both uranium and vanadium. The price of vanadium has risen, giving Energy Fuels and other mining companies an incentive to evaluate vanadium resources. In 2018 Energy Fuels removed 994 tons of ore and stockpiled the ore at the La Sal Mine.
CANYON MINE - Energy Fuels has suspended the underground development of the Canyon Mine. Though Energy Fuels contemplates the recovery of both uranium and copper from the Canyon Mine, the White Mesa Mill does not yet have a processing circuit to recover copper. Energy Fuels must install horizontal drifts into the ore body, another vertical shaft, and ventialation fans at the Mine before any production begins.
URANIUM MILL UPDATES
WHITE MESA MILL - San Juan County, Utah
• Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc. has submitted a request to the Utah Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control (DWMRC) for an amendment to the White Mesa Mill license to allow the processing of uranium bearing waste from a rare earth facility in Estonia. There is no mention in the application of a need for an import license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
• Energy Fuels is continuing to process the liquid effluents at the White Mesa Mill for their vanadium content. They expect to continue this vanadium recovery during 2019 and 2020.
SHOOTARING CANYON MILL - Garfield County, Utah
The DWMRC has issued a Notice of Violation and $5,000 fine to Anfield Resources Holding Corp. in response to Anfield’s failure to submit an updated Shootaring Canyon Mill surety report in April 2018. Anfield has also failed to conduct reclamation work and submit some requested documents to the DWMRC. The Mill operated for a short time in 1982 and is undergoing license renewal. The Mill does not have a license to conduct uranium recovery operations.
LISBON VALLEY MILL - San Juan County, Utah
Rio Algom Mining’s Lisbon Valley Mill, a reclaimed mill on Lisbon Valley Rd., south of La Sal, has been reclaimed, but has not been transferred to the Department of Energy for perpetual care. The earthen cover over the unlined impoundment reduces radon emissions, but allows for percolation of surface water, leading to contamination of groundwater in the area. A “Hydrological Supplemental Site Assessment” was completed in 2018. The DWMRC determined that the assessment did not provide sufficient data and analyses. The DWMRC has requested additional groundwater monitoring and analysis information. The DWMRC wants changes in the cover to facilitate evaporation rather than percolation.
HEAL UTAH ISSUES SMALL MODULAR REACTOR
• HEAL Utah has released a study by Energy Strategies, LLC, "Analyzing the Cost of Small Modular Reactors and Alternative Power Portfolios." HEAL Utah commissioned this analysis from Energy Strategies, a local and well-respected, independent, energy consulting firm. According to the HEAL News
This study found that alternative scenarios that include various combinations of wind, solar, energy storage, market purchases, and small amounts of natural gas were roughly 40% cheaper than SMNRs. Even when the lowest cost for SMNRs was considered, the alternative portfolios remained less expensive. These other scenarios represent hundreds of millions in savings over a 20-year period in comparison to SMNRs. As the predicted costs of solar, wind, and battery storage resources continue to decline, the likelihood increases that these resources will be even less costly than SMNRs.
> Energy Strategies SMR Economic Study, May 2019
> HEAL Utah - Fact Sheet: Risky Economics of Small Modular Reactors
> HEAL Utah News Release, June 20, 2019
COLORADO ZOMBIE URANIM MINE TO
BE FINALLY LAID TO REST
• The Colorado Court of Appeals ordered the closure and reclamation of the long-dormant Van 4 Uranium Mine, located in Montrose County in Western Colorado. The July 25, 2019, the court ruling reaffirmed state law that requires the reclamation of mines within 10 years of ceasing production. The Court ordered a cleanup of the Van 4 Mine after determining that it had not operated since at least 1989.
According to Jeffrey C. Parsons, “Colorado law does not allow inactive mines to remain unproductive yet unreclaimed for decades, because they pose environmental threats and prevent otherwise beneficial uses of the land.” Parsons is senior attorney with the Western Mining Action Project, Lyons, Colorado, the firm that represented conservation groups (Information Network for Responsible Mining, Earthworks, and Sheep Mt. Alliance) in the case. Parsons stated, “The Court recognized the plain language of the statute and clear intent of the legislature. We see this decision as the beginning of the end of the zombie uranium mine era in Colorado.”
Utah has a similar problem, with uranium and other hard rock mines that remain on standby for decades. “Temporary” cessation of operation becomes the “permanent,” indefinite status. Utah has no limit on the duration of so-called “temporary” cessation and does not enforce its requirements for Division of Oil, Gas & Mining approval of an extension of standby status for over 5 years, and Oil, Gas & Mining Board approval after 10 years.
> INFORM News Release
> Colorado Court of Appeals Decision
ENERGY FUELS MOVES FORWARD WITH
LA SAL MINES COMPLEX
• Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc. submitted a July 16, 2019, Response to the Utah Division of Oil, Gas & Mining (DOGM) 2012 Request for Information regarding the 2010 Update and Amendment Notice of Intention for the operation of the La Sal Mines Complex, La Sal, Utah.
The La Sal Mines Complex is made up of the Beaver Shaft, La Sal, and Snowball Mines (Mine ID M0370026) and Pandora Mine (Mine ID M0370012).
Energy Fuels and DOGM had delayed the Forth Review response, pending the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service approval of the La Sal Mines Complex Plan of Operations Amendment. The POA was approved and Environmental Assessment issued on February 23, 2018.
DOGM staff will continue to review the Amended NOI and provide an opportunity for public comment.
> Response to Fourth Review of Notice of Intention (NOI) to Commence Large Mining Operations for the La Sal/Snowball/Pandora Mine (M/037/0026), located in San Juan County, UT. July 16, 2019.
> Fourth Review of Notice of Intention to Commence Large Mining Operations, Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc. La Sal/Snowball/Pandora Mine, M/037/0026, San Juan County, Utah. October 3, 2012.
> La Sal/Snowball/BeaverShaft (M/037/026) and Pandora (M/037/012) Update and Amendment Notice of Intent for Large Mining Operations. January 26, 2010. (168 MB)
> La Sal Mines Complex POA Documents and EA - Click HERE
ADMINISTRATION ISSUES MEMORANDUM ON THE EFFECT OF
URANIUM IMPORTS ON THE NATIONAL SECURITY
• On July 12, 2019, the President issued a Memorandum on the Effect of Uranium on the National Security in response to the Department of Commence (DOC) Report on the January 2018 Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc. (Energy Fuels) and Ur-Energy USA Inc.’s (Ur-Energy’s) “Petition for Relief Under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 from Imports of Uranium Products that Threaten National Security.” The DOC Report will be made available by publication in the Federal Register.
The Petitioners expressed concerns that U.S. national security was being threatened by the import of uranium from Russian, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and China, and the diminishing production of uranium in the U.S. Petitioners (both are Canadian companies), requested that 25% of uranium used in U.S. nuclear reactors be produced in the U.S.
The Administration rejected the request to give preference to U.S. produced uranium. Instead, the President established a 13-member Nuclear Fuel Working Group, made up of representatives from federal agencies and White House staff. The Working Group was directed to examine the current state of domestic nuclear fuel production to reinvigorate the entire nuclear fuel supply chain, consistent with United States national security and nonproliferation goals, make recommendations, and submit a Report within 90 days.
Additional Information -
• Dept. of Commerce Section 232 Investigations - Click HERE
• Petition Docket No. BIS-2018-0011 - Click HERE
NEI SENDS RECOMMENDATIONS TO PRESIDENT'S
NUCLEAR FUEL WORKING GROUP
• Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) submitted Recommendations to the President's Nuclear Fuel Working Group in support of the uranium industry.
The Working Group was established by the President on July 12, 2019, in response to the Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc. and Ur-Energy Inc. January 16, 2017, Section 232 Petition to the U.S. Department of Commence. The NEI recommended that the federal government:
> Provide access to EPA cleanup trust funds to cleanup abandoned uranium mines on federal and tribal lands to address the legacy of former government national security requirements for uranium.
> Waive Federal Government mining claim annual fees during periods of inactivity of market downturns.
> Lift current federal land withdrawal restrictions prohibiting access to high grade uranium deposits, pursuant to the Administration’s Federal Strategy to Ensure a Reliable Supply of Critical Minerals administered by the U.S. Department of Interior.
> Incentivize the purchase of domestically mined fuel with direct payments to either a U.S. utility or domestic uranium producer for sale of U.S.-origin uranium to a utility.
Uranium Watch is opposed to these recommendations. None of the NEI recommendations is necessary to protect national security. All but one of the companies that recover uranium in the U.S. are foreign companies — headquartered mainly in Canada, but also in Russia and Australia.
CONSERVATION GROUP'S LETTER TO PRESIDENT'S
NUCLEAR FUEL WORKING GROUP
• A group of conservation organizations, including Uranium Watch, INFORM, Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, Diné Bikeyah, Earthjustice, and Center for Biological Diversity, submitted a September 18, 2019, Letter to the President’s Nuclear Fuel Working Group (Working Group) in response to an August 18, 2019, Letter from the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) to the Working Group.
The organizations oppose NEI’s recommendations for policy, legislative, and regulatory changes in support of the uranium and nuclear industries. There is no need for the NEI’s recommendations, which threaten sensitive and protected public lands. These lands include the Grand Canyon area and Mt. Taylor in New Mexico. Mt. Taylor is sacred to the Navajo and Pueblo peoples. The supply of uranium for U.S. defense and energy is relatively secure and stable.
ENERGY FUELS MINE AND MILL
HEALTH AND SAFETY VIOLATiONS
• Recent Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) demonstrate indifference to basic operational health and safety practices at the Energy Fuels Resouces (USA) Inc. uranium mines and mill.
The non-operational Canyon Uranium Mine on the south rim of the Grand Canyon (Mine ID 0203305) was cited 5 health and safety violations, based on the September 4, 2019, MSHA inspection:
> Failure to secure movable parts;
> Safety defects in equipment, machinery, or tools;
> Failure to correct dangerous conditions;
> Failure to provice suitable clearanace for electrical equipment; and
> Failure to provide annual refesher training for miners.
The September 16-30, 2019, MSHA inspection of the
La Sal MInes Complex (Mine ID 4200769) resulted in 6 health and safety citations.
The mines are undergoing ore sampling and mine remediation.
The July 2019, MSHA inspection of the White Mesa Mill (Mine ID 4201429) resulted in 5 health and safety citations.
NUSCALE MEETS WITH NRC
TO DISCUSS NEW SMR DESIGN
TO ACHIEVE A POWER UPRATE
• There has been a continuing question about the amount of power that the proposed NuScale Small Modular Nuclear Reactor (SMR) designed by NuScale would produce. The Utah Associated Muncipal Power System (UAMPS) plans to construct and operate a NuScale design SMR at the Idaho National Laboratory. Both NuScale and UAMPS have been stating recently that the NuScale design and the UAMPS reactor would produce 60 mega Watts of energy (MWe) for each module and a total of 720 MWe for the 12-module design.
However, the NuScale SMR Design Certification Application (DCA) that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has been reviewing for almost 2 years is for an SMR that produces 50 MWe for each module, for a total of 600 MWe.
From the NuScale DCA (Chapter 1, page 1.1.4 Power Output):
A NuScale Power Plant consists of from one to 12 NPMs. Each NPM is rated at 160 MWt (1,920 MWt, total), with approximately 50 MWe (600 MWe total) output. Electrical output is dependent on environmental conditions. When considering house loads, the total net output is approximately 570 MWe for a 12 NPM facility. Design power assumes an additional 2 percent to account for measurement uncertainty.
An increase in power output, called a power uprate, requires an additional regulatory process.
NuScale and UAMPS have not been forthright about the need for an additional regulatory process to obtain NRC approval of a power uprate of the design. It was unclear how that would go about this change. Now, NuScale is discussing the submittal of a Standard Design Approval (SDA) Application, under NRC regulations at 10 C.F.R. Part 52 Subpart E.
It is unclear how, technically, the NuScale design will be altered to achieve increased power. There have been power uprates in the past, but those have been to existing, operating reactors.
NuScale met with the NRC staff on September 23, 2019 to discuss their "Standard Design Approval Regulatory Strategy Overview" (15 MB) (NRC ADAMS, Accession No. ML19254A792, Docket No. 99902078), which was presented in a series of Slides. The SD would be the final design, and include power uprate, cost optimization, and other changes identified during design finalization.
NuScale proposed a schedule that includes pre-application meetings with NRC every 2 to 3 months, submittal of SDA Application the 4th Quarter of 2021, NRC acceptance review completed by 1st Quarter of 2022, and NRC Final Safety Evaluation Report available the 1st Quarter 2024.
WESTERN URANIUM AND VANADIUM SUBMITS
ABLATION WHITE PAPER TO NRC
• On October 19, 2019, the attorney for Western Uranium and Vanadium Corporation (WUVC) submitted a White Paper to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) entitled, Recommendations on the Proper Legal and Policy Interpretation for using Kinetic Separation Processes at Uranium Mine Sites. Kinetic separation is also been known as "Ablation." It is a process that concentrates the uranium in the ore before being sent to a licensed uranium mill for further processing.
WUVC owns some uranium mines that are on standby in Colorado (Sunday Mine Complex) and Utah (Sage Mine). WUVC has never operated these - or any other - uranium mines.
WUVC requested that the Commission find that Ablation can be conducted at a uranium mine without a uranium mill license. WUVC argues that the wastes from the concentration of uranium by kinetic separation are not 11e.(2) byproduct material under the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) and, therefore, the processing operation does not need a materials license from the NRC or NRC Agreement State.
The NRC staff and the State of Colorado (an NRC Agreement State for uranium mIlls) have already determined that Ablation is a milling process that falls under the requirements of the AEA and NRC and Colorado uranium mill regulations. On December 1, 2016, the Colorado Department of Public Health Environment (CDPHE) made a Determination that ablation operations at the Sunday Mine proposed by Black Range Minerals (the predecessor of WUVC) must be regulated by the CDPHE through a milling license.
UTAH HARD ROCK MINE - SUSPENSION OF
MINE OPERATION RULEMAKING
• The Utah Division of Oil, Gas & Mining (Division) has proposed changes to regulations applicable to the suspension of operation of hard rock mines, including uranium mines: Utah Administrative Rule R647. The current rules are vague and have not been fully enforced by the Division.
The Rulemaking process was initiated by Uranium Watch (UW), when UW brought up issues related to the lack of enforcement by the Division, allowing mines to remain on standby indefinitely. Some permitted uranium mines in San Juan County have not operated for over 30 years (Energy Queen, Sage, and Redd Block IV). The non-operational Velvet Mine, last operated in the 1980s, has yet to be fully reclaimed.
The proposed rules still allow large and small mining operations to remain in suspension indefinitely, as long as the mine owner complies with requirements for annual reports, payment of annual fees, an adequate surety, and site maintenance.
The Proposed Rule was published in the December 1, 2019, Utah Bulletin (pages 94 to 123). Comments are due January 22, 2020. There was a hearing before the Oil, Gas & Mining Board on December 11, 2019, in Salt Lake City. The Board meeting and hearing can be viewed on YouTube. See Meeting Agenda for links.
WHITE MESA MILL - REQUEST TO DISPOSE OF
GREATER AMOUNTS OF ISL WASTE
• On October 15, 2019, Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc. submitted a Request to the Utah Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control (DWMRC) to modify the White Mesa Mill License, at License Condition 10.5, for the disposal of additional materials from in-situ leach (ISL) uranium recovery operations at the White Mesa Mill. ISL is a uranium recovery process whereby uranium in the ore is dissolved underground and pumped to the surface for additional processing.
The ISL operations are located in Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. Currently, the Mill is authorized to dispose of a maximum of 5,000 cubic yards of material from any one ISL operation. Energy Fuels now wants to be able to dispose of 1) a total of 10,000 cubic yards of ISL waste per year, 2) unlimited amounts from an ISL owned by Energy Fuels or an affiliate, and 3) additional waste if the ISL operation is undergoing final reclamation. Currently, the only White Mesa Mill tailings impoundment authorized to receive ISL waste is Cell 3.
According to the DWMRC, the request is currently being reviewed by one of their Engineers. If changes are made to License Condition 10.5, a license amendment would be required.
DOE WORK AT MEXICAN HAT DISPOSAL SITE
• The Halchita Navajo community (Oljato Chapter) in San Juan County, Utah, is the site of the Mexican Hat uranium mill tailings disposal site, which is under the long-term management by the US Department of Energy (DOE). In 2019, the DOE and Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) conducted an observational site visit. The DOE has been working at the site and conducting radon monitoring.
> NRC Site Observation Report (18 MB)
> DOE Radon Monitoring Report