Uranium Mining Regulations

Feb. 11, 2019

In 2015, rules proposed by the EPA would have required ISR uranium mining companies to monitor groundwater for up to 30 years. The U.S. Nuclear Commission is now asking for suggestions on regulating a type of uranium mining

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is asking for suggestions about regulating a type of uranium mining after EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler withdrew more stringent mining rules.

In 2015, rules proposed by the EPA would have required ISR uranium mining companies to monitor groundwater for up to 30 years. According to Salon, the proposed rules were revised in 2017 after opposition from mining companies.

Multiple senators opposed the proposed EPA regulations. According to Salon, all three senators who opposed are from states with uranium mines.

In a March 2017 interview with Platts NuclearFuel, Paul Goranson (the chief operating officer of Energy Fuels) said that the water quality standard in the proposed EPA regulation would be “essentially impossible to meet.”

In October, Wheeler withdrew the proposed EPA regulations. He said the public health and environmental benefits of the proposed rules are limited.

According to Salon, mining uranium could pollute groundwater that western states may need during droughts. One way to mine uranium that is most used today, involves pumping an oxygen-enriched solution into the ground to dissolve uranium deposits. More chemicals are used to remove the liquid uranium, according to Salon.

Thomas Borch, an environmental chemistry professor at Colorado State University, led a study that found uranium levels in water at a Wyoming well were more than 70 times higher after mining. According to Salon, mining companies are supposed to repair damage from uranium mining.

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