Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Radon emission exceeds standard at Tailings Cell 2 of White Mesa mill / Utah Division of Radiation Control administrative procedures do not comply with Atomic Energy Act

Comments:  Love the comments from UraniumFree Virginia : The White Mesa Uranium Mill, the only operating conventional uranium mill in the US, is out of compliance with EPA regulations for radon emissions from Operating Uranium Mill Tailings Impoundments.

Energy Fuels Resources, a VUI shareholder. determined that the increase in emissions was caused by the dewatering of the tailings. The tailings must be dewatered to reduce the potential for leakage f...rom the impoundment and so that the pile will settle before the placement of the final radon barrier.

 Tailings are no longer being placed in the 67-acre Cell 2 impoundment. Dewatering of the tailings began a few years ago. In the past, water on top of the tailings and in the tailings reduced the radon emissions. As the water is removed from the tailings, the radon emissions have continued to increase, even though there is an interim soil cover on top of the pile.

Two comments: 1. water on top is bad due to leakage into groundwater, dewatering is bad due to radon emissions. 2 Is it even possible to dewater the tailings in Virginia's wet climate if in dry Utah it's taken several year

Radon emission exceeds standard at Tailings Cell 2 of White Mesa mill

The 2012 Annual Compliance Report external link for the emission of radon from the White Mesa Mill tailings impoundments reported that the radon flux for the 66-acre [27 ha] Cell 2 exceeded the standard in 2012. The Cell 2 emission of radon is 1.59 times the 20 pico Curie per square meter per second (pCi/m2/sec) [0.74 Bq/m2/sec] requirement for a tailings impoundment that exceeds 40 acres. Energy Fuels Resources Inc. (EFR) concluded that the increase in radon-222 flux from Cell 2 was caused by dewatering, and was unavoidable.

In 2011 and 2012 EFR adopted an accelerated dewatering program, based on the Ground Water Discharge Permit requirements. Cell 2 must also be dewatered to settle the tailings before the placement of the final radon barrier. The mill is required to have reclamation milestones for the placement of the interim cover, dewatering, and placement of the final radon barrier, but does not.

 Due to the exceedance from Cell 2, EFR will be required to measure and report the radon flux on a monthly basis, starting April 2013.

 The radon emissions will continue to increase during the dewatering process, which will take several years. EFR estimates that the radon emission levels will reach equilibrium, due to the depth of the tailings. Placement of additional fill will reduce the radon emissions. EFR estimates that the addition 1 foot to the interim cover reduce the average flux to within the standard, based on the estimated flux over the next year.

EFR has proposed test plots with 1 foot of fill to determine if it will bring the emissions below the standard. If the tests are successful, the propose to add 1 foot of fill to the existing cover, to be completed by mid-2014.

 They suggest this, even though they estimate that it will take 2 feet of fill to to reduce surface radon flux to below 20 pCi/m2/sec, regardless of the depth of dewatered tails. (Uranium Watch June 8, 2013)

Utah Division of Radiation Control administrative procedures do not comply with Atomic Energy Act

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) agreed with Uranium Watch's external link allegation that the Utah Division of Radiation Control's (DRC's) administrative procedures did not comply with the public participation requirements for certain licensing actions. These requirements apply to the DRC as an Agreement State and the regulation of uranium mills and 11e.(2) byproduct material (mill tailings).

 By letter of May 20, 2013 external link, the NRC addressed Uranium Watch's concern that the State of Utah did not have any statue or regulation that designates procedures for a hearing required by the Atomic Energy Act (42 U.S.C. §2021(o)(3)(A)) prior to 11e.(2) byproduct material licensing actions. The NRC letter states: "The DRC is in the process of drafting a procedure to address these issues.

After implementing this procedure on a current licensing action, the DRC plans to codify these procedures in a rulemaking process." It is unclear which "current licensing action" the NRC is referring to.

 Section 2021(o)(3)(A) requires procedures for an opportunity for written comments and a public hearing, with a transcript and an opportunity for cross examination. The AEA also requires that an environmental analysis be available before the comment and hearing opportunity and prohibits any major construction prior to the issuance of the environmental analysis and public participation process.

 Although the DRC has provided opportunities for public comment, since 2004, when Utah became an Agreement State for 11e.(2) byproduct material, they have never provided an opportunity for a hearing with a transcript and opportunity for cross examination. These procedures are supposed to take place before the DRC's final decision on an application. (Uranium Watch June 8, 2013)