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URANIUM MILL TAILINGS CONTROL ACT OF 1978
MONDAY, JUNE 19, 1978
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met at 10 a.m., pursuant to notice, in room 2123, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Richard L. Ottinger, presiding, Hon. John D. Dingell, chairman.
Mr. OTTINGER. The committee will be in order.
The subcommittee is having hearings on the Residual Radioactive Materials Act, H.R. 12535, introduced by Mr. Udall and Mr. Staggers; H.R. 12229, presented by Mr. Marriott; H.R. 13049, introduced by Mr. Evans of Colorado.
I will read the opening statement of Mr. Dingell, who cannot be here today.
Today our subcommittee begins hearings on several bills designed to establish a remedial action program for inactive uranium milltailings sites in several States.
In studies made by the former Energy Research and Development Administration, about 22 sites in 11 States were identified as needing remedial action. These are sites where mills reportedly produced uranium under contracts with
the former Atomic Energy Commission between 1947 and 1970. When the mill operations halted, some of the firms are said to have tried to stabilize the tailings. There is now concern about possible adverse health effects to the public from long-term exposure to low-level sources of radiation.
The Department of Energy bill, H.R. 12535, and related bills by our colleagues, Congressman Evans of Colorado and Congressman Marriott, propose different types of financial assistance programs for remedial action. Estimates of the costs of this program run as high as $200 million, depending on whether or not the program is cost-shared or paid entirely by the Federal Government.
In letters to the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the General Accounting Office, our subcommittee has raised a number of questions about the bills and the proposed program. We are particularly concerned that private firms that own or control these sites, such as Union Carbide and Exxon, are not required to participate. Provision is made for State acquisition of some sites, but that may prove costly.
One very significant problem is not addressed in any of the bills: The extent to which any Federal agency, particularly the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, presently regulates inactive and active
tailings. I understand that the NRC does not have regulatory jurisdiction over tailings once the mill operations cease. As a result of the enactment of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the NRC does regulate tailings at active operations to some degree, but this regulation appears not to be adequate.
I understand that the NRC has proposed legislation to correct these deficiencies, but that this legislation has met with some resistance at the Office of Management and Budget. The Commission has assured me that it will not clear its proposal with OMB, but will submit it soon. I expect the NRC to do so this week, or next. In my view, we must consider that proposal together with the bills now before us.
[Testimony resumes on p. 88.] [The texts of H.R. 11698, H.R. 12229, H.R. 12938, H.R. 12535, H.R. 13049, and H.R. 13650, and departmental reports, follow:)
H R. 11698
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
MARCH 21, 1978 Mr. MARRIOTT introduced the following bill; which was referred jointly to the
Committees on Interior and Insular Affairs and Interstate and Foreign Commerce
A BILL To provide grants to States for the restoration of abandoned
uranium mill sites and to require the Secretary of Energy to restore such sites if the States fail to do so.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representa
2 tives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
3 That this Act may be cited as “Uranium Mill Site Restora
4 tion Act of 1978”.
SEC. 2. (a) The Secretary may make grants to the 6 State of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Oregon, 7 Texas, Utah, or Wyoming to carry out a site restoration 8 plan meeting the requirements of subsection (d) of this sec
(b) (1) No grant may be made under this section unless
2 an application therefor has been submitted to and approved 3 by the Secretary. The Secretary may not approve an appli
4 cation unless
(A) the application contains a site restoration plan which meets the requirements of subsection (d) of this
(B) the application is submitted within three years
after the date of the enactment of this Act; and
(C) the application is submitted in such form, and
in accordance with such procedures, as the Secretary
12 may require. 13 (2) The Secretary shall approve or disapprove any 14 application for a grant under this section within one hundred 15 and twenty days after the submission of such application to 16 the Secretary, and shall notify the applicant in writing of 17 the decision. The Secretary shall provide the applicant with 18
a detailed written statement of the reasons for the rejection 19 of any application.
(3) If the Secretary has rejected an application, the 21 applicant may submit a revised application. The Secretary 22 shall consider such a revised application in accordance with
23 paragraph (1) of this subsection.
(c) Subject to the availability of funds, the Secretary 25 shall award to any applicant whose application has been
i approved under this section a grant in an amount equal to 2 the costs of carrying out such applicant's site restoration
3 plan, as estimated in such plan pursuant to subsection (d)
4 (4) of this section.
5 (d) The site restoration plan required under subsection 6 (b) (1) of this section shall
(1) designate the abandoned uranium mill sites
(including sites on Federal property) which the ap
(2) describe the method by which the applicant shall restore the background radiation level at any site
designated under paragraph (1) of this subsection to a level which approximates the level which existed before milling operations began at such site in order to eliminate
any health hazard to residents of the area;
(3) (A) specify the sites which the applicant shall use for the disposal of the uranium mill tailings removed from the abandoned sites designated under paragraph (1) of this subsection; (B) describe the manner
in which the applicant shall dispose of the tailings
so as to prevent any further exposure of individuals
to radiation emanating from the tailings; and (C) describe the manner in which the applicant, during the fifteen-year period following such disposal, shall moni