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0.23% uranium to 0.155%.

This decrease is roughly the inverse of the

amount of ore and tailings processed.

Therefore while the trend in ore

grade reduction is not a direct relationship because of in situ and

secondary extraction techniques, the result will be ever higher ratios

of tailings to yellow cake production.

In the 1966 to 1976 period, the


ratio of tailings to yellow cake increased by almost one third.
trend will continue and means that while yellow cake production is ex-

pected to double by 1985, the amount of tailings generated annually will

substantially more than double.

As if this radioactive waste problem is not alarming enough, I re



Mr. Chairman,

of the General Accounting Office's report to you

on June 20th of this year that the technology for controlling radioactive

releases form uranium mill tailings piles is not yet available.

A case

in point is a 1977 EPA study which reported that radon release levels ac

tually increased at one inactive uranium mill tailings pile after it had

been stabilized with an earth cover.

The Interagency Review Group on Nuclear Waste Management mine and

mill tailings sub-group noted in its drait report that there are substantial

gaps in our knowledge of both uranium mill tailings characteristics and

control mechanisms.

The sub-group found seven major areas of research and



These are:


analysis of long-term disposal

and stabilization methods including the effectiveness of soil and clay covers

Lo reduce radon emissions; 2) methods and feasibility of extracting radionuclides

írom tailings piles; 3) analysis of the health impacts of radon daughters

which EPA is currently funding the National Academy of Science's BEIR

Commit lee lo invesligate; 4) dusimetry of ridon daughters and radon, which

IPA is currently funding the National Council

on Radiation Protection and

Measurements to develop; 5) development of models to explain the airborne

exposure pathway for radon and its daughter products; 6) development of

models to explain the liquid exposure pathway for disolved and eroded

radionuclides from uranium mines and mills, and 7) methods for measuring

the amounts of radon released from tailings piles.

The Environmental Protection Agency under RCRA and other complementary

authorities should be established as the major federal agency for the

regulation of radioactive mine and mill wastes for both uranium and

non-uranium ores.

EPA authority should be preserved for both radiological

and non-radiological hazards.

Non-radiological hazards at uranium operations, for example, can be


Seepage or discharge from tailings ponds of highly acidic

(1.5 to 2.0 pH) or highly alkaline (9.5 to 11.0 pH) leach solutions from tailings


Such solutions are often.discharged to surface water or to ground


Processing solutions and tailings contain numerous extraction chemicals

and heavy metals found in the ore.

Uranium tailings may contain substatial

amounts of such heavy metals as barium, chromium, molybdenum, selenium, lead,

arsenic, vanadium, and zinc.

There are documented cases of non-radiological

contamination of surface and ground water in bothColorado and New Mexico.

1.11 these cases selenium from the ore and nitrates from the extraction process

were the major hazards.

In addition, aquifers in New Mexico were contaminated by

deep well injection of wastes.

I would like to note here that HR 13382 precludes regulation of non

radiological impacts at mill tailings sites in Agreement States.

HR 13649

however extends federal regulation to both non-- radiological and radiological


Mr. Chairman, uranium mill tailings should be treated as a special case

of radioactive mine and mill wastes because of their greater radiological

hazard and should be regulated as a condition of a uranium milling license

issued under NRC authority.

This should not preclude the EPA under its authority from establishing

criteria and standards for uranium mill lailings consistent with those it

promulgates for similar hazards from other radioactive ores and tailings.

The NRC would establish the site-specific requirements by which these standards

and criteria would be met.

The consistency of this approach for dealing with

this type of radioactive mine and mill waste was recognized in

the Administra

tion bill on remedial action at inactive mill sites--HR12535.

NRC regulatory authority should be used to assure that uranium mills and

tailings disposal are planned, designed, operated to protect the public and

the environment.

The NRC has already moved to establish controls over uranium

mill tailings at uranium mills under its licensing jurisdiction through its

National Environmental Policy Act authority to control environmental impacts.

While the NRC guidelines were drawn up and formalized as a regulatory branch

position on May 13, 1977, no tailings have been disposed of according to those

criteria nor do they extend to mills licensed by agreement states.

As HR 13382 and HR 13649 provide, NRC authority over mill tailings must be

extended to agreement states and minimum federal licensing standards must be


HR 13382 fails to provide the kinds of authority needed to insure

that uranium mills, beginning with the licensing process, leave the mill and

tailings with the least possible hazzard.

The bill only provides for federal

minimum standards for radiation protection.

It does not address the way those

standards are made, license conditions such as environmental reviews, rule making,

and public participation.

The bill maintains the disparity among the Federn?

and State licensing processes and the treatment of an identical public health


For example, environmental impact statements are required for uranium

[blocks in formation]

licensing and environmental reviews, public notice, and public hearings.


NRC is also required to prepare an environmental impact statement for mills

on federal lands.

In addition, states have greatly differing standards for the regulation

of mining and mill wastes.

Arizona has no mined land reclamation act.


State Department of Health has authority over solid waste but its regulations

do not address mine or mill wastes and the Department has not attempted to

enforce regulations against mines or mills.

Arizona has recently passed

a law providing for state jurisdiction over uranium mill tailings and liability.

The law does not provide for regulation of disposal practices, environmental

review, review by any agency other than the State Atomic Energy Commission,

or public participation.

Colorado on the other hand, has jurisdiction over

mine and mill tailings under regulation by the State Board of Health.


regulations include design and operation of tailings piles as well as health,

water and air restrictions.

(See Rocky Mountain Law Institute, "Dumps and

Tailings", Reeves and Alfers, 23;419-549, 1977.)

HR 13649, as noted in the introduction, contains several significant

changes which address these problems.

The Environmental Policy Center supports

in substance the procedural licensing reforms provided in that bill.

At issue here, Mr. Chairman, is the establishment of a comprehensive

program to deal with a major health and environmental problem.

We do not

find that even when taken together the remedial and licensing bills before

you establish such a program.

Neither of the licensing bills, for example,

provide any guidance on the application of tailings disposal regulations

retroactively to existing mill tailings piles.

While the remedial legislation

addresses the problems of a number of inactive sites, these contain only

23 million tons of tailings which is 2 million tons less than presently

piled at the largest operating mill.

The inactive sites contain substantially

less than the 115 million tons at all presently licensed mill sites.

Retroactive application is very important lest we lose the protection of the public between the abandoned tailings and the future licensed piles In fact, there are cases where this will happen given the existing legislative


At the Edgemont, South Dakota site for example, the mill is

presently under license but inactive.

It is not covered in the remedial bill

and its treatment under the licensing bills is questionable.

A second case

is the Ray Point site which is not covered under either legislative solution

since it is inactive but did not sell under government contract, and is not


In addition, there are some thirty sites including Middlesex,

New Jersey where tailings were used in construction as well as the DOE-owned

mill at Monticello, Utah and Manhattan Project uranium wastes which are not

covered under the remedial legislation.

The DOE has argued that it is

acting "compassionately" and that when it decides what to do about the other

sites it will request additional authority.

Mr. Chairman, the difficulty

with compassionate responsibility is that it allows the good samaritan to

be compassionate at his convenience.

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