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one hundred and fifteen new mines or expansions and eighteen new mills
planned for eight western states.
Interim standards may be necessary to assure
an orderly expansion of uranium operations.
Such standards should limit the
proliferation of mills and mill tailings disposal sites.
Finally, it is important to stress again the magnitude of the problem, not
just or uranium mill tailings, but
of ollier radioactive ores and tailings
is well, both at mines and mills.
We believe that the Environmental Protection
Agency should provide the basic guidance and criteria for these hazards consistent
with its authority under RCRA and complementary authorities.
In the case of
uranium tailings, additional control measures need to be implemented as part
of NRC's uranium mill licensing authority, but this should not di
Mr. DINGELL. Thank you very much.
Mr. FINNEGAN. Are you recommending a financial assistance program for all of these other sites that-DOE has said they are looking at other sites, other than the 22 they have identified initially-are you suggesting that we delay legislation pending that review and come up with a broader-
Mr. BERICK. I am suggesting that the whole notion of a compassionate program for remedial action be revised.
I think that we are choosing to address a few sites which may not be the most serious sites from a health and safety standpoint, but we are addressing a few sites because it appears that the Department of Energy-in this particular case it is easiest to make a case that there might be some Government responsibility-but we are not addressing the issue in an orderly fashion and the major issue that we are not confronting is the responsibility.
As a matter of fact, these 22 sites that we are picking out have been chosen on the basis of their respective financial conditions under their contracts with the Government, and not for any particular reason as to the imminent danger of public health and safety. And we now have a whole variety of other sites that are not being addressed at all.
Now, I am not suggesting that that financial program be extended to those at this time. I think what I am suggesting is that the legislation that provides for the kinds of sites that are to be addressed in the financial program be tightened up, that there be much tighter controls over those criteria which at the moment are very loose and apply only to those particular sites.
I think that has to be revised to provide some kind of test other than whether you have a government contract to provide uranium. Mr. FINNEGAN. Would you agree that the bill ought probably not identify specific sites, and, two, that DOE ought to set some priorities based on health?
Mr. BERICK. Yes, absolutely.
Mr. FINNEGAN. The third point is: Do you agree that as far as financial assistance, the Government's so-called responsibility or financial assistance to get something to correct the so-called inactive sites ought to be limited at least to those cases where there was some Federal involvement, if only a Federal contract to purchase the uranium?
I am not sure of what you are saying. Do you contemplate that if there are inactive sites where the entire production was a commercial production, that the Federal Government ought to, such as the one in Texas you referred to, would you contemplate that the Federal Government ought to pick up a 75-25 share of that?
Mr. BERICK. I am afraid that is the situation. My suggestion is that the Attorney General take these companies to court and try to collect what damages and costs that you can. I think that is a very difficult area. I am reluctant to say that we ought to sit and wait until we run through the entire judicial process before we begin to go into some of these sites. We have waited many, many years too long as it is.
Mr. FINNEGAN. Earlier the NRC agreed that the bill ought to provide for some determination of responsibility by the people that own the sites. But aside from that issue, is there anything in your judgment that requires the Federal Government to pick up the cost of sites where there was no Federal involvement in the first instance?
Mr. BERICK. You have two situations: One, you have the situation where these mills were licensed by the Atomic Energy Commission, and to the extent that the Commission was negligent in insuring that the mills were shut down with some kind of requirement that they be terminated in a safe condition, I imagine that there is government responsibility.
Mr. FINNEGAN. That is assuming that there is in fact some sort of negligence?
Mr. BERICK. Yes, I am assuming that.
Mr. FINNEGAN. That is a big assumption. I don't know when some of these sites were shut down, but that is a large assumption.
Mr. BERICK. Yes, but aside from that, aside from that issue, I don't believe that the Government has any direct responsibility to clean this up.
Mr. FINNEGAN. Have you got any specific suggestions or amendments to H.R. 13650, either title I or title II, and if so, we would appreciate it if you would supply them for the record in the next couple of days.
So get in touch with us so we can see where we are.
[The information requested was not available to the subcommittee at the time of printing.)
Mr. FINNEGAN. That is all.
Mr. WARD. Under a fixed price contract, the Government would have paid the cost of fixing it up initially?
37-249 0 - 79 - 29
Mr. BERICK. Yes, they would have. Are you talking about a costplus contract?
Mr. WARD. Yes. So from that standpoint, could you not see industry's distress with the contract now being over and a new cost that was not included in the payment to them being added onto them? I mean, if they negotiated the contract today, that cost would be in there, hopefully. And the Government would wind up paying for it.
Mr. BERICK. Part of the situation that was mentioned earlier today in the case of TVA is that these mills were shut down not necessarily because the company could no longer operate the mills. In many cases, as in the case of Union Carbide, they retained ownership of the land, ownership of the mill, and ownership of the pilings.
I think without evidence that they really did not intend to resume operation, that they really had invested the money to begin with only to fulfill those Government contracts and only for whatever limited period of time that those contracts were in effect, then your argument might hold. But I think you would be hard pressed to prove that point.
Mr. WARD. Is your argument on the regulation side that tailings are a generic problem and it makes little sense to segregate out uranium milltailings?
Mr. BERICK. Yes. There doesn't seem to be much point in launching into the kind of regulatory program we are talking about in uranium tailings when you have a situation that may be substantially worse, for example, with phosphate tailings. Those tailings and those phosphate operations, many of them are in the eastern population concentration. With uranium it is a generic problem.
Mr. WARD. I am not disagreeing. There isn't a regulatory structure over phosphates outside of EPA now.
Mr. BERICK. That is true, but the issue, I think, here is whether we are going to recognize that there is a severe problem with radioactive wastes. I think that your discussion this morning with EPA, the record will show that things are not all that they could be down at the mall. I think it is important to realize that just dealing with one particular aspect of the problem is a long way from doing the job that needs to be done.
I would urge the committee to keep that in mind and to structure the legislation to strengthen the overall approach to radioactive tailings, both at mills and mines.
Now the NRC, as they have just testified, does not control mine waste, and does not intend to. We are again faced with a situation of having to rely on RCRA and the EPA to do that.
Mr. WARD. You are not recommending that the NRC regulate phosphate?
Mr. BERICK. No; not at all. I have some other questions about the NRC's ability to regulate the nonradiological hazards, the mill wastes and the heavy metals and others, that present a problem in those tailings.
Mr. DINGELL. Mr. Berick, we thank you very much for your assistance to the committee. You have made some fine points which we will keep in mind as we proceed with our drafting.
If there is no further business to come before the committee, the committee will stand in adjournment until the call of the Chair.
[The following statement and letters were received for the record:]
Control of rad loactive hazards from uranium m111/mine tailings has become an important public concern. Miners exposed to radioactive
decay products in their employment have suffered an increased mortality
due to lung cancer.
This lung cancer risk was known from the Joachim
staal and Schnecburg mines in Czechoslovakia and Germany since the early
In 1968, the U.S. Public Health Service completed studies of
3,414 white underground U.S. uranium miners employed 1950-1967.
were 62 deaths due to lung cancer with 10 expected (a tenfold increase).
The smoking uranium miners experienced an excess of lung cancer 10 times
greater than non-smoking miners.
Most of the respiratory cancer deaths
occurred 10 or more years after the individual first mined uranium.
Radioactive decay products in the uranium mines were considered the
source of the cancer hazard.
These radioactive particles were inhaled
attached to dust to damage the respiratory mucosa.
developed in terms of Working-Levels for radiation exposure with months
for a time factor.
At approximately 120 Cumulative Working-Level-Months
(CWLM) an increase in lung cancer was noted.
Standards were set at 4
CWLM/year to be safe for the uranium miner over 25 years.
tion was introduced and expanded (particularly after the 1968 report)
to control the health hazard.
In studying the respiratory disease of
uranium miners, a further follow-up study of 3,366 white and 780 non
white, uranium miners from 1950 to 1974 by Dr. Victor Archer, USPHS-NIOSH,
corroborated the earlier results of a five-fold increase in mortality
due to lung cancer.
Other studies of low-level exposure to ionizing radiation have
identified a leukemia risk from gamma radiation. However, uranium
miners are exposed to very low levels of gamma-rays.
An initial study of the cancer mortality of 662 uranium mill workers
identified in 1950 by the USPHS followed through 1967 found no excess
mortality due to lung cancer or leukemia, but an excess due to lympho
ma (cancer of the lymph glands).
This was considered to be due to
lymph gland storage of inhaled uranium and thorium dust.
study of uranium mill workers (not including Vitro) is underway by the
The Vitro Minerals and Chemical Company located near downtown Salt
Lake City in the center of the metropolitan area processed uranium ores
from 1951 to 1964.
During this period, the plant processed 1.7 million
dry tons of ore producing 4,787 tons of Uzog concentrate. to 1968 the mill processed 106,000 dry tons of vanadium-bearing material
(which also contained uranium ore).
The plant was dismantled by 1970.
There are at least three important health evaluation studies to be
performed concerning the Vitro tailings problem: 1) a mortality study
of the former employees of Vitro, 2) a cancer mortality study of the
surrounding denizens, and 3) an evaluation of the radiation hazard the
tailings entail in off-site construction.
The latter two studies are
The Bureau of Radiation and Occupational Health, Utah State
Division of Health, is determining the radiation levels at the 17
known sites of tailings disposal.
These include 5 residences, 7 businesses,
and 5 empty lots.
Levels of radon daughters (radioactive decay products
of uranium) in the central Salt Lake City fire station were five times
the acceptable levels for uranium mines.