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EPA Withdraws Last-Minute Obama-Era Uranium Proposal

10/19/2018
Contact Information: 
EPA Press Office (press@epa.gov)

WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) formally withdrew the proposed rulemaking for uranium and thorium mill tailings from January 19, 2017.

“In a rush to regulate during the waning hours of the previous administration, the Agency proposed a regulation that would have imposed significant burdens on uranium miners and the communities they support,” said Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Today’s action is an important step in rebalancing EPA’s role with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s with respect to protecting public health and the environment alongside supporting modern methods of uranium extraction.”

“Today’s announcement is the right decision,” said Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso. “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission – our nation’s principal nuclear regulator – has said there is no health or safety justification for EPA’s midnight rule. The NRC has regulated in situ uranium recovery for nearly 40 years. The agency has never found an instance of ground water contamination that would be addressed by this rule. I’m glad the Environmental Protection Agency has acknowledged this reality. I applaud it for withdrawing this punishing and unnecessary regulation on America’s uranium producers.”

The proposal – issued just hours before President Trump took office – raised serious concerns from federal partners including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and stakeholders about the Agency’s legal authority under the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978.

Today’s action underscores that EPA believes existing regulatory structures are sufficient at this time to ensure the protection of human health and the environment at current uranium in-situ recovery (ISR) activities.

In addition to questions about legal authority and EPA's belief that regulatory structures already in place are sufficiently protective under current conditions, EPA is withdrawing the proposed regulation because the once anticipated influx of new ISR license applications is not likely to materialize.

Today’s withdrawal has no impact on EPA’s regulation of radiation. To review a pre-publication version, click here.

Background

In 1983, EPA issued standards in response to the statutory requirements of the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978 (UMTRCA). Since the standards were originally issued, they have been amended several times.