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In Step to Strengthen the U.S. Uranium Mining Industry, EPA Administrator Wheeler Signs Important MOU with Nuclear Regulatory Commission

07/23/2020
Contact Information: 
EPA Press Office (press@epa.gov)

Cheyenne, Wyo. (July 23, 2020) — At a press conference with Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Kristine L. Svinicki to improve coordination and cooperation in the regulation of the in-situ recovery (ISR) process of uranium extraction.

“This MOU is an important step towards establishing a robust domestic uranium mining industry, which is increasingly important for the national security interests of the U.S.,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “In situ uranium mining is a proven safe and cost-effective way to provide fuel for America’s nuclear power plants, which supports thousands of jobs and is a large source of emissions-free energy. This MOU reflects a commonsense approach between agencies that has come to be expected under the Trump administration.”

“The NRC welcomes opportunities, such as this, to clarify and enhance our partnerships with fellow regulators, at both the Federal and State levels, who share in the important work of safeguarding public health and protecting our environment,” said NRC Chairman Kristine L. Svinicki. “I join Administrator Wheeler in giving many thanks to the EPA and NRC staff who collaborated in the development of this agreement.”

“This agreement is a major win for uranium production in Wyoming,” said U.S. Senator John Barrasso. “The Trump administration is limiting unnecessary regulations and making it easier for American companies to do business. Nuclear power is clean and reliable. It provides carbon free energy and creates good paying jobs. This agreement will help preserve Wyoming’s uranium industry. Wyoming leads the United States in uranium production. I want to thank the leadership of the EPA and the NRC for answering my call to enter into this important agreement.”

“This much-needed action returns to the original intent of Congress in stipulating the shared role that the Environmental Protection Agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have in regulating uranium recovery operations. Under the prior administration, EPA ignored the congressional limitations on its authority, usurped NRC’s responsibilities and attempted to impose new technically unfeasible standards – not based on science or risk – but merely to impede mining operations. By drawing clear lines between the roles of EPA and NRC, the agency with the most relevant experience is able to weigh in where issue-specific expertise is needed, to the benefit of both the environment and project review,” said National Mining Association President and CEO Rich Nolan.

The MOU outlines how EPA and NRC will work to accomplish our respective responsibilities under Title II of the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978 to protect public health, safety and the environment from radiological and non-radiological hazards.

To read the MOU, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-07/documents/epa-nrc-mou-2020.pdf.

Background

Both EPA and NRC have individual statutory responsibilities under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 regarding uranium and thorium processing at ISR facilities. The EPA has standards under 40 CFR Part 192 that protect public health, safety and the environment from radiological and non-radiological hazards associated with uranium and thorium ore processing and its wastes. The NRC uses its authorities to develop regulations to implement these EPA standards and regulate ISR facilities.

On March 16, 1992, the NRC and the EPA signed an MOU to foster cooperation between the two agencies in protecting public health, safety and the environment on matters related to radiation. The 1992 MOU established a basic framework for the two agencies to resolve issues of concern that relate to the regulation of radiation in the environment. Today’s MOU adds to the agencies’ mutual agreements, including the 1992 MOU, and does not replace or supersede the 1992 MOU.