Health and Environmental Protection Standards for Uranium and Thorium Mill Tailings (40 CFR Part 192)
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This regulation sets standards for the protection of public health, safety and the environment from radiological and non-radiological hazards associated with uranium and thorium ore processing, and disposal of associated wastes. The cross-media standards apply to pollution emissions and site restoration. EPA issued the standards in response to the statutory requirements of the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978 (UMTRCA).
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and their Agreement States use these standards in their oversight of uranium and thorium facility operations and in issuing licenses for source materialUranium, thorium or any combination of them. Includes ores that contain, by weight, one-twentieth of 1 percent (0.05 percent), or more, of uranium, thorium, or any combination of them.. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) uses the standards in their management of closed uranium mills and in the cleanup of contaminated soil and buildings.
Uranium extraction facilities are those which produce 11(e)(2) byproduct material A legal definition from the Atomic Energy Act. The tailings or wastes produced by the extraction or concentration of uranium or thorium from any ore processed primarily for its source material content.as determined by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, including mills, in-situ recoveryA process to recover uranium in which fluids are injected into ground water to mobilize the uranium in underground deposits. Extraction wells then collect the groundwater, which is processed at the surface to recover the uranium. (ISR) facilities and heap leach facilities. Conventional underground or surface (open pit) mines and their associated wastes are not included.
In 2020, the EPA and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for coordination and cooperation in the regulation of the in-situ recovery (ISR) process of uranium extraction. The MOU provides the EPA and the NRC with a framework for implementing their individual statutory responsibilities with respect to the regulation of ISR activities.
Proposed Revisions in 2015 and 2017
The standards were originally issued in 1983 and have been amended several times. The rule was last amended in 1995.
In January 2015, EPA proposed an amendment to the rule that would have regulated byproduct materials produced by ISR activities with a primary focus on groundwater protection and restoration. The proposed rule would have set post-restoration groundwater standards and would have added monitoring requirements for ISR facilities. After reviewing public comments on the proposal and new information, the Agency decided not to finalize the 2015 proposed rule. In January 2017, EPA issued another proposed rule with groundwater standards and monitoring requirements for ISR facilities.
In October 2018, EPA withdrew the January 2017 proposed rule because of issues raised in the public comment period and because the once anticipated influx of new ISR license applications is not likely to materialize.
EPA Science Advisory Board Review, 2012
In 2012, the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) reviewed a draft report on post-closure monitoring of uranium at in-situ recovery (ISR) sites. The SAB advised expanding this draft report into a Background Information Document for the development of standards for in-situ recovery facilities.
View information related to the Science Advisory Board Advisory topic, "Uranium In-Situ Leach Recovery - Post-closure Stability Monitoring."
Background and Supporting Documents for the 1995 Rule
Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act (UMTRCA) (PDF) (3 pp, 404 K, About PDF)
U.S. Code. Section 206 of UMTRCA provides EPA with the authority to develop public health and environmental protection standards for uranium and thorium mills and mill tailings.
Technical Support for Amending Standards for Management of Uranium By-product Materials – 40 CFR Part 192 Subpart D, Draft – Background Information Document (PDF) (171 pp, 7.88 MB, About PDF)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, May 1993. This document contains background information and data compiled by EPA in support of the proposal to amend 40 CFR 192 Subpart D concerning the long-term disposal of uranium mill tailings at licensed non-operational uranium mill sites.
Ground-Water Protection Standards for Inactive Uranium Tailings Sites (40 CFR 192) – Background Information for Final Rule (PDF) (276 pp, 10.93 MB, About PDF)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, March 1989. This document contains background information and a discussion of EPA’s proposal of groundwater protection standards for inactive uranium tailings sites under the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978 (UMTRCA).
Final Environmental Impact Statement for Remedial Action Standards for Inactive Uranium Processing Sites (40 CFR 192) – Volume I (PDF)(253 pp, 10.22 MB, About PDF)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, October 1982.
Final Environmental Impact Statement for Remedial Action Standards for Inactive Uranium Processing Sites (40 CFR 192) – Volume II (PDF) (312 pp, 15.68 MB, About PDF)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, October 1982. This final statement examined standards for the disposal of uranium mill tailings at the 24 sites designated under the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978 (UMTRCA), as well as standards for the cleanup of nearby lands and buildings contaminated with mill tailings.