The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Legacy Management (LM) is seeking stakeholder input on an abandoned uranium mines report to Congress. On January 2, 2013, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, which requires the Secretary of Energy, in consultation with the Secretary of the U.S Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to undertake a review of, and prepare a report on, abandoned uranium mines in the United States that provided uranium ore for atomic energy defense activities of the United States. The Act also requires consultation with other relevant federal agencies, affected states and tribes, and the interested public.
LM was selected to develop the report to Congress because of our expertise in uranium milling and mining. LM currently manages postclosure activities at 89 sites, and 27 of those are uranium mill sites remediated under Title I or Title II of the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act (UMTRCA). UMTRCA sites once processed ore used for atomic energy defense activities from many of the known abandoned uranium mines. Most of these abandoned mines are located in the southwestern part of the country within the area known as the Uravan Mineral Belt. Other LM activities include the reclamation of uranium at a select number of abandoned uranium mines that were a legacy of the DOE Uranium Leasing Program, reclamation of uranium mines through DOI’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Work-for-Others Program, and involvement in an EPA-led interagency work group reviewing the design of a repository to contain waste from the largest underground uranium mine on Navajo Nation land.
About the Abandoned Uranium Mines Report to Congress
DOE is required to submit the Abandoned Uranium Mines Report (AUM report) concerning abandoned uranium mines that provided uranium ore for atomic energy defense activities of the United States to Congress by July 2014. LM is focusing its review of abandoned uranium mines on:
- the location of abandoned uranium mines on federal, state, tribal, and private land, taking into account existing inventories held by federal agencies, states, and Indian tribes, and any additional information available to the Secretary;
- the extent to which abandoned uranium mines pose, or may pose, a significant radiation hazard or other public health and safety threat, and have caused, or may cause, water or other environmental degradation;
- a ranking of priority category for the remediation and reclamation of abandoned uranium mines;
- the potential cost and feasibility of remediating and reclaiming, in accordance with applicable federal law, each category of abandoned uranium mines; and
- the status of any efforts to remediate and reclaim abandoned uranium mines.
LM’s approach to conducting the review and preparing the AUM report is to maximize the use of existing information on abandoned uranium mines, including shared databases from federal, state, and tribal agencies. Cleanup standards and costs of reclamation and remediation efforts performed by other agencies and the private sector also will inform the report.
LM Consultation with EPA, DOI, and Other Federal Agencies
Dr. David Shafer of LM’s Office of Site Operations is organizing consultation with DOI and EPA officials on abandoned uranium mine efforts. The three agencies will serve as a steering committee to determine the best approach to complete the AUM report. LM is also engaging other relevant federal, state, and tribal agencies by participating in teleconferences with senior abandoned mine lands experts.
LM Consultation with Affected Stakeholders
So, how can affected stakeholders provide input on the AUM report? LM plans to present information at stakeholder forums listed in the table below.
LM will consult with affected states and tribes and the interested public at these events, as well as at other existing forums recommended by abandoned mine lands experts and organizations.
LM Information Needs
To fulfill Congress’s mandate, LM needs to obtain information unique to abandoned uranium mines, including:
- environmental data associated with abandoned uranium mines (i.e., radiological readings, water quality, radon levels);
- locational data of abandoned uranium mines (GIS mapping, longitude/latitude);
- photographs or drawings of abandoned uranium mine attributes;
- data pertaining to abandoned uranium mine cleanup prioritization efforts;
- reclamation and remediation cost information;
- awareness of any notable community and private sector interest; and regulations/requirements in place
- or being considered for uranium mine cleanup.
If you have information to share, please submit it by e-mail to AUM@lm.doe.gov. Any input is welcome and appreciated.
We also encourage you to submit comments, questions, and suggestions about the AUM report on LM’s Abandoned Uranium Mines webpage at www.lm.doe.gov/AUM. A fact sheet about the AUM report, updates about the review of abandoned uranium mines, and other helpful materials can also be found here. Please click on the button on the right-hand side of the webpage to submit your comments. Thank you for your interest in this important effort.