Presentation on theme: "Report to Congress on Defense-Related Uranium Mines NMA Uranium Recovery Workshop – June 18-19, 2014 David S. Shafer, Ph.D. Office of Legacy Management."— Presentation transcript:
Report to Congress on Defense-Related Uranium Mines NMA Uranium Recovery Workshop – June 18-19, 2014 David S. Shafer, Ph.D. Office of Legacy Management A timbered load-out trestle associated with a small adit in the Uravan mining area of Colorado.
The U.S. Congress directed the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to prepare a report on defense-related uranium mines. Per Section 3151 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, Congress requested that DOE submit the Report to Congress in July 2014. Congress required the U.S. 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 (AUM) in the U.S. that provided uranium ore for the country’s atomic energy defense activities. Preparation of the report required consultation with other relevant federal agencies (specifically calling out DOI and EPA), affected states and tribes, and the interested public. The report evaluates impacts, prioritization, feasibility, and costs. ----------------- The report is nearing completion. Final versions of four supporting DOE technical reports will be available on the DOE Office of Legacy Management website next week. 2
Defense-related uranium mines are part of a larger issue of abandoned or inactive mines in the U.S. More than 150,000 abandoned or inactive hard rock mines exist in the western U.S., not including Alaska. – Even if all uranium mines are considered, they amount to less than 5 percent of such mines. – In the “Four Corners” region (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah) of the U.S., the majority of mines are uranium-related. Most of these mines were established under the General Mining Act of 1872, as amended, that did not require reclamation or remediation. Population growth in the western U.S. means that more people are living near abandoned or inactive mines or enjoying recreational activities, (e.g., hiking and riding) near the mines. Mine Adit Closed with a Bat Gate
Some abandoned mines are now more easily accessible to the public. 4
Office of Legacy Management (LM) approach: Develop a summary report backed by four DOE technical reports. Given limited time and resources, we maximized our use of existing information from other agencies. The summary report is succinct. Supporting information and data is covered in four technical reports available on the LM website (http://energy.gov/lm): – Mine locations and status of reclamation/remediation. – Assessment of effects to public health and environment. – Potential cost and feasibility of reclamation and/or remediation. – Priority ranking of reclamation and remediation. What is the current status of the Report? – In May, we conducted informal reviews with BLM, the Office of the Solicitor for DOI, and various program and regional offices of EPA. – A formal review led by the Office of Management and Budget just started. – The final report is on target to be submitted to Congress in July. – The final report and the four technical reports will be available on the DOE LM website. 5
LM used internal records—in addition to federal, state, and tribal records—to identify locations and status of defense-related mines. U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) records were our primary source of information. – There are 4,225 defense-related mine claims (listed by name, state and county only) that were documented between 1947 and 1970. LM used other federal databases to validate locations and status. – EPA Technologically Enhanced, Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (TENORM) and Uranium Location Database. – EPA Region 9 Navajo Nation AUM screening reports. – U.S. Geological Survey Mineral Resources Data System. – The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Abandoned Mine Site Cleanup Module (AMSCM) Working with state and tribal Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) programs, LM has received information from the following 13 states and tribes: AZ, CA, CO, MT, NV, NM, ND, SD, TX, UT, WA, WY, and the Navajo Nation. – At meetings such as the NMA Uranium Recovery Meeting last year, we also met individuals who had knowledge on specific mines and mine reclamation efforts. 7
There were six primary database fields that DOE was trying to fill for each mine. 8 Number of Mines with Data Percent of Total Location4,19999 Land Ownership3,56884 Reclamation or Remediation Status 64515 Gamma54113 Reclamation and/or Remediation Cost 2927 Radon391 Note: Percentage of 4,225 mines in the DOE mines database A goal of populating each primary data field with at least 10 mines or collecting 10 percent of the data for each production size category was met.
We used the following definitions of “reclamation” vs. “remediation” of abandoned uranium mines in the Report. Reclamation Remediation * Physical hazards (e.g., open shafts) are mitigated Radiological exposure/metal toxicity is directly addressed Waste rock is recontoured to reduce erosion and improve drainage Soil or overburden thickness attenuates gamma or radon exposure to risk- based levels Clean soil is placed over waste rock, primarily to revegetate the site Waste rock and soil is removed and disposed of in offsite or onsite disposal cells Radiological exposure may be indirectly reduced Ecological impacts are mitigated 9 *For this report remediation also includes actions identified for reclamation.
Mine Reclamation and Remediation Costs ranges were developed for production size categories of mines 10 Tons of Ore Produced Mine Production-Size Category 0–100Small 100–1,000Small/Medium 1,000–10,000Medium 10,000–100,000Medium/Large 100,000–500,000Large >500,000Very Large Cost estimates were not developed for Very Large mines because all of them have been, or are currently being, reclaimed or remediated. Costs were compared to those of various federal and state agencies that have reclaimed or remediated mines, including ones that DOE had managed. The cost for any individual mine requires site-specific information.
Although nearly 2,000 mines were Small or Small/Medium, most of ore produced and sold to the AEC was from a small number of Very Large (>500,000 tons) mines. 11 Tons of ore for each production-size category
The number of mines does not necessarily equate with uranium ore production. More ore was mined in New Mexico than the other three Four Corner states combined. Wyoming is second in ore produced. 12 Primary Source: AEC records.
Information on the specific location of individual mines is not provided in the report. Population growth in the western U.S. has resulted in more access to mines that were once remote. – People visit mines, particularly where off-road vehicle recreation is common. – Historic and ecologic features at sites are being affected; recently completed surface reclamation is being vandalized (e.g., theft of bat gates). – Land management agencies (e.g., BLM) are reluctant to publicize the location of mines. A number of mines are on private land. – Patented mining and other private land may still be surrounded by public land. – Boundaries of patented mining claims can be difficult to determine on the ground. Location records for many such claims pre-date tools such as GPS. The issue of the location of defense-related mines in the report is addressed by: – Providing less mine-specific location information and discussing how the mines are distributed by state, tribal land, land management agencies, etc. – Restricting distribution of mine-specific location data, but demonstrating to Congress the degree to which the locations of mines are known. 13
Radiological human health risk was evaluated using conceptual site models for mine categories, not individual mines. LM does not have actual risk data on the majority of mine sites. We developed generic, conceptual site models (CSMs) to explain potential exposure to receptors. CSMs take into account current and potential land use, receptors, and exposure scenarios (recreational visitor, camper, residential user, mine reclamation worker). LM has provided screening risk estimates for relevant exposure pathways. We have addressed unique pathways such as those associated with tribal use. We have compiled risk information from available sources: – DOE’s Uranium Lease Program Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. – EPA’s TENORM Report. – Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) cleanups. DOE collected site-specific gamma and radon data from field visits to 84 mine sites 14
There are a variety of physical hazards, pathways for exposure to radiation, and ways that environmental media may be contaminated at uranium mines. 15
Physical hazards at abandoned mines can present immediate health risks. Approximately 25 people die each year due to accidents at abandoned mines in the U.S. Physical hazards of an abandoned mine include adits, shafts, water retention ponds, and decaying infrastructure. Physical hazards are the priority for non- CERCLA mine reclamations. Physical hazards may not be addressed as part of the CERCLA process. Addressing physical hazards may also reduce potential radiological risk. – Sealing mine openings reduces radon flux from mines. – Clean soil or rock cover lowers gamma and radon exposure. 16
LM developed a preliminary range of costs for each mine production-size category; not for each mine. Factors considered in developing cost estimates: – Cleanup goals (e.g., eliminate physical hazards and stabilize waste rock) and land use/risk exposure assumptions. – Cost of transportation and disposal if mine waste is moved to an off-site disposal cell. – Long-term monitoring and maintenance costs. – Generic factors for permit, design, management, and oversight. Where groundwater remediation is being conducted, it is a significant cost driver – The Midnite Mine in Washington State is the most expensive mine undergoing remediation under CERCLA with groundwater remediation part of the scope. The total estimate is $193 million. – Other CERCLA mine cleanups with groundwater remediation range form $2M to $75M. Groundwater contamination is associated with a small percentage of mines – Many mines are small and were completed above the water table. – Some other “wet” mines are in areas of naturally high background levels of constituents such as uranium in groundwater. 17
We did not establish a separate priority system for reclamation and remediation of mines. We did describe the approaches being used. Priorities vary between agencies, states, and tribal nations because of different missions, and current and potential future land uses. All agencies, states, and tribal nations use variations on the proximity of abandoned mines to structures, schools, campgrounds, etc., as a criterion for prioritization of mine cleanup. Agencies may consider some relatively remote mines a high priority if the mines could impact ecologically important resources, such as fisheries. The availability of funds also drives priority. – Where Potentially Responsible Parties have been identified. – Where different agencies can partner to leverage limited funds. Co-constituents such as arsenic can contribute to risk at uranium mines. 18 Open pit prior to reclamation
Closing DOE LM is pleased with the amount of information it was able to collect on mine location and ore production from individual mines. Some categories such as status of reclamation or remediation of mines may be underestimated because many AML programs have not broken out uranium mines separately from other abandoned mines. DOE is continuing to collect additional information on mines. However, site visits will be required to fill most of the data gaps. We are on schedule to provide the report to Congress in July 2014 and will have it available for all interested stakeholders. 19 Measuring radon during a site visit in 2013