ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Due to the large number of permit applications the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has received for new uranium mining in the West, the NRC has proposed the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (Draft GEIS) for In Situ Leach (ISL) uranium mining to quicken the approval process, but the Draft GEIS fails to address the site-specific issues that would affect each proposed mining location, particularly with respect to the possible contamination of groundwater. The Draft GEIS also completely fails to address the cumulative impacts of new ISL mining combined with pollution from past uranium mining and milling.
Among the Draft GEIS’ many shortcomings is its failure to analyze the impacts of permanently contaminated groundwater – a scenario the NRC concedes is likely. After a public meeting in Nebraska last week, Bill von Till, regional licensing branch chief of the NRC, acknowledged, “that although ISL mine permits call for returning groundwater to its original condition when mining is done, some of the ‘baseline parameters’ have proved unachievable for mining companies.” Mike Griffin, a representative of Uranium One, America with two license applications pending, explained how the industry accomplishes groundwater restoration: “[T]ypically it is not possible to bring water used in mining back to exactly match the 30 parameters that are measured as baseline standards. ‘That usually isn’t realistically achievable, because of geochemical changes,’ said Griffin.”1
The Draft GEIS also ignores the cumulative impacts of new ISL mining combined with pollution from past mining and milling. “The NRC’s analysis of cumulative impacts is totally unacceptable,” said Eric Jantz, Staff Attorney at the New Mexico Environmental Law Center. “One of the few useful functions of a generic environmental impact statement in the context of ISL mining is to evaluate regional cumulative impacts. In this case, the NRC has failed to take even a very basic look at cumulative impacts.”
The NMELC will be submitting public comments at the September 11th hearing in addition to written comments.
The NRC has scheduled a public hearing in Albuquerque, NM
WHO: The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
WHAT: Public Hearing on the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement for In Situ Leach uranium mining.
1 George Ledbetter of The Chadron News: http://www..com/articles/2008/09/08/chadron/headlines/news905.txt