• A well-designed and executed monitoring plan, available to the public, is essential for gauging performance, determining and demonstrating compliance, triggering corrective actions, fostering transparency, and enhancing site-specific understanding. The monitoring strategy, encompassing baseline monitoring, operational monitoring, and decommissioning and postclosure monitoring, should be subject to annual updates and independent reviews to incorporate new knowledge or enhanced understanding gained from analysis of the monitoring data.
• Because the impacts of uranium mining and processing projects are, by their nature, localized, modern best practice is for project implementation and operations, whenever possible, to provide benefits and opportunities to the local region and local communities.
• Regulatory programs are inherently reactive, and as a result the standards contained in regulatory programs represent only a starting point for establishing a protective and proactive program for protecting worker and public health, environmental resources, and ecosystems. The concept of ALARA3 (as low as is reasonably achievable) is one way of enhancing regulatory standards.
The committee’s charge was to provide information and advice to the Virginia legislature as it weighs the factors involved in deciding whether to allow uranium mining. This report describes a range of potential issues that could arise if the moratorium on uranium mining were to be lifted, as well as providing information about best practices—applicable over the full uranium extraction life cycle—that are available to mitigate these potential issues.
If the Commonwealth of Virginia rescinds the existing moratorium on uranium mining, there are steep hurdles to be surmounted before mining and/or processing could be established within a regulatory environment that is appropriately protective of the health and safety of workers, the public, and the environment. There is only limited experience with modern underground and open-pit uranium mining and processing practices in the wider United States, and no such experience in Virginia. At the same time, there exist internationally accepted best practices, founded on principles of openness, transparency, and public involvement in oversight and decision making, that could provide a starting point for the Commonwealth of Virginia were it to decide that the moratorium should be lifted. After extensive scientific and technical briefings, substantial public input,
3ALARA (an acronym for “as low as is reasonably achievable”) is defined as “means making every reasonable effort to maintain exposures to radiation as far below the dose limits … as is practical consistent with the purpose for which the licensed activity is undertaken, taking into account the state of technology, the economics of improvements in relation to state of technology, the economics of improvements in relation to benefits to the public health and safety, and other societal and socioeconomic considerations, and in relation to utilization of nuclear energy and licensed materials in the public interest” (10 CFR § 20.1003).