Uranium Mining in Virginia

Scientific, Technical, Environmental, Human Health and Safety, and Regulatory Aspects of Uranium Mining and Processing in Virginia









Committee on Uranium Mining in Virginia

Committee on Earth Resources

Board on Earth Sciences and Resources

Division on Earth and Life Studies

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES



THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
Washington, D.C.
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Committee on Uranium Mining in Virginia Committee on Earth Resources Board on Earth Sciences and Resources Division on Earth and Life Studies THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS Washington, D.C. www.nap.edu

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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This study was supported by a grant from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univer- sity with funding provided by Virginia Uranium, Inc. The opinions, findings, and conclu - sions contained in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the study sponsors. International Standard Book Number 13: 978-0-309-22087-3 International Standard Book Number 10: 0-309-22087-4 Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Keck 360, Washington, DC 20001; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313; http:// www.nap.edu. Cover: Cover design by Michael Dudzik; map copyright Map Resources. Copyright 2012 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.

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The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a man - date that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examina - tion of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. www.national-academies.org

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COMMITTEE ON URANIUM MINING IN VIRGINIA PAUL A. LOCKE, Chair, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland CORBY G. ANDERSON, Colorado School of Mines, Golden LAWRENCE W. BARNTHOUSE, LWB Environmental Services, Inc., Hamilton, Ohio PAUL D. BLANC, University of California, San Francisco SCOTT C. BROOKS, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee PATRICIA A. BUFFLER, IOM, University of California, Berkeley MICHEL CUNEY, Nancy Université, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Vandoeuvre, France PETER L. deFUR, Environmental Stewardship Concepts, Henrico, Virginia MARY R. ENGLISH, University of Tennessee, Knoxville KEITH N. ESHLEMAN, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences, Frostburg R. WILLIAM FIELD, College of Public Health, University of Iowa, Iowa City JILL LIPOTI, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Trenton HENRY A. SCHNELL, AREVA NC (retired), British Columbia, Canada JEFFREY J. WONG, California Environmental Protection Agency, Sacramento National Research Council Staff DAVID A. FEARY, Study Director DEBORAH GLICKSON, Senior Program Officer STEPHANIE JOHNSON, Senior Program Officer SOLMAZ SPENCE, Communications Officer NICHOLAS D. ROGERS, Financial and Research Associate PENELOPE GIBBS, Senior Program Associate COURTNEY R. GIBBS, Program Associate JASON R. ORTEGO, Research Associate iv

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COMMITTEE ON EARTH RESOURCES CLAYTON R. NICHOLS, Chair, Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (retired), Ocean Park, Washington SARA J. BANASZAK, America’s Natural Gas Alliance, Washington, D.C. JAMES A. BRIERLEY, Brierley Consultancy LLC, Highlands Ranch, Colorado THURE CERLING, University of Utah, Salt Lake City ELAINE T. CULLEN, National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, Spokane Research Laboratory (retired), Chattaroy, Washington DONALD JUCKETT, American Association for Petroleum Geologists (retired), Springfield, Virginia ANN S. MAEST, Stratus Consulting, Boulder, Colorado LELAND L. “ROY” MINK, U.S. Department of Energy Geothermal Program (retired), Worley, Idaho MARY M. POULTON, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona ARTHUR W. RAY, Wiley Environmental Strategies, Columbia, Maryland RICHARD J. SWEIGARD, University of Kentucky, Lexington ELIZABETH J. WILSON, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis National Research Council Staff ELIZABETH A. EIDE, Senior Program Officer NICHOLAS D. ROGERS, Financial and Research Associate ERIC J. EDKIN, Senior Program Assistant v

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BOARD ON EARTH SCIENCES AND RESOURCES CORALE L. BRIERLEY, Chair, Brierley Consultancy LLC, Highlands Ranch, Colorado WILLIAM E. DIETRICH, University of California, Berkeley WILLIAM. L. GRAF, University of South Carolina, Columbia RUSSELL J. HEMLEY, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, D.C. MURRAY W. HITZMAN, Colorado School of Mines, Golden EDWARD KAVAZANJIAN, Jr., Arizona State University, Tempe DAVID R. MAIDMENT, University of Texas, Austin ROBERT B. MCMASTER, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis M. MEGHAN MILLER, UNAVCO, Inc., Boulder, Colorado ISABEL P. MONTAÑEZ, University of California, Davis CLAUDIA INÉS MORA, Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico BRIJ M. MOUDGIL, University of Florida, Gainesville CLAYTON R. NICHOLS, Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (retired), Ocean Park, Washington HENRY N. POLLACK, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor DAVID T. SANDWELL, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla PETER M. SHEARER, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla REGINAL SPILLER, Azimuth Investments LLC, Texas TERRY C. WALLACE, Jr., Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico National Research Council Staff ANTHONY R. de SOUZA, Director (until April 2012) ELIZABETH A. EIDE, Director (from April 2012) DAVID A. FEARY, Senior Program Officer ANNE M. LINN, Senior Program Officer SAMMANTHA L. MAGSINO, Senior Program Officer MARK D. LANGE, Program Officer JENNIFER T. ESTEP, Financial and Administrative Associate NICHOLAS D. ROGERS, Financial and Research Associate JASON R. ORTEGO, Research Associate COURTNEY R. GIBBS, Program Associate ERIC J. EDKIN, Senior Program Assistant CHANDA IJAMES, Senior Program Assistant vi

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Preface T he Commonwealth of Virginia first undertook the study of uranium min- ing and processing more than 25 years ago, after several potentially com- mercially viable deposits of uranium were discovered in the state. Since that time, issues surrounding uranium mining have raised substantial questions and have been extensively debated and discussed. In 2009, the National Research Council of the National Academies was asked to undertake this study and address a series of detailed questions about uranium mining, processing, and reclamation to assist decision making by the Commonwealth of Virginia. In accepting its charge to address a highly emotive issue such as uranium mining and its related activities, the committee was mindful of its obligation to provide technical and scientific answers to the questions in its statement of task. In doing so, the committee benefited from briefings provided by international experts, including U.S. and international regulators, scientists, engineers, and others. Equally important, the committee benefited from the extensive testimony provided by the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia. We received many hours of public input, spread over all but one of our committee meetings, but particularly focused on the two evening “town hall” meetings that we held in Danville and Richmond, Virginia. Hundreds of members of local communities attended and spoke at these town hall sessions. On behalf of the committee, I wish to express our appreciation for the many specific comments and questions directed to the committee at these gatherings. We are hopeful that our report is reflective of what we learned, and that with this report we have managed to help inform the public discussion and debate on this important topic. Although we specifically do not make any recommendations concerning whether mining and processing of uranium should or should not be permitted in the Commonwealth vii

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viii PREFACE of Virginia, we believe that this report will provide a solid scientific basis to inform those who will make such decisions on behalf of Virginia citizens and their communities. The need to prepare our report in time for the 2011-2012 legislative session in Virginia imposed a very tight time limit, as we sought to collectively under- stand the scientific, technical, and regulatory subtleties of issues usually outside our specific disciplines. As we started the committee process, we realized that it would not be possible, considering the breadth of the task statement and the time constraints, to prepare a scientifically and technically dense treatise. I thank the committee for rising to the challenge and preparing a report that we hope will be—as much as possible given the specialized nature of its content—accessible to legislators and the wider public who are interested in this topic. I would also like to thank the committee members for their thoughtful deliberations and will - ingness to consider alternative viewpoints and learn from, and share, expertise across disciplines. Finally, the committee acknowledges the support provided by the National Research Council staff, who handled our numerous and sometimes challenging logistic and research demands. In particular, the committee would like to thank Deborah Glickson, Jason Ortego, and Solmaz Spence for contributing to the report writing and research efforts, and Courtney Gibbs and Penelope Gibbs for making sure that our meetings ran without a hitch. Stephanie Johnson added her scholarship and organizational skills and, by doing so, improved our work. Anthony de Souza provided the committee with his valuable perspective and experience. Special thanks and praise go to two staff members who were instrumental to this report. Nicholas Rogers played a key role in almost all aspects of this proj - ect as a researcher and financial manager. And David Feary, our study director, kept the committee on track and moving in the right direction. The committee is indebted to him for his hard work and leadership. Paul A. Locke, Chair Committee on Uranium Mining in Virginia

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Acknowledgments T his report was greatly enhanced by all those who made presentations to the committee at the public committee meetings, both the speakers specifically invited by the committee to make presentations as well as the numerous interested citizens who provided their perspectives and viewpoints. The presen - tations and discussions at these meetings provided invaluable input and context for the committee’s deliberations. The provision of additional text and figures by William Lassetter, Theresa McClenaghan, Jim Neton, and Maria Angelica Zamora-Duran are also gratefully acknowledged. This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this inde- pendent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsive - ness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report: Jan Beyea, Consulting in the Public Interest, Lambertville, New Jersey Corale L. Brierley, Brierley Consulting, Highlands Ranch, Colorado Philip Egidi, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Grand Junction, Colorado Rodney C. Ewing, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor John Greeves, JTG Consulting, Frederick, Maryland Kelvin Gregory, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania David C. Kocher, SENES Oak Ridge, Inc., Oak Ridge, Tennessee ix

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x PREFACE ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Craig Little, Tow Lines Inc., Grand Junction, Colorado Robert Pierson, Independent Consultant, Walkersville, West Virginia Samuel B. Romberger, Colorado School of Mines, Golden Jonathan M. Samet, University of Southern California, Los Angeles William H. Schlesinger, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, New York Courtney Young, Montana Tech of the University of Montana, Butte Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Dianne R. Nielson, energy and envi- ronmental policy consultant, and Chris G. Whipple, ENVIRON International Corporation. Appointed by the National Research Council, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.

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Contents SUMMARY 1 NONTECHNICAL SUMMARY 11 1 INTRODUCTION 29 Study Background, 29 Definitions, 30 Committee Process, 31 Report Scope and Structure, 33 2 VIRGINIA PHYSICAL AND SOCIAL CONTEXT 35 Geology and Geography of Virginia, 36 Climatic and Environmental Characteristics, 40 Social Characteristics, 47 Findings and Key Concepts, 52 3 URANIUM OCCURRENCES, RESOURCES, AND MARKETS 54 Worldwide Occurrences of Uranium, 55 Virginia Occurrences and Prospectivity Status, 67 Uranium Resources, Reserves, and Markets, 81 Findings and Key Concepts, 95 4 URANIUM MINING, PROCESSING, AND RECLAMATION 96 Uranium Mining Methods, 98 Uranium Processing Methods, 106 Water Treatment, 117 xi

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xii CONTENTS Tailings Disposal, 119 Reclamation and Closure, 121 Findings and Key Concepts, 122 5 POTENTIAL HUMAN HEALTH EFFECTS OF URANIUM MINING, PROCESSING, AND RECLAMATION 123 Radionuclide-Related Health Hazards, 126 Radon Health Hazards, 134 Uranium Health Hazards, 149 Radium Health Hazards, 154 Principal Uranium Mining and Processing Exposures other than Radionuclides, 156 Miscellaneous Health Impacts, 169 Findings and Key Concepts, 175 6 POTENTIAL ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS OF URANIUM MINING, PROCESSING, AND RECLAMATION 178 Environmental Exposure Pathways, 179 Surface Water Effects, 180 Groundwater Effects, 196 Soil Effects, 201 Air Effects, 202 Ecological Effects, 204 Environmental Monitoring, 215 Findings and Key Concepts, 221 7 REGULATION AND OVERSIGHT OF URANIUM MINING, PROCESSING, RECLAMATION, AND LONG-TERM STEWARDSHIP 223 Federal Laws, Regulations, and Policies, 233 State Agencies, Laws, Regulations, and Policies, 245 Public Participation in the Regulation of Uranium Mining, Processing, and Reclamation, 254 Findings and Key Concepts, 256 8 BEST PRACTICES 258 Overarching Best-Practice Principles, 261 Specific Best Practices, 265 Overarching Conclusion, 275 REFERENCES 277 GLOSSARY 300

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xiii CONTENTS APPENDIXES A Study Request Letters 310 B Committee Biographical Sketches 318 C World Nuclear Association Basic Principles 324 D IRPA Guiding Principles for Radiation Protection Professionals on Stakeholder Engagement 330 E Presentations to Committee 339 F Acronyms and Abbreviations 342

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