Ground Water Protection at Uranium In Situ Recovery Facilities, 574-578 [2019-00435]

Download as PDF khammond on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS 574 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 21 / Thursday, January 31, 2019 / Proposed Rules the size requirements would allow Colorado Area 2 handlers to market more of their potatoes and enable them to better compete with the other domestic potato producing regions. All other requirements in the Order’s handling regulations would remain unchanged. Authority for this action is contained in §§ 948.20, 948.21, and 948.22 of the Order. This proposed rule is expected to benefit the producers, handlers, and consumers of Colorado Area 2 potatoes by allowing a greater quantity of potatoes from the production area to enter the fresh market. The anticipated increase in volume is expected to translate into greater returns for handlers and producers, and more purchasing options for consumers. After discussing possible alternatives to this proposed rule, the Committee determined that a change in the size requirements for U.S. No. 2 or better grade round potatoes, and U.S. Commercial grade or better potatoes, would meet the industry’s current needs while maintaining the integrity of the Order’s quality objectives. During its deliberations, the Committee considered making no changes to the handling regulation, as well as further changing the size requirements for all potatoes. The Committee believes that a revision to the Order’s size requirements is necessary to allow handlers to pursue all available markets, but further revising the size requirements for all other types and varieties of potatoes could erode the quality reputation of the area’s production. Therefore, the Committee found that there were no other viable alternatives to the proposal as recommended. In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. Chapter 35), the Order’s information collection requirements have been previously approved by OMB and assigned OMB No. 0581–0178, Vegetable and Specialty Crops. No changes would be necessary in those requirements as a result of this action. Should any changes become necessary, they would be submitted to OMB for approval. This proposed rule would revise the size requirements established under the Order. Accordingly, this action would not impose any additional reporting or recordkeeping requirements on either small or large potato handlers and importers. As with all Federal marketing order programs, reports and forms are periodically reviewed to reduce information requirements and duplication by industry and public sector agencies. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:23 Jan 30, 2019 Jkt 247001 AMS is committed to complying with the E-Government Act, to promote the use of the internet and other information technologies to provide increased opportunities for citizen access to Government information and services, and for other purposes. USDA has not identified any relevant Federal rules that duplicate, overlap, or conflict with this proposed rule. The Committee’s July 18, 2018, meeting was widely publicized throughout the Colorado Area 2 potato industry, and all interested persons were invited to attend the meeting and participate in Committee deliberations on all issues. Like all Committee meetings, the meeting was public, and all entities, both large and small, were able to express their views on this issue. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on this proposed rule, including the regulatory and information collection impacts of this action on small businesses. A small business guide on complying with fruit, vegetable, and specialty crop marketing agreements and orders may be viewed at: http://www.ams.usda.gov/ rules-regulations/moa/small-businesses. Any questions about the compliance guide should be sent to Richard Lower at the previously mentioned address in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section. A 60-day comment period is provided to allow interested persons to respond to this proposal. All written comments timely received will be considered before a final determination is made on this matter. List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 948 Marketing agreements, Potatoes, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements. For the reasons set forth in the preamble, 7 CFR part 948 is proposed to be amended as follows: PART 948—IRISH POTATOES GROWN IN COLORADO 1. The authority citation for part 948 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 7 U.S.C. 601–674. 2. In § 948.386, remove paragraph (a)(1), redesignate paragraphs (a)(2) through (a)(5) as paragraphs (a)(1) through (a)(4), and revise new paragraphs (a)(1) and (a)(3) to read as follows: ■ § 948.386 * Handling regulation. * * (a) * * * PO 00000 Frm 00003 * Fmt 4702 * Sfmt 4702 (1) All varieties. U.S. No. 2 or better grade, 2 inches minimum diameter or 4 ounces minimum weight. * * * * * (3) 3⁄4-inch minimum to 17⁄8-inch maximum diameter. U.S. Commercial grade or better. * * * * * Dated: January 26, 2019. Bruce Summers, Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service. [FR Doc. 2019–00553 Filed 1–30–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410–02–P NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION 10 CFR Part 40 [NRC–2008–0421] RIN 3150–AI40 Ground Water Protection at Uranium In Situ Recovery Facilities Nuclear Regulatory Commission. ACTION: Request for comment. AGENCY: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is requesting views from interested stakeholders on whether the NRC should resume rulemaking to amend its regulations governing the domestic licensing of source material by codifying general requirements to address ground water protection at uranium in situ recovery (ISR) facilities. The NRC currently regulates ISR operations through application of regulations that primarily focus on conventional uranium mills and sitespecific license conditions. The NRC initiated rulemaking in 2006 to develop requirements to provide regulatory consistency and improve the efficiency of the ISR licensing process but placed this rulemaking on hold in 2010. Information provided to the NRC during the public comment period will be factored into the decision as to whether the NRC will continue this rulemaking. DATES: Submit comments by March 4, 2019. Comments received after this date will be considered if it is practical to do so, but the NRC is able to ensure consideration only for comments received on or before this date. The NRC will not prepare written responses to each individual comment but will consider each in determining the path forward for this rulemaking. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by any of the following methods: • Federal Rulemaking Website: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\31JAP1.SGM 31JAP1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 21 / Thursday, January 31, 2019 / Proposed Rules for Docket ID NRC–2008–0421. Address questions about NRC dockets to Carol Gallagher; telephone: 301–415–3463; email: Carol.Gallagher@nrc.gov. For technical questions contact the individuals listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section of this document. • Email comments to: Rulemaking.Comments@nrc.gov. If you do not receive an automatic email reply confirming receipt, then contact us at 301–415–1677. • Fax comments to: Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission at 301– 415–1101. • Mail comments to: Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555–0001, ATTN: Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff. • Hand deliver comments to: 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland 20852, between 7:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. (Eastern Time) Federal workdays; telephone: 301–415–1677. For additional direction on obtaining information and submitting comments, see ‘‘Obtaining Information and Submitting Comments’’ in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Andrew G. Carrera, telephone: 301– 415–1078; email: Andrew.Carrera@ nrc.gov; or Gary Comfort, telephone: 301–415–8106; email: Gary.Comfort@ nrc.gov. Both are staff of the Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555–0001. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: khammond on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS I. Obtaining Information and Submitting Comments A. Obtaining Information Please refer to Docket ID NRC–2008– 0421 when contacting the NRC about the availability of information for this action. You may obtain publiclyavailable information related to this action by any of the following methods: • Federal Rulemaking Website: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC–2008–0421. • NRC’s Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS): You may obtain publiclyavailable documents online in the ADAMS Public Documents collection at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/ adams.html. To begin the search, select ‘‘Begin Web-based ADAMS Search.’’ For problems with ADAMS, please contact the NRC’s Public Document Room (PDR) reference staff at 1–800–397–4209, 301– 415–4737, or by email to pdr.resource@ nrc.gov. For the convenience of the reader, instructions about obtaining VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:23 Jan 30, 2019 Jkt 247001 materials referenced in this document are provided in the ‘‘Availability of Documents’’ section. • NRC’s PDR: You may examine and purchase copies of public documents at the NRC’s PDR, Room O1–F21, One White Flint North, 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland 20852. B. Submitting Comments Please include Docket ID NRC–2008– 0421 in your comment submission. The NRC cautions you not to include identifying or contact information that you do not want to be publicly disclosed in your comment submission. The NRC will post all comment submissions at http:// www.regulations.gov as well as enter the comment submissions into ADAMS. The NRC does not routinely edit comment submissions to remove identifying or contact information. If you are requesting or aggregating comments from other persons for submission to the NRC, then you should inform those persons not to include identifying or contact information that they do not want to be publicly disclosed in their comment submission. Your request should state that the NRC does not routinely edit comment submissions to remove such information before making the comment submissions available to the public or entering the comment into ADAMS. II. Background In situ recovery is a method used to extract uranium from underground ore bodies without physical excavation. It is also known as ‘‘solution mining’’ or in situ leaching. In the ISR process, a solution called lixiviant is pumped into the subsurface. In the United States, lixiviant typically contains water mixed with oxygen and/or hydrogen peroxide, as well as sodium carbonate or carbon dioxide. The lixiviant dissolves the uranium, located in the underground ore body, into the solution. The solution is then pumped to the surface, where it undergoes additional processing and concentration to produce a solid form of uranium called ‘‘yellowcake.’’ The yellowcake is ultimately used in the manufacture of fuel for nuclear reactors. The licensed area of a typical uranium ISR facility covers several square miles and may include several discrete or contiguous wellfields, some of which may be operating while others may be in restoration or decommissioning. Each ISR wellfield is composed of a series of injection and extraction wells drilled into a uranium ore body that has been identified in a subsurface geologic formation within the wellfield. The aquifer within the formation where the PO 00000 Frm 00004 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 575 ore body is located is commonly referred to as the ‘‘ore zone aquifer’’. Currently, there are six ISR facilities operating in the United States. Uranium ISR was introduced in the late 1970s as an alternative to conventional uranium recovery, which involves extracting uranium ore from the earth, typically through deep underground shafts or shallow open pits. Ore extracted by conventional uranium recovery is transported to a mill, where it is crushed and undergoes a chemical process to remove the uranium. The uranium is then concentrated to produce yellowcake. The sandy waste resulting from crushing the uranium ore is known as ‘‘uranium mill tailings’’ or ‘‘tailings.’’ Tailings contain heavy metals and radioactive constituents, such as radium. Alternatively, uranium may be recovered from the ore using a heap leach process. In the heap leach process, the ore is placed on an engineered barrier and sprayed with acid. The uranium dissolves into solution and is collected at the engineered barrier. The solution undergoes additional chemical processing to produce yellowcake. Currently, there is one operating conventional uranium mill and there are no operating heap leach facilities in the United States. The NRC licenses ISR facilities under part 40 of title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR), ‘‘Domestic Licensing of Source Material,’’ because these facilities possess and use source material.1 The possession and use of source material are activities that require a license from the NRC under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended (AEA).2 The waste (tailings) generated as a result of the ISR process falls within a category of byproduct material defined in section 11e.(2) of the AEA. Specifically, in section 11e.(2), byproduct material is defined as ‘‘the tailings or wastes produced by the extraction or concentration of uranium or thorium from any ore processed 1 The term ‘‘source material’’ is defined as ‘‘(1) Uranium or thorium, or any combination thereof, in any physical or chemical form or (2) ores which contain by weight one-twentieth of one percent (0.05%) or more of: (i) Uranium, (ii) thorium or (iii) any combination thereof.’’ 10 CFR 40.4, ‘‘Definitions’’. 2 AEA, § 62, 42 U.S.C. 2092 (‘‘Unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by the [Nuclear Regulatory] Commission . . . no person may transfer or receive in interstate commerce, transfer, deliver, receive possession of or title to, or import into or export from the United States any source material after removal from its place of deposit in nature . . .’’). E:\FR\FM\31JAP1.SGM 31JAP1 576 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 21 / Thursday, January 31, 2019 / Proposed Rules khammond on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS primarily for its source material content.’’ 3 Under the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978 (UMTRCA) (Pub. L. 95–604), the NRC is responsible for regulating section 11e.(2) byproduct material at sites where such material is generated. Congress enacted UMTRCA to provide public health, safety, and environmental protection from the radiological and nonradiological hazards associated with the processing, possession, transfer, and disposal of AEA section 11e.(2) byproduct material. The UMTRCA amended the AEA by adding to it the section 11e.(2) definition of byproduct material and sections 84 and 275. The AEA, as amended by UMTRCA, established a dual regulatory scheme over the domestic uranium milling industry between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the NRC. Under section 275b. of the AEA, the EPA is authorized to issue standards of general applicability for the protection of health, safety, and the environment from radiological and nonradiological hazards associated with the processing of section 11(e)(2) byproduct material.4 Under AEA section 84,5 the NRC or the appropriate Agreement State 6 is responsible for implementing the EPA’s generally applicable standards. In this regard, the NRC or the applicable Agreement State entity is the regulatory or licensing agency for all uranium recovery facilities, including ISR facilities, and is responsible for inspecting the facility and enforcing the terms and conditions of the operating license.7 The EPA first issued generally applicable standards on October 7, 1983 3 AEA, § 11e.(2); 42 U.S.C. 2014(e)(2). In 10 CFR 40.4, the NRC further defines section 11e.(2) byproduct material as ‘‘the tailings or wastes produced by the extraction or concentration of uranium or thorium from any ore processed primarily for its source material content, including discrete surface wastes resulting from uranium solution extraction processes. Underground ore bodies depleted by such solution extraction operations do not constitute ‘byproduct material’ within this definition.’’ 4 42 U.S.C. 2022(b). 5 42 U.S.C. 2114. 6 Section 274 of the AEA authorizes the NRC to relinquish or discontinue its regulatory authority over certain categories of radioactive material to a State following a duly executed agreement between the NRC and the governor of the State. 42 U.S.C. 2021. After the agreement is entered into, the State, now an ‘‘Agreement State,’’ must promulgate or adopt regulations compatible to those NRC regulations that govern the subject matter areas relinquished to the Agreement State. 7 AEA § 275b.(2); 42 U.S.C. 2022(b)(2) (‘‘no permit issued by the [EPA] Administrator is required under this Act or the [Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, 42 U.S.C. 6901 et seq.] for the processing, possession, transfer, or disposal of [section 11e.(2)] byproduct material’’). VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:23 Jan 30, 2019 Jkt 247001 (48 FR 45926) and updated these standards on November 15, 1993 (58 FR 60340). The EPA codified these standards into its regulations at 40 CFR part 192, ‘‘Health and Environmental Protection Standards for Uranium and Thorium Mill Tailings,’’ subpart D, ‘‘Standards for Management of Uranium Byproduct Materials Pursuant to Section 84 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended.’’ The NRC issued its implementing regulations on October 16, 1985 (50 FR 41852) and further amended them in subsequent rulemakings.8 The NRC codified its implementing regulations at 10 CFR part 40, ‘‘Domestic Licensing of Source Material,’’ appendix A, ‘‘Criteria Relating to the Operation of Uranium Mills and the Disposition of Tailings or Wastes Produced by the Extraction or Concentration of Source Material from Ores Processed Primarily for their Source Material Content.’’ In the 1990s, ISR operations became the predominant means of extracting uranium in the United States. In COMJSM–06–0001, ‘‘Regulation of Groundwater Protection at In Situ Leach Uranium Extraction Facilities,’’ dated January 17, 2006 (ADAMS Accession No. ML060830041), NRC Commissioner Merrifield stated: [W]hile the staff has done its best to regulate [ISR] licensees through the generally applicable requirements in Part 40 and imposition of license conditions, our failure to promulgate specific regulations for [ISRs] has resulted in an inconsistent and ineffective regulatory program. We have been attempting to force a square peg into a round hole for years, and I believe we should finally remedy this situation through notice and comment rulemaking. In developing a proposed rule, the staff should formulate a regulatory framework that is tailored specifically to this unique group of licensees. In the Commission’s subsequent staff requirements memorandum, dated March 23, 2006 (ADAMS Accession No. ML060820503), the Commission approved the initiation of a rulemaking for the purpose of providing clarity, predictability, and consistency to the licensing and regulation of ISR facilities. In 2010, the EPA informed the NRC that it would undertake its own rulemaking effort to issue generally applicable standards for ISRs. The NRC then deferred its ongoing ISR rulemaking effort, prior to the 8 Substantive amendments include 52 FR 43553 (November 13, 1987) (NRC conforming amendments not covered in the October 16, 1985 rule); 53 FR 19240 (May 27, 1988) (record retention periods); 59 FR 28220 (June 1, 1994) (emplacement of final radon barrier on conventional mill tailings piles); and 76 FR 35512 (June 17, 2011) (financial assurance requirements associated with decommissioning planning). PO 00000 Frm 00005 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 publication of a proposed rule, in anticipation of the need to conform its implementing regulations to the generally applicable standards to be issued by the EPA. The EPA issued its proposed rule on January 26, 2015 (80 FR 4156). Subsequently, the EPA decided to re-propose the rule and seek additional public comment. The EPA issued the re-proposed rule, superseding the January 2015 proposed rule, on January 19, 2017 (82 FR 7400). The NRC had jurisdictional and technical concerns with both the January 2015 and January 2017 proposed rules and submitted comments addressing these concerns on July 18, 2017 (ADAMS Accession No. ML17173A638). On October 30, 2018 (83 FR 54543), the EPA withdrew its proposed rule. The EPA concluded, based on comments from stakeholders, that it had serious questions concerning whether it has the legal authority under UMTRCA to issue the regulations as provided in the 2017 proposed rule. The EPA also concluded that the existing regulatory framework was sufficient to ensure the protection of public health and the environment at existing ISRs. Finally, the EPA stated that, given current and foreseeable market conditions, the uranium recovery industry was not likely to have the robust growth that was anticipated in the 2000s. Given the EPA’s withdrawal of its proposed rule, the NRC must now decide whether to proceed with its 2006 ISR-specific rulemaking, held in abeyance since 2010. III. Discussion The current version of appendix A to 10 CFR part 40 provides a generic set of regulations for the operation of conventional uranium mills. With respect to the NRC’s licensing of ISR facilities, the current regulations in appendix A, coupled with the conditions of ISR site-specific licenses and the NRC’s ongoing oversight of the licensees’ operations, provide adequate protection to the public health and safety and the environment. The NRC’s purpose in promulgating a generic set of regulations for the operation of ISRs is to standardize existing NRC ISR licensing and oversight practices and to ensure consistency in the NRC staff’s evaluation and approval of ISR license applications. In addition, the promulgation of generic regulations for ISR facilities would provide a national regulatory framework from which Agreement States can, in turn, promulgate their own compatible regulatory standards. If the NRC continues with this rulemaking, the amendments to appendix A would be E:\FR\FM\31JAP1.SGM 31JAP1 577 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 21 / Thursday, January 31, 2019 / Proposed Rules based upon many of the license conditions that are contained in current NRC-issued site-specific ISR licenses and would be further informed by the approved methodologies and best practices set forth in those NRC guidance documents that are applicable to ISR activities. ISR operations are substantially different from those of conventional uranium milling, including the measures taken to ensure the protection of groundwater. The requirements for groundwater protection at conventional uranium mills are mainly concerned with the prevention, detection, and correction of contamination in shallow aquifers from seepage and leaks associated with the long-term management of mill tailings impoundments. At ISR facilities, however, the main concern is contamination of the surrounding groundwater by the short-term degradation of the water quality in the ore zone aquifer during ISR operations. Specifically, the groundwater chemistry in the ore zone aquifer is altered by the injection of lixiviant, which along with dissolving the uranium located in the underground ore body, also mobilizes hazardous constituents such as metals and radionuclides like radium. If the lixiviant is not controlled within the ore zone aquifer, then these hazardous constituents may migrate outside the ISR wellfield and potentially contaminate surrounding groundwater and connected surface water. Therefore, the NRC and the Agreement States have included license conditions in ISR licenses requiring ISR licensees to satisfy certain technical criteria that will protect surrounding groundwater during ISR operations and restore the water quality in ore zone aquifers after ISR operations. Unlike conventional mill tailings impoundments that require long-term management for groundwater protection, ISR wellfields may be decommissioned and the ISR license terminated once groundwater restoration requirements are met. The NRC initiated the ISR rulemaking in 2006 to provide regulatory predictability and consistency to the licensing process for ISRs. By establishing a generic set of requirements for ISR activities, the rule would improve regulatory efficiency and make the NRC’s review process for ISR license applications and amendments more consistent and transparent to the public and industry. Most ISR facilities currently in operation are licensed by Agreement States. One of the requirements of the NRC’s Agreement State program is that the regulations of an Agreement State must be ‘‘compatible’’ with the NRC’s regulatory program.9 Therefore, in accordance with the NRC’s Agreement State program, the promulgation of an NRC rulemaking specific to ISR facilities would require Agreement States to conform their regulations, to the extent appropriate, to the new or amended NRC regulations. The benefit of having Agreement States conform their regulations would be the establishment of a relatively uniform 10 set of both groundwater protection and radiation health and safety requirements for ISR facilities nationwide. In light of the EPA’s withdrawal of its January 2017 proposed rule, the NRC is now conducting an assessment of the requirements in 10 CFR part 40 appendix A pertaining to the licensing of ISRs and is requesting input from members of the public about the topics discussed in the ‘‘Request for Comments’’ section. The information received from this request will be factored into the decision whether to continue this rulemaking. IV. Request for Comments The NRC welcomes general comments and seeks comments in response to the numbered items in this section. In responding to these numbered items, please provide your rationale or justification for your position. In addition, please provide a discussion of any factors that you considered in providing your opinion and any recommendations to assist the NRC in improving its regulatory process. The factors that the NRC must consider in determining whether to proceed with this rulemaking include technical feasibility, a cost-benefit analysis, and consistency and clarity of applicable regulations for the adequate protection of the health and safety and the environment. 1. If the NRC were to proceed with its ISR rulemaking that has been held in abeyance since 2010, the NRC would amend its current uranium milling regulations in appendix A to 10 CFR part 40 to add ISR-specific requirements. Should the NRC proceed with this rulemaking? 2. Please identify any issues that should be addressed to protect groundwater at ISR facilities, in either this rulemaking or through the development of guidance documents. 3. Please identify any issues that should be addressed to enhance public or occupational safety at ISR facilities, in either this rulemaking or through the development of guidance documents. 4. Please identify any issues that should be addressed to establish a relatively uniform set of requirements for ISR facilities nationwide (both in Agreement States and in non-Agreement States). VI. Availability of Documents The documents identified in the following table are available to interested persons through one or more of the following methods, as indicated. ADAMS accession No./ Federal Register citation Document khammond on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS COMJSM–06–0001, ‘‘Regulation of Groundwater Protection at In Situ Leach Uranium Extraction Facilities,’’ dated January 17, 2006. Staff Requirements Memorandum-COMJSM–06–0001, ‘‘Regulation of Groundwater Protection at In Situ Leach Uranium Extraction Facilities,’’ dated March 23, 2006. 9 Agreement State Program Policy Statement, 82 FR 48535–39 (October 18, 2017); see also id. at 48536–37 (‘‘The NRC and the Agreement States have the responsibility to ensure that the radiation control programs are compatible. Such radiation control programs should be based on a common regulatory philosophy including the common use of definitions and standards. The programs should be effective and cooperatively implemented by the VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:23 Jan 30, 2019 Jkt 247001 NRC and the Agreement States and also should provide uniformity and achieve common strategic outcomes in program areas of national significance.’’). 10 Based upon the compatibility category (see id. at 48538–39) that the NRC assigns to each new or amended regulation, Agreement States should have a substantial degree of flexibility in promulgating PO 00000 Frm 00006 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 ML060830041 ML060820503 their conforming regulations. Id. at 48537 (‘‘With the exception of those compatibility areas where programs should be essentially identical, Agreement State radiation control programs have flexibility in program implementation and administration to accommodate individual State preferences, State legislative direction, and local needs and conditions.’’). E:\FR\FM\31JAP1.SGM 31JAP1 578 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 21 / Thursday, January 31, 2019 / Proposed Rules ADAMS accession No./ Federal Register citation Document ‘‘40 CFR Part 192, Health and Environmental Protection Standards for Uranium and Thorium Mill Tailings; Proposed Rule,’’ January 19, 2017. ‘‘40 CFR Part 192, Health and Environmental Protection Standards for Uranium and Thorium Mill Tailings; Proposed Rule; Withdrawal,’’ October 30, 2018. NUREG–1569, ‘‘Standard Review Plan for In Situ Leach Uranium Extraction License Applications: Final Report,’’ June 2003 ‘‘NRC Staff’s Comments on EPA Proposed Rulemaking for 40 CFR Part 192 Rule, 82 FR 7400,’’ July 17, 2017 ..................... ‘‘40 CFR Part 192, Environmental Standards for Uranium and Thorium Mill Tailings at Licensed Commercial Processing Sites; Final Rule,’’ October 7, 1983. ‘‘40 CFR Part 192, Environmental Standards for Uranium and Thorium Mill Tailings at Licensed Commercial Processing Sites; Final Rule,’’ November 15, 1993. ‘‘Uranium Mill Tailings Regulations; Conforming NRC Requirements to EPA Standards; Final Rule,’’ October 16, 1985 .......... ‘‘40 CFR Part 192, Health and Environmental Protection Standards for Uranium and Thorium Mill Tailings; Proposed Rule,’’ January 26, 2015. Throughout the development of this assessment, the NRC may post related documents, including public comments, on the Federal rulemaking website at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket ID NRC–2008–0421. The Federal rulemaking website allows you to receive alerts when changes or additions occur in a docket folder. To subscribe: (1) Navigate to the docket folder (NRC– 2008–0421); (2) click the ‘‘Sign up for Email Alerts’’ link; and (3) enter your email address and select how frequently you would like to receive emails (daily, weekly, or monthly). Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 28th day of January 2019. For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Theresa V. Clark, Deputy Director, Division of Rulemaking, Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards. [FR Doc. 2019–00435 Filed 1–30–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 7590–01–P NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION 10 CFR Parts 170 and 171 [NRC–2017–0032; Docket No. PRM–170–7; NRC–2018–0172] RIN 3150–AJ99 Revision of Fee Schedules; Fee Recovery for Fiscal Year 2019 Nuclear Regulatory Commission. ACTION: Proposed rule. khammond on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS AGENCY: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is proposing to amend the licensing, inspection, special project, and annual fees charged to its applicants and licensees. These proposed amendments are necessary to implement the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990, as amended (OBRA–90), which requires the NRC to SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:23 Jan 30, 2019 Jkt 247001 recover approximately 90 percent of its annual budget through fees less certain amounts excluded from this feerecovery requirement. President Trump signed the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2019 on September 21, 2018. That Act appropriated approximately $911.0 million to the NRC, which is a decrease of approximately $11.0 million from FY 2018. Based on that total budget authority, the NRC is proposing to collect $781.9 million in fees in FY 2019. DATES: Submit comments by March 4, 2019. Comments received after this date will be considered if it is practical to do so, but the NRC is able to ensure consideration only for comments received before this date. Because OBRA–90 requires the NRC to collect the FY 2019 fees by September 30, 2019, the NRC will not grant any requests for an extension of the comment period. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by any of the following methods (unless this document describes a different method for submitting comments on a specific subject): • Federal Rulemaking Website: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC–2017–0032. Address questions about NRC dockets to Carol Gallagher; telephone: 301–415–3463; email: Carol.Gallagher@nrc.gov. For technical questions, contact the individual listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section of this proposed rule. • Email comments to: Rulemaking.Comments@nrc.gov. If you do not receive an automatic email reply confirming receipt, then contact us at 301–415–1677. • Fax comments to: Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission at 301– 415–1101. • Mail comments to: Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, PO 00000 Frm 00007 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 82 FR 7400 83 FR 54543 ML032310005 ML17173A638 48 FR 45926 58 FR 60340 50 FR 41852 80 FR 4156 Washington, DC 20555–0001, ATTN: Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff. • Hand deliver comments to: 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland 20852, between 7:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. (Eastern Time) Federal workdays; telephone: 301–415–1677. For additional direction on obtaining information and submitting comments, see ‘‘Obtaining Information and Submitting Comments’’ in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michele Kaplan, Office of the Chief Financial Officer, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555–0001, telephone: 301–415– 5256; email: Michele.Kaplan@nrc.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Table of Contents I. Obtaining Information and Submitting Comments II. Background; Statutory Authority III. Specific Request for Comment: Petition for Rulemaking IV. Discussion V. Regulatory Flexibility Certification VI. Regulatory Analysis VII. Backfitting and Issue Finality VIII. Plain Writing IX. National Environmental Policy Act X. Paperwork Reduction Act Public Protection Notification XI. Voluntary Consensus Standards XII. Availability of Guidance XIII. Public Meeting XIV. Availability of Documents I. Obtaining Information and Submitting Comments A. Obtaining Information Please refer to Docket ID NRC–2017– 0032 when contacting the NRC about the availability of information for this action. You may obtain publiclyavailable information related to this action by any of the following methods: E:\FR\FM\31JAP1.SGM 31JAP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 21 (Thursday, January 31, 2019)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 574-578]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-00435]


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NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION

10 CFR Part 40

[NRC-2008-0421]
RIN 3150-AI40


Ground Water Protection at Uranium In Situ Recovery Facilities

AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

ACTION: Request for comment.

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SUMMARY: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is requesting 
views from interested stakeholders on whether the NRC should resume 
rulemaking to amend its regulations governing the domestic licensing of 
source material by codifying general requirements to address ground 
water protection at uranium in situ recovery (ISR) facilities. The NRC 
currently regulates ISR operations through application of regulations 
that primarily focus on conventional uranium mills and site-specific 
license conditions. The NRC initiated rulemaking in 2006 to develop 
requirements to provide regulatory consistency and improve the 
efficiency of the ISR licensing process but placed this rulemaking on 
hold in 2010. Information provided to the NRC during the public comment 
period will be factored into the decision as to whether the NRC will 
continue this rulemaking.

DATES: Submit comments by March 4, 2019. Comments received after this 
date will be considered if it is practical to do so, but the NRC is 
able to ensure consideration only for comments received on or before 
this date. The NRC will not prepare written responses to each 
individual comment but will consider each in determining the path 
forward for this rulemaking.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by any of the following methods:
     Federal Rulemaking Website: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search

[[Page 575]]

for Docket ID NRC-2008-0421. Address questions about NRC dockets to 
Carol Gallagher; telephone: 301-415-3463; email: 
Carol.Gallagher@nrc.gov. For technical questions contact the 
individuals listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section of 
this document.
     Email comments to: Rulemaking.Comments@nrc.gov. If you do 
not receive an automatic email reply confirming receipt, then contact 
us at 301-415-1677.
     Fax comments to: Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory 
Commission at 301-415-1101.
     Mail comments to: Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory 
Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001, ATTN: Rulemakings and 
Adjudications Staff.
     Hand deliver comments to: 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, 
Maryland 20852, between 7:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. (Eastern Time) Federal 
workdays; telephone: 301-415-1677.
    For additional direction on obtaining information and submitting 
comments, see ``Obtaining Information and Submitting Comments'' in the 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Andrew G. Carrera, telephone: 301-415-
1078; email: Andrew.Carrera@nrc.gov; or Gary Comfort, telephone: 301-
415-8106; email: Gary.Comfort@nrc.gov. Both are staff of the Office of 
Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory 
Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

I. Obtaining Information and Submitting Comments

A. Obtaining Information

    Please refer to Docket ID NRC-2008-0421 when contacting the NRC 
about the availability of information for this action. You may obtain 
publicly-available information related to this action by any of the 
following methods:
     Federal Rulemaking Website: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2008-0421.
     NRC's Agencywide Documents Access and Management System 
(ADAMS): You may obtain publicly-available documents online in the 
ADAMS Public Documents collection at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams.html. To begin the search, select ``Begin Web-based ADAMS 
Search.'' For problems with ADAMS, please contact the NRC's Public 
Document Room (PDR) reference staff at 1-800-397-4209, 301-415-4737, or 
by email to pdr.resource@nrc.gov. For the convenience of the reader, 
instructions about obtaining materials referenced in this document are 
provided in the ``Availability of Documents'' section.
     NRC's PDR: You may examine and purchase copies of public 
documents at the NRC's PDR, Room O1-F21, One White Flint North, 11555 
Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland 20852.

B. Submitting Comments

    Please include Docket ID NRC-2008-0421 in your comment submission.
    The NRC cautions you not to include identifying or contact 
information that you do not want to be publicly disclosed in your 
comment submission. The NRC will post all comment submissions at http://www.regulations.gov as well as enter the comment submissions into 
ADAMS. The NRC does not routinely edit comment submissions to remove 
identifying or contact information.
    If you are requesting or aggregating comments from other persons 
for submission to the NRC, then you should inform those persons not to 
include identifying or contact information that they do not want to be 
publicly disclosed in their comment submission. Your request should 
state that the NRC does not routinely edit comment submissions to 
remove such information before making the comment submissions available 
to the public or entering the comment into ADAMS.

II. Background

    In situ recovery is a method used to extract uranium from 
underground ore bodies without physical excavation. It is also known as 
``solution mining'' or in situ leaching. In the ISR process, a solution 
called lixiviant is pumped into the subsurface. In the United States, 
lixiviant typically contains water mixed with oxygen and/or hydrogen 
peroxide, as well as sodium carbonate or carbon dioxide. The lixiviant 
dissolves the uranium, located in the underground ore body, into the 
solution. The solution is then pumped to the surface, where it 
undergoes additional processing and concentration to produce a solid 
form of uranium called ``yellowcake.'' The yellowcake is ultimately 
used in the manufacture of fuel for nuclear reactors.
    The licensed area of a typical uranium ISR facility covers several 
square miles and may include several discrete or contiguous wellfields, 
some of which may be operating while others may be in restoration or 
decommissioning. Each ISR wellfield is composed of a series of 
injection and extraction wells drilled into a uranium ore body that has 
been identified in a subsurface geologic formation within the 
wellfield. The aquifer within the formation where the ore body is 
located is commonly referred to as the ``ore zone aquifer''. Currently, 
there are six ISR facilities operating in the United States.
    Uranium ISR was introduced in the late 1970s as an alternative to 
conventional uranium recovery, which involves extracting uranium ore 
from the earth, typically through deep underground shafts or shallow 
open pits. Ore extracted by conventional uranium recovery is 
transported to a mill, where it is crushed and undergoes a chemical 
process to remove the uranium. The uranium is then concentrated to 
produce yellowcake. The sandy waste resulting from crushing the uranium 
ore is known as ``uranium mill tailings'' or ``tailings.'' Tailings 
contain heavy metals and radioactive constituents, such as radium. 
Alternatively, uranium may be recovered from the ore using a heap leach 
process. In the heap leach process, the ore is placed on an engineered 
barrier and sprayed with acid. The uranium dissolves into solution and 
is collected at the engineered barrier. The solution undergoes 
additional chemical processing to produce yellowcake. Currently, there 
is one operating conventional uranium mill and there are no operating 
heap leach facilities in the United States.
    The NRC licenses ISR facilities under part 40 of title 10 of the 
Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR), ``Domestic Licensing of Source 
Material,'' because these facilities possess and use source 
material.\1\ The possession and use of source material are activities 
that require a license from the NRC under the Atomic Energy Act of 
1954, as amended (AEA).\2\ The waste (tailings) generated as a result 
of the ISR process falls within a category of byproduct material 
defined in section 11e.(2) of the AEA. Specifically, in section 
11e.(2), byproduct material is defined as ``the tailings or wastes 
produced by the extraction or concentration of uranium or thorium from 
any ore processed

[[Page 576]]

primarily for its source material content.'' \3\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ The term ``source material'' is defined as ``(1) Uranium or 
thorium, or any combination thereof, in any physical or chemical 
form or (2) ores which contain by weight one-twentieth of one 
percent (0.05%) or more of: (i) Uranium, (ii) thorium or (iii) any 
combination thereof.'' 10 CFR 40.4, ``Definitions''.
    \2\ AEA, Sec.  62, 42 U.S.C. 2092 (``Unless authorized by a 
general or specific license issued by the [Nuclear Regulatory] 
Commission . . . no person may transfer or receive in interstate 
commerce, transfer, deliver, receive possession of or title to, or 
import into or export from the United States any source material 
after removal from its place of deposit in nature . . .'').
    \3\ AEA, Sec.  11e.(2); 42 U.S.C. 2014(e)(2). In 10 CFR 40.4, 
the NRC further defines section 11e.(2) byproduct material as ``the 
tailings or wastes produced by the extraction or concentration of 
uranium or thorium from any ore processed primarily for its source 
material content, including discrete surface wastes resulting from 
uranium solution extraction processes. Underground ore bodies 
depleted by such solution extraction operations do not constitute 
`byproduct material' within this definition.''
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Under the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978 
(UMTRCA) (Pub. L. 95-604), the NRC is responsible for regulating 
section 11e.(2) byproduct material at sites where such material is 
generated. Congress enacted UMTRCA to provide public health, safety, 
and environmental protection from the radiological and non-radiological 
hazards associated with the processing, possession, transfer, and 
disposal of AEA section 11e.(2) byproduct material. The UMTRCA amended 
the AEA by adding to it the section 11e.(2) definition of byproduct 
material and sections 84 and 275.
    The AEA, as amended by UMTRCA, established a dual regulatory scheme 
over the domestic uranium milling industry between the U.S. 
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the NRC. Under section 275b. 
of the AEA, the EPA is authorized to issue standards of general 
applicability for the protection of health, safety, and the environment 
from radiological and non-radiological hazards associated with the 
processing of section 11(e)(2) byproduct material.\4\ Under AEA section 
84,\5\ the NRC or the appropriate Agreement State \6\ is responsible 
for implementing the EPA's generally applicable standards. In this 
regard, the NRC or the applicable Agreement State entity is the 
regulatory or licensing agency for all uranium recovery facilities, 
including ISR facilities, and is responsible for inspecting the 
facility and enforcing the terms and conditions of the operating 
license.\7\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \4\ 42 U.S.C. 2022(b).
    \5\ 42 U.S.C. 2114.
    \6\ Section 274 of the AEA authorizes the NRC to relinquish or 
discontinue its regulatory authority over certain categories of 
radioactive material to a State following a duly executed agreement 
between the NRC and the governor of the State. 42 U.S.C. 2021. After 
the agreement is entered into, the State, now an ``Agreement 
State,'' must promulgate or adopt regulations compatible to those 
NRC regulations that govern the subject matter areas relinquished to 
the Agreement State.
    \7\ AEA Sec.  275b.(2); 42 U.S.C. 2022(b)(2) (``no permit issued 
by the [EPA] Administrator is required under this Act or the 
[Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, 42 U.S.C. 6901 et seq.] for 
the processing, possession, transfer, or disposal of [section 
11e.(2)] byproduct material'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The EPA first issued generally applicable standards on October 7, 
1983 (48 FR 45926) and updated these standards on November 15, 1993 (58 
FR 60340). The EPA codified these standards into its regulations at 40 
CFR part 192, ``Health and Environmental Protection Standards for 
Uranium and Thorium Mill Tailings,'' subpart D, ``Standards for 
Management of Uranium Byproduct Materials Pursuant to Section 84 of the 
Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended.'' The NRC issued its 
implementing regulations on October 16, 1985 (50 FR 41852) and further 
amended them in subsequent rulemakings.\8\ The NRC codified its 
implementing regulations at 10 CFR part 40, ``Domestic Licensing of 
Source Material,'' appendix A, ``Criteria Relating to the Operation of 
Uranium Mills and the Disposition of Tailings or Wastes Produced by the 
Extraction or Concentration of Source Material from Ores Processed 
Primarily for their Source Material Content.''
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \8\ Substantive amendments include 52 FR 43553 (November 13, 
1987) (NRC conforming amendments not covered in the October 16, 1985 
rule); 53 FR 19240 (May 27, 1988) (record retention periods); 59 FR 
28220 (June 1, 1994) (emplacement of final radon barrier on 
conventional mill tailings piles); and 76 FR 35512 (June 17, 2011) 
(financial assurance requirements associated with decommissioning 
planning).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In the 1990s, ISR operations became the predominant means of 
extracting uranium in the United States. In COMJSM-06-0001, 
``Regulation of Groundwater Protection at In Situ Leach Uranium 
Extraction Facilities,'' dated January 17, 2006 (ADAMS Accession No. 
ML060830041), NRC Commissioner Merrifield stated:

[W]hile the staff has done its best to regulate [ISR] licensees 
through the generally applicable requirements in Part 40 and 
imposition of license conditions, our failure to promulgate specific 
regulations for [ISRs] has resulted in an inconsistent and 
ineffective regulatory program. We have been attempting to force a 
square peg into a round hole for years, and I believe we should 
finally remedy this situation through notice and comment rulemaking. 
In developing a proposed rule, the staff should formulate a 
regulatory framework that is tailored specifically to this unique 
group of licensees.

In the Commission's subsequent staff requirements memorandum, dated 
March 23, 2006 (ADAMS Accession No. ML060820503), the Commission 
approved the initiation of a rulemaking for the purpose of providing 
clarity, predictability, and consistency to the licensing and 
regulation of ISR facilities.
    In 2010, the EPA informed the NRC that it would undertake its own 
rulemaking effort to issue generally applicable standards for ISRs. The 
NRC then deferred its ongoing ISR rulemaking effort, prior to the 
publication of a proposed rule, in anticipation of the need to conform 
its implementing regulations to the generally applicable standards to 
be issued by the EPA. The EPA issued its proposed rule on January 26, 
2015 (80 FR 4156). Subsequently, the EPA decided to re-propose the rule 
and seek additional public comment. The EPA issued the re-proposed 
rule, superseding the January 2015 proposed rule, on January 19, 2017 
(82 FR 7400). The NRC had jurisdictional and technical concerns with 
both the January 2015 and January 2017 proposed rules and submitted 
comments addressing these concerns on July 18, 2017 (ADAMS Accession 
No. ML17173A638).
    On October 30, 2018 (83 FR 54543), the EPA withdrew its proposed 
rule. The EPA concluded, based on comments from stakeholders, that it 
had serious questions concerning whether it has the legal authority 
under UMTRCA to issue the regulations as provided in the 2017 proposed 
rule. The EPA also concluded that the existing regulatory framework was 
sufficient to ensure the protection of public health and the 
environment at existing ISRs. Finally, the EPA stated that, given 
current and foreseeable market conditions, the uranium recovery 
industry was not likely to have the robust growth that was anticipated 
in the 2000s. Given the EPA's withdrawal of its proposed rule, the NRC 
must now decide whether to proceed with its 2006 ISR-specific 
rulemaking, held in abeyance since 2010.

III. Discussion

    The current version of appendix A to 10 CFR part 40 provides a 
generic set of regulations for the operation of conventional uranium 
mills. With respect to the NRC's licensing of ISR facilities, the 
current regulations in appendix A, coupled with the conditions of ISR 
site-specific licenses and the NRC's ongoing oversight of the 
licensees' operations, provide adequate protection to the public health 
and safety and the environment. The NRC's purpose in promulgating a 
generic set of regulations for the operation of ISRs is to standardize 
existing NRC ISR licensing and oversight practices and to ensure 
consistency in the NRC staff's evaluation and approval of ISR license 
applications. In addition, the promulgation of generic regulations for 
ISR facilities would provide a national regulatory framework from which 
Agreement States can, in turn, promulgate their own compatible 
regulatory standards. If the NRC continues with this rulemaking, the 
amendments to appendix A would be

[[Page 577]]

based upon many of the license conditions that are contained in current 
NRC-issued site-specific ISR licenses and would be further informed by 
the approved methodologies and best practices set forth in those NRC 
guidance documents that are applicable to ISR activities.
    ISR operations are substantially different from those of 
conventional uranium milling, including the measures taken to ensure 
the protection of groundwater. The requirements for groundwater 
protection at conventional uranium mills are mainly concerned with the 
prevention, detection, and correction of contamination in shallow 
aquifers from seepage and leaks associated with the long-term 
management of mill tailings impoundments. At ISR facilities, however, 
the main concern is contamination of the surrounding groundwater by the 
short-term degradation of the water quality in the ore zone aquifer 
during ISR operations. Specifically, the groundwater chemistry in the 
ore zone aquifer is altered by the injection of lixiviant, which along 
with dissolving the uranium located in the underground ore body, also 
mobilizes hazardous constituents such as metals and radionuclides like 
radium. If the lixiviant is not controlled within the ore zone aquifer, 
then these hazardous constituents may migrate outside the ISR wellfield 
and potentially contaminate surrounding groundwater and connected 
surface water. Therefore, the NRC and the Agreement States have 
included license conditions in ISR licenses requiring ISR licensees to 
satisfy certain technical criteria that will protect surrounding 
groundwater during ISR operations and restore the water quality in ore 
zone aquifers after ISR operations. Unlike conventional mill tailings 
impoundments that require long-term management for groundwater 
protection, ISR wellfields may be decommissioned and the ISR license 
terminated once groundwater restoration requirements are met.
    The NRC initiated the ISR rulemaking in 2006 to provide regulatory 
predictability and consistency to the licensing process for ISRs. By 
establishing a generic set of requirements for ISR activities, the rule 
would improve regulatory efficiency and make the NRC's review process 
for ISR license applications and amendments more consistent and 
transparent to the public and industry.
    Most ISR facilities currently in operation are licensed by 
Agreement States. One of the requirements of the NRC's Agreement State 
program is that the regulations of an Agreement State must be 
``compatible'' with the NRC's regulatory program.\9\ Therefore, in 
accordance with the NRC's Agreement State program, the promulgation of 
an NRC rulemaking specific to ISR facilities would require Agreement 
States to conform their regulations, to the extent appropriate, to the 
new or amended NRC regulations. The benefit of having Agreement States 
conform their regulations would be the establishment of a relatively 
uniform \10\ set of both groundwater protection and radiation health 
and safety requirements for ISR facilities nationwide.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \9\ Agreement State Program Policy Statement, 82 FR 48535-39 
(October 18, 2017); see also id. at 48536-37 (``The NRC and the 
Agreement States have the responsibility to ensure that the 
radiation control programs are compatible. Such radiation control 
programs should be based on a common regulatory philosophy including 
the common use of definitions and standards. The programs should be 
effective and cooperatively implemented by the NRC and the Agreement 
States and also should provide uniformity and achieve common 
strategic outcomes in program areas of national significance.'').
    \10\ Based upon the compatibility category (see id. at 48538-39) 
that the NRC assigns to each new or amended regulation, Agreement 
States should have a substantial degree of flexibility in 
promulgating their conforming regulations. Id. at 48537 (``With the 
exception of those compatibility areas where programs should be 
essentially identical, Agreement State radiation control programs 
have flexibility in program implementation and administration to 
accommodate individual State preferences, State legislative 
direction, and local needs and conditions.'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In light of the EPA's withdrawal of its January 2017 proposed rule, 
the NRC is now conducting an assessment of the requirements in 10 CFR 
part 40 appendix A pertaining to the licensing of ISRs and is 
requesting input from members of the public about the topics discussed 
in the ``Request for Comments'' section. The information received from 
this request will be factored into the decision whether to continue 
this rulemaking.

IV. Request for Comments

    The NRC welcomes general comments and seeks comments in response to 
the numbered items in this section. In responding to these numbered 
items, please provide your rationale or justification for your 
position. In addition, please provide a discussion of any factors that 
you considered in providing your opinion and any recommendations to 
assist the NRC in improving its regulatory process. The factors that 
the NRC must consider in determining whether to proceed with this 
rulemaking include technical feasibility, a cost-benefit analysis, and 
consistency and clarity of applicable regulations for the adequate 
protection of the health and safety and the environment.
    1. If the NRC were to proceed with its ISR rulemaking that has been 
held in abeyance since 2010, the NRC would amend its current uranium 
milling regulations in appendix A to 10 CFR part 40 to add ISR-specific 
requirements. Should the NRC proceed with this rulemaking?
    2. Please identify any issues that should be addressed to protect 
groundwater at ISR facilities, in either this rulemaking or through the 
development of guidance documents.
    3. Please identify any issues that should be addressed to enhance 
public or occupational safety at ISR facilities, in either this 
rulemaking or through the development of guidance documents.
    4. Please identify any issues that should be addressed to establish 
a relatively uniform set of requirements for ISR facilities nationwide 
(both in Agreement States and in non-Agreement States).

VI. Availability of Documents

    The documents identified in the following table are available to 
interested persons through one or more of the following methods, as 
indicated.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                  ADAMS accession No./
                   Document                    Federal Register citation
------------------------------------------------------------------------
COMJSM-06-0001, ``Regulation of Groundwater    ML060830041
 Protection at In Situ Leach Uranium
 Extraction Facilities,'' dated January 17,
 2006.
Staff Requirements Memorandum-COMJSM-06-0001,  ML060820503
 ``Regulation of Groundwater Protection at In
 Situ Leach Uranium Extraction Facilities,''
 dated March 23, 2006.

[[Page 578]]

 
``40 CFR Part 192, Health and Environmental    82 FR 7400
 Protection Standards for Uranium and Thorium
 Mill Tailings; Proposed Rule,'' January 19,
 2017.
``40 CFR Part 192, Health and Environmental    83 FR 54543
 Protection Standards for Uranium and Thorium
 Mill Tailings; Proposed Rule; Withdrawal,''
 October 30, 2018.
NUREG-1569, ``Standard Review Plan for In      ML032310005
 Situ Leach Uranium Extraction License
 Applications: Final Report,'' June 2003.
``NRC Staff's Comments on EPA Proposed         ML17173A638
 Rulemaking for 40 CFR Part 192 Rule, 82 FR
 7400,'' July 17, 2017.
``40 CFR Part 192, Environmental Standards     48 FR 45926
 for Uranium and Thorium Mill Tailings at
 Licensed Commercial Processing Sites; Final
 Rule,'' October 7, 1983.
``40 CFR Part 192, Environmental Standards     58 FR 60340
 for Uranium and Thorium Mill Tailings at
 Licensed Commercial Processing Sites; Final
 Rule,'' November 15, 1993.
``Uranium Mill Tailings Regulations;           50 FR 41852
 Conforming NRC Requirements to EPA
 Standards; Final Rule,'' October 16, 1985.
``40 CFR Part 192, Health and Environmental    80 FR 4156
 Protection Standards for Uranium and Thorium
 Mill Tailings; Proposed Rule,'' January 26,
 2015.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Throughout the development of this assessment, the NRC may post 
related documents, including public comments, on the Federal rulemaking 
website at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket ID NRC-2008-0421. 
The Federal rulemaking website allows you to receive alerts when 
changes or additions occur in a docket folder. To subscribe: (1) 
Navigate to the docket folder (NRC-2008-0421); (2) click the ``Sign up 
for Email Alerts'' link; and (3) enter your email address and select 
how frequently you would like to receive emails (daily, weekly, or 
monthly).

    Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 28th day of January 2019.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Theresa V. Clark,
Deputy Director, Division of Rulemaking, Office of Nuclear Material 
Safety and Safeguards.
[FR Doc. 2019-00435 Filed 1-30-19; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 7590-01-P