(World Nuclear News, March 2) – The state of Wyoming will regulate its own uranium industry following legislation that allows it to apply to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to become an Agreement State.
|Wyoming governor Matt Mead signs the act, watched by state legislators and uranium industry representatives (Image: T Deti/WMA)|
State governor Matt Mead signed the act on 27 February four days after it received final approval from state legislators. The act authorizes the governor to seek an agreement with the NRC for the state to assume regulation of source materials from uranium mining and milling and associated wastes. It also sets out other legal provisions enabling the state to take on regulatory activities, which will be administered by the Wyoming department of environmental quality.
Agreement States are authorised by the NRC to license and inspect by-product, source, or special nuclear materials used or possessed within their borders. Wyoming and South Dakota are the only states with active uranium recovery facilities which are not yet Agreement States.
NRC spokesperson Maureen Conley told World Nuclear News that Agreement States can choose which regulatory programs they wish to take over from the NRC. For example, Arizona, Nebraska and New Mexico – all of which have active uranium recovery facilities – opted to leave regulation of uranium recovery sites with the NRC, while Colorado, Texas, Washington and Utah have assumed authority over their active uranium recovery sites.
“We stand ready to work with state officials if we receive a letter from the governor asking to become an Agreement State. If that happens, we will assist the state officials in putting together the regulations, staff and training required to assume regulatory authority. We would review that program and take public comment on it before we decide whether it will be equally protective and compatible with the NRC’s regulatory program. Then we would present the state’s program to our Commissioners for a vote before a final decision is made,” Conley said.
Jonathan Downing, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association (WMA), welcomed the legislation and the move towards self-regulation. “We look forward to the day when we won’t be ‘dual regulated’ by both the NRC and the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. The legislation is good for Wyoming and the future of the uranium industry,” he said.
Wyoming is a major player in US uranium production, producing some 2.8 million pounds U3O8 (1077 tU) in 2013, according to the WMA. All current uranium production in the state is from in situ leach operations.