[Federal Register Volume 63, Number 35 (Monday, February 23, 1998)]
[Pages 9023-9024]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 98-4489]



[Docket No. 40-8943]

Crow Butte Resources, Inc.

AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

ACTION: Final finding of no significant impact; notice of opportunity 
for hearing.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) proposes to renew 
NRC Source Material License SUA-1534 to authorize the licensee, Crow 
Butte Resources, Inc. (CBR), for continued commercial operation of its 
in-situ leach (ISL) uranium mine and processing facility, located in 
Dawes County, Nebraska. This license currently authorizes CBR to 
receive, acquire, possess, and transfer uranium at the Crow Butte 
Uranium Project, which is located approximately eight kilometers (five 
miles) southeast of the town of Crawford, Nebraska. An Environmental 
Assessment was performed by the NRC staff in support of its review of 
CBR's license renewal request, in accordance with the requirements of 
10 CFR Part 51. The conclusion of the Environmental Assessment is a 
Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the proposed licensing 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. James R. Park, Uranium Recovery 
Branch, Mail Stop TWFN 7-J8, Division of Waste Management, Office of 
Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory 
Commission, Washington, D.C. 20555. Telephone 301/415-6699.



    At the Crow Butte facility, the ISL mining method involves: (1) The 
injection of native groundwater, with added sodium carbonate/
bicarbonate and oxygen or hydrogen peroxide, into a uranium-bearing 
orebody through injection wells; (2) the chemical mobilization of the 
uranium through oxidation and then complexation with the carbonate 
species; and (3) the extraction of the uranium-bearing solution from 
the subsurface through a pattern of pumping wells. The uranium is 
separated from the leach solution by conventional ion exchange methods 
in the processing facility. The resulting uranium-poor solution is 
recharged with carbonate and oxygen and returned to the mining zone for 
additional uranium recovery. This cycle continues until the ore zone is 
depleted or recovery of the uranium is no longer economically feasible.
    The recovered uranium solution is processed further by using 
ammonia or hydrogen peroxide to precipitate the uranium into a slurry. 
The resulting slurry is thickened by gravity settling, and then washed 
and de-watered in a filter press to about 50 percent solids. The filter 
press solids (cake) are then dried in a natural gas vacuum dryer, to 
produce uranium oxide, which is commonly known as ``yellowcake.'' The 
dried yellowcake is packaged in 208-liter (55-gallon) steel drums for 
storage and eventual shipment to a fuel processing facility.
    CBR conducts uranium recovery operations within designated areas 
(``mine units'') of the Crow Butte site; these mine units range between 
4 to 16 hectares (10 and 40 acres) in size. A number of well patterns 
are installed in each mine unit, with each pattern typically including 
four injection wells laid out in a roughly rectangular shape and one 
centrally-located pumping (production) well. Currently, CBR is 
conducting uranium recovery operations in three mine units and 
groundwater restoration in two other mine units in which uranium 
recovery has been concluded. CBR has completed construction of a sixth 
mine unit but has yet to initiate operations in it.

Summary of the Environmental Assessment

    The NRC staff performed an appraisal of the environmental impacts 
associated with the continued operation of the Crow Butte ISL facility, 
in accordance with 10 CFR part 51, Licensing and Regulatory Policy 
Procedures for Environmental Protection. In conducting its appraisal, 
the NRC staff considered the following information: (1) CBR's license 
renewal application, as amended; (2) previous environmental evaluations 
of the Crow Butte facility; (3) CBR's license amendment requests 
submitted subsequent to its renewal application, and NRC staff 
approvals of such requests; (4) data contained in required semiannual 
environmental monitoring reports; (5) results of NRC staff site visits 
and inspections of the Crow Butte facility; and (6) consultations with 
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the State of Nebraska Department of 
Environmental Quality, and the State Historic Preservation Officer for 
the State of Nebraska. The results of the staff's appraisal are 
documented in an Environmental Assessment. The safety aspects for the 
continued operation of the facility are discussed in a Safety 
Evaluation Report.
    The license renewal would authorize CBR to continue operating the 
Crow Butte ISL facility, such that the plant throughput does not exceed 
a flow rate of 18,930 liters (5000 gallons) per minute, exclusive of 
the flow involved in restoring the depleted mine units. Annual 
yellowcake production will not be authorized to exceed 907,185 
kilograms (2 million pounds).
    All conditions in the renewal license and commitments presented in 
the licensee's license renewal application are subject to NRC 
inspection. Violation of the license may result in enforcement action.


    The NRC staff has re-examined actual and potential environmental 
impacts associated with continued operation of the Crow Butte facility, 
and has determined that renewal of Source Material License SUA-1534 
will (1) Be consistent with requirements of 10 CFR part 40, (2) not be 
inimical to the public health and safety, and (3) not have long-term 
detrimental impacts on the environment. The following statements

[[Page 9024]]

support the FONSI and summarize the conclusions resulting from the 
staff's environmental assessment:
    1. The proposed groundwater monitoring program is sufficient to 
detect excursions (vertical or horizontal) of mining solutions. 
Furthermore, aquifer testing and the previous history of operations 
indicate that the production zone is adequately confined, thereby 
assuring hydrologic control of mining solutions;
    2. Liquid process wastes will be disposed in accordance with 
approved waste disposal options. Monitoring programs are in place to 
ensure appropriate operation of the deep disposal well and to detect 
potential leakage from the solar evaporation ponds;
    3. An acceptable environmental and effluent monitoring program is 
in place to monitor effluent releases and to detect if applicable 
regulatory limits are exceeded. Radiological effluents from facility 
operations have been and are expected to continue to remain below the 
regulatory limits;
    4. All radioactive wastes generated by facility operations will be 
disposed offsite at a licensed byproduct disposal site;
    5. Groundwater impacted by mining operations will be restored to 
baseline conditions on a mine unit average, as a primary goal. If 
baseline conditions cannot be reasonably achieved, the R&D operations 
have demonstrated that the groundwater can be restored to applicable 
class-of-use standards; and
    6. Because the staff has determined that there will be no 
significant impacts associated with approval of the license renewal, 
there can be no disproportionally high and adverse effects or impacts 
on minority and low-income populations. Consequently, further 
evaluation of Environmental Justice concerns, as outlined in Executive 
Order 12898 and NRC's Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards 
Policy and Procedures Letter 1-50, Revision 1, is not warranted.

Alternatives to the Proposed Action

    The proposed action is to renew NRC Source Material License SUA-
1534, for continued operation of the Crow Butte ISL facility, as 
requested by CBR. Therefore, the principal alternatives available to 
NRC are to:
    (1) Renew the license with such conditions as are considered 
necessary or appropriate to protect public health and safety and the 
environment; or
    (2) Renew the license, with such conditions as are considered 
necessary or appropriate to protect public health and safety and the 
environment, but not allow CBR to expand its operations beyond those 
previously approved; or
    (3) Deny renewal of the license.

Based on its review, the NRC staff has concluded that the environmental 
impacts associated with the proposed action do not warrant either the 
limiting of CBR's future operations or the denial of the license 
renewal. Additionally, in the SER prepared for this action, the staff 
has reviewed the licensee's proposed action with respect to the 
criteria for license issuance specified in 10 CFR Part 40, Section 
40.32, and has no basis for denial of the proposed action. Therefore, 
the staff considers that Alternative 1 is the appropriate alternative 
for selection.

Finding of No Significant Impact

    The NRC staff has prepared an Environmental Assessment for the 
proposed renewal of NRC Source Material License SUA-1534. On the basis 
of this assessment, the NRC staff has concluded that the environmental 
impacts that may result from the proposed action would not be 
significant, and therefore, preparation of an Environmental Impact 
Statement is not warranted.
    The Environmental Assessment and other documents related to this 
proposed action are available for public inspection and copying at the 
NRC Public Document Room, in the Gelman Building, 2120 L Street N.W., 
Washington, DC 20555.

Notice of Opportunity for Hearing

    The Commission hereby provides notice that this is a proceeding on 
an application for a licensing action falling within the scope of 
Subpart L, ``Informal Hearing Procedures for Adjudications in Materials 
and Operators Licensing Proceedings,'' of the Commission's Rules of 
Practice for Domestic Licensing Proceedings and Issuance of Orders in 
10 CFR Part 2 (54 FR 8269). Pursuant to Sec. 2.1205(a), any person 
whose interest may be affected by this proceeding may file a request 
for a hearing. In accordance with Sec. 2.1205(c), a request for a 
hearing must be filed within thirty (30) days from the date of 
publication of this Federal Register notice. The request for a hearing 
must be filed with the Office of the Secretary either:
    (1) By delivery to the Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff of the 
Office of the Secretary at One White Flint North, 11555 Rockville Pike, 
Rockville, MD 20852; or
    (2) By mail or telegram addressed to the Secretary, U.S. Nuclear 
Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555, Attention: Rulemakings and 
Adjudications Staff.
    Each request for a hearing must also be served, by delivering it 
personally or by mail to:
    (1) The applicant, Crow Butte Resources, Inc., 216 Sixteenth Street 
Mall, Suite 810, Denver, CO 80202;
    (2) The NRC staff, by delivery to the Executive Director of 
Operations, One White Flint North, 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 
20852, or
    (3) By mail addressed to the Executive Director for Operations, 
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555.
    In addition to meeting other applicable requirements of 10 CFR part 
2 of the Commission's regulations, a request for a hearing filed by a 
person other than an applicant must describe in detail:
    (1) The interest of the requestor in the proceeding;
    (2) How that interest may be affected by the results of the 
proceeding, including the reasons why the requestor should be permitted 
a hearing, with particular reference to the factors set out in 
Sec. 2.1205(g);
    (3) the requestor's areas of concern about the licensing activity 
that is the subject matter of the proceeding; and
    (4) The circumstances establishing that the request for a hearing 
is timely in accordance with Sec. 2.1205(c).
    Any hearing that is requested and granted will be held in 
accordance with the Commission's ``Informal Hearing Procedures for 
Adjudications in Materials and Operator Licensing Proceedings'' in 10 
CFR part 2, subpart L.

    Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 13th day of February 1998.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Daniel M. Gillen,
Acting Chief, Uranium Recovery Branch, Division of Waste Management, 
Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards.
[FR Doc. 98-4489 Filed 2-20-98; 8:45 am]