[Federal Register Volume 73, Number 5 (Tuesday, January 8, 2008)]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E8-101]
NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
[Docket No. 40-8964]
Notice of Availability of Environmental Assessment and Finding of
No Significant Impact for the Addition of the SR-2 Satellite Facility
To Power Resources, Inc's Smith Ranch-Highlands Uranium Project,
Converse County, WY
AGENCY: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
ACTION: Notice of availability.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Paul Michalak, Decommissioning and
Uranium Recovery Licensing Directorate, Division of Waste Management
and Environmental Protection, Office of Federal and State Materials and
Environmental Management Programs, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission,
Washington, DC 20555. Telephone: (301) 415-7612; Fax number: (301) 415-
5955; E-mail: [email protected].
Power Resources, Inc. (PRI) currently holds Source Material License
SUA-1548 for the Smith Ranch-Highland Uranium Project (SR-HUP) site,
located in Converse County, Wyoming. Source Material License SUA-1548
permits PRI to conduct In Situ Leach (ISL) uranium recovery operations
at the SR-HUP site. As specified in Source Material License SUA-1548,
License Condition 10.5.1 requires the following:
The licensee is prohibited from constructing new Satellite
Facilities or waste water evaporation ponds prior to NRC review and
approval of designs and specifications.
By letter dated October 11, 2006, PRI submitted a request to
construct ISL Satellite SR-2 (SR-2) at the SR-HUP site. In this
proposed action, an ISL satellite facility is a structure (i.e.,
building and associated equipment) where the ion exchange portion of
the ISL processing circuit is conducted. ISL Satellite SR-2 would
service Mine Units 9, 10, 11, and 12, located near the southwest corner
of Smith Ranch. It is estimated that construction of SR-2 and
associated access road would impact approximately 1.5 acres of land.
The NRC staff has prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) in
support of its review of PRI's request in accordance with the
requirements of 10 CFR Part 51. Based on the EA, the NRC has concluded
that a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) is appropriate.
II. EA Summary
PRI's SR-HUP is a commercial ISL uranium mining facility located in
the South Powder River Basin, Converse County, Wyoming. The main office
and Central Processing Plant complex is located at Smith Ranch, about
17 air miles (22 road miles) (27 air/35 road kilometers (km)) northeast
of Glenrock, Wyoming, and 23 air miles (25 road miles) (37 air/40 road
km) northwest of Douglas, Wyoming. NRC issued PRI's current NRC license
for the SR-HUP (Source Material License SUA-1548) on August 18, 2003,
as part of a license renewal process. Commercial ISL uranium production
began at the Highland site in January 1988, and at the Smith Ranch site
in June 1997.
PRI current operations at the SR-HUP include an ISL Central
Processing Plant (CPP) and an ISL Satellite facility (SR-1) at the
Smith Ranch site and two ISL Satellite facilities (Satellite Nos. 2 and
3) at the Highland site.
Under SUA-1548, PRI is authorized, through its ISL process, to
produce up to 5.5 million pounds (2.5 million kilograms) per year of
tri-uranium octoxide (U3O8), also known as ``yellowcake.'' PRI's
current annual production is less than half of this limit.
The NRC staff has reviewed PRI's request in accordance with the
NRC's environmental protection regulations in 10 CFR Part 51. Those
regulations implement section 102(2) of the National Environmental
Policy Act of 1969, as amended. The EA provides the results of the NRC
staff's environmental review. The NRC staff's radiation safety review
of PRI's request will be documented separately in a Safety Evaluation
The NRC staff has prepared the EA in accordance with NRC
requirements in 10 CFR 51.21 and 51.30, and with the associated
guidance in NRC report NUREG-1748, ``Environmental Review Guidance for
Associated with Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards Programs.'' In
40 CFR 1508.9, the Council on Environmental Quality defines an EA as a
concise public document that briefly provides sufficient evidence and
analysis for determining whether to prepare an environmental impact
statement (EIS) or a FONSI.
The NRC staff's review addressed the environmental impacts of PRI's
currently-approved mining operations at the SR-HUP only insofar as such
operations would be modified by the proposed addition of SR-2.
PRI is proposing to construct and operate SR-2 at the SR-HUP site.
Construction of SR-2 would entail the clearing of about 1.5 acres of
land due to satellite building and access road construction. The SR-2
facility would be the source of the barren lixiviant pumped into the
uranium ore zone and the recipient of the pregnant lixiviant recovered
from Mine Units 9, 10, 11, and 12. Upon recovery from the subsurface,
the pregnant lixiviant would be pumped to a series of IX columns
located within SR-2, where uranium from the lixiviant would be
extracted from the solution via adsorption onto the ion exchange (IX)
resin in the columns. Following IX extraction of the uranium, the resin
would be removed from the tanks and transported to the Smith Ranch CPP
for further processing (i.e., elution, precipitation, drying into a
U3O8 powder, and packing into 55-gallon drums).
As part of supporting the ISL operation at future Mine Units 9, 10, 11,
and 12, activities at SR-2 would include lixiviant and waste water
storage, ion exchange, resin transfer, reverse osmosis operations
associated with ground water restoration, and deep well injection of
production and restoration effluent wastes. Operation period for SR-2
and Mine Units 9, 10, 11, and 12, is estimated to be approximately nine
Purpose and Need for the Proposed Action
Construction of a second satellite facility at the Smith Ranch site
would enable PRI to conduct IX exchange activities in close proximity
to future Mine Units 9, 10, 11, and 12, all of which are located in the
southwest portion of Smith Ranch, approximately 4.5 miles southwest of
the closest processing facility (Smith Ranch CPP). This would also
allow PRI to continue to meet the current and future needs of its
customers for U3O8, a product that would
eventually be used in fuel for commercially-operated nuclear power
Alternatives to the Proposed Action
No Action Alternative
Under the ``no action'' alternative, PRI would continue to conduct
ISL uranium recovery operations at existing satellite facilities within
the permit boundary of the SR-HUP, but it would not be authorized to
build and operate SR-2.
In the southern Powder River Basin, where the SR-HUP facility is
located, uranium ore has been mined via open pits and underground
mining in the past. This activity occurred from 1970 to 1984 at the
Exxon Highland facility, which is adjacent to the eastern edge of the
SR-HUP permit area, and from the mid-1970s to 1986 at Union Pacific
Resources' Bear Creek site (now owned by Anadarko Petroleum), which is
approximately 15 miles (24 km) northeast of the SR-HUP permit area.
The environmental impacts associated with the recovery and
processing of uranium ore obtained via open pit or underground mining
are generally recognized as being considerably greater than those
associated with ISL uranium recovery. Underground mining would produce
ore that is crushed and ground in a conventional uranium mill. Uranium
within the crushed material would be extracted through leaching.
Conventional uranium mining and milling produces considerable volumes
of waste (e.g., slag, mill tailings, etc.) which must be disposed. In
the southern Powder River Basin, where the SR-HUP facility is located,
uranium was historically mined via open pits and subsurface mine shafts
during the 1970s and 1980s. At SR-HUP, construction of the Bill Smith
mine shaft was initiated in September 1972, and completed in early
1977. However, due to porous sands and heaving shale zones in the Fort
Union formation, conventional subsurface mining was terminated in June
1978. Open pit uranium mining occurred from 1970 to 1984 at the Exxon
Highland facility, which is adjacent to the eastern edge of the SR-HUP
permit area (approximately 15 miles northeast of SR-2). Although the
potential for future conventional mining exists, two factors make
conventional mining in the vicinity of the SR-HUP unlikely: ISL
operations are approximately two-to-three times more cost effective
than open pit mining/conventional milling operations; and virtually all
the South Powder River Basin uranium ore deposits are amenable to ISL
development. Therefore, although both open pit and underground mining
of uranium has occurred near SR-2, these alternatives were not
considered further in this analysis.
Under the no-action alternative, PRI would not be authorized to
operate a satellite ISL facility in the southwestern portion of SR-HUP.
PRI would continue to operate its other satellite facilities within the
SR-HUP permit area. The SR-2 area would remain open to its current
uses: livestock grazing and wildlife use.
The addition of SR-2 to the SR-HUP would add approximately 10 to 12
employees to the SR-HUP work force. With such a small increase in the
work force, socioeconomic impacts to local housing, schools, health and
social services, transportation, and other support facilities are
negligible. Additionally, given the remote rural location of SR-HUP, no
impacts related to environmental justice issues were identified.
The major potential environmental impacts associated with
construction and operation of SR-2 include the disturbance of about 1.5
acres of land due to satellite building construction and operation and
support road construction.
The primary impact on land use will be the temporary loss
(approximately nine years) of about 1.5 acres from livestock use. These
effects will be limited, temporary, and reversible through returning
the land to its former grazing use following completion of post-
recovery surface reclamation. The temporary alteration of an
approximately 1.5 acre area is not considered to constitute a
significant adverse impact to either ecological systems or wildlife.
To the extent possible, PRI will use existing access roads in the
area; however, it is expected that, as part of the SR-2 construction,
PRI will need to construct an access road and widen existing roads.
Ephemeral drainages may be affected by this road construction, as well
as by the construction of the SR-2 satellite building. When designing
and constructing new roads, PRI will consider weather, elevation
contours, land rights, cultural resources, and drainages. When
constructing new roads, PRI will make efforts to cross ephemeral
drainages or channels at right angles to enhance erosion protection
measures. However, as it may not always be feasible or warranted to
construct roads or crossings at right angles or along elevation
contours, PRI will consider and implement erosion measures appropriate
for the situation.
Air quality will be impacted by the release of diesel emissions
from construction equipment and from fugitive dust from construction
activities and vehicle traffic. Diesel emissions would be minor and of
short duration, and would be readily dispersed in the atmosphere.
Fugitive dust generated from construction activity, as well as vehicle
traffic on unpaved roads, would be localized and of short duration.
Localized areas affected by site operations would be reclaimed,
topsoiled, and re-seeded.
Operation of SR-2 would involve the transportation of uranium-
charged resin beads from the satellite facility to the Smith Ranch CPP,
and the transportation of the stripped resin beads back to the
satellite facility. Expected truck traffic between SR-2 and the Smith
Ranch CPP would initially be about one truck a day, with a decrease in
traffic, as the well fields are mined out. It is not expected that the
additional traffic would result in an increased accident rate for the
stretch of Ross Road between the SR-2 access road and the Smith Ranch
CPP. However, in the case of an accident involving a shipment of
uranium-loaded resin, the environmental impacts would be expected to be
small. Overturning of a tanker truck carrying the loaded resin could
result in the release of some resin and residual water. The resin
beads, which would be deposited on the ground a short distance from the
truck, would retain the uranium, absent a strong brine to strip the
resin. PRI would collect the resin and any contaminated soils and
dispose of them appropriately (e.g., in a licensed facility). All
disturbed areas would then be reclaimed in accordance with the
applicable NRC and State regulations. Airborne release of uranium would
not occur since the uranium would remain fixed to the beads.
The primary source of radiological impact to the environment from
site operations is gaseous radon-222, which is released from the
satellite facility and from the wellfields. In a worst case scenario
that considered the cumulative radiological impacts for the entire SR-
HUP operation including SR-2, the two nearest SR-2 residents, Sunquest
Ranch, and the Vollman Ranch, are estimated to receive a peak maximum
yearly dose of 17.5 and 13.2 mrem/yr, respectively. However, it is very
unlikely that these peak doses would be reached due to the modeling
methodology and input data conservatism. Additionally, the airborne
sampling program at PRI has been used and would continue to be used to
verify the off site dose to the nearest resident and the general
population. NRC staff evaluated the model results and has determined
that estimated dose to the nearest resident and members of the public
meet the requirements of 10 CFR 20.1301 (i.e., 100 mrem/yr).
In terms of waste disposal, PRI is required, under License
Condition 9.6 of SUA-1548, to dispose of 11e.(2) byproduct materials
generated by project operations at a licensed byproduct waste disposal
site. Currently, PRI disposes of its radioactively-contaminated solid
wastes at Pathfinder Mines Corporation's Shirley Basin uranium mill
site in eastern Wyoming. PRI has submitted a Class I Underground
Injection Well application with the Wyoming Department of Environmental
Quality (WDEQ) Underground Injection Control (UIC) Program for liquid
waste disposal. Wastewater disposal associated with PRI's SR-2
operations is not expected to affect local stock and domestic wells as
these wells are completed in stratigraphic horizons far above the zones
planned for wastewater disposal.
The NRC has reviewed the environmental impacts of the proposed
action in accordance with the requirements of 10 CFR Part 51. The NRC
staff has determined that the construction and operation of SR-2 would
not significantly affect the quality of the human environment.
Therefore, an EIS is not warranted for the proposed action, and
pursuant to 10 CFR 51.31, a FONSI is appropriate.
Agencies and Persons Consulted
The NRC staff consulted with other Federal and State agencies
regarding the proposed action. These consultations were intended to
afford these agencies the opportunity to comment on the proposed
action, and to ensure that the requirements of Section 106 of the
National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and Section 7 of the
Endangered Species Act (ESA) were met with respect to the proposed
The WDEQ administers and implements the State rules and regulations
for ISL related activities. PRI possesses a current WDEQ mining permit
for its commercial operations. By letter dated September 13, 2007, the
NRC staff provided a draft copy of the SR-2 EA to the WDEQ for its
review and comment. By correspondence dated November 29, 2007, the WDEQ
indicated it had no comments on the EA (WDEQ 2007).
By letter dated June 26, 2007, with follow-up correspondence on
September 19, 2007, NRC staff requested information from the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, Mountain-Prairie Region (USFWS/MPR) regarding
endangered or threatened species or critical habitat in the SR-2 area.
No response was received. In absence of a response, NRC staff
identified a USFWS/MPR Web site (dated December 2006) which listed, by
county, endangered and threatened species in Wyoming. Utilizing the
Converse County, Wyoming list, NRC staff has concluded that there are
no endangered or threatened species, either plant or animal, nor is
there critical habitat, in SR-2.
Pursuant to the requirements of Section 106 of the NHPA, the NRC
staff consulted with the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office
(WSHPO). By letter dated June 14, 2007, the NRC staff requested
information from the WSHPO regarding cultural and historic properties
that may be affected by SR-2. Further correspondence documenting
Section 106 consultations was sent to WSHPO on December 4, 2007. By
return letter dated December 12, 2007, the WSHPO provided its
concurrence that no historic properties would be adversely affected by
the proposed action.
By letters dated July 20, 2007, the NRC staff initiated a Section
106 of the NHPA consultation with numerous Native American cultural and
tribal/business representatives located in Oklahoma, Wyoming, North
Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and New Mexico. The consultation
requested information regarding historical sites or cultural resources
within the southwest area of SR-HUP (i.e., SR-2 and Mine Units 9, 10,
11, and 12), including any specific knowledge of any sites that are
believed to have traditional religious and cultural significance.
The NRC has received responses from two Native American tribes:
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (dated August 20, 2007) and Standing Rock
Sioux Tribe (dated September 6, 2007). Following telephone calls to
both parties, NRC staff forwarded supplemental information to the
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (dated September 21, 2007) and Standing Rock
Sioux Tribe (dated October 3, 2007) indicating that the proposed action
would not impact Class III Cultural Resource inventoried sites deemed
eligible for inclusion to the NRHP. The supplemental information also
included planned mitigation measures (i.e., buffer zones) to protect
sensitive cultural resource sites. NRC staff has conducted multiple
follow-up calls to both parties. No further comments have been
III. Finding of No Significant Impact
On the basis of the EA, the NRC staff has concluded that there are
no significant environmental impacts from the addition of the SR-2 to
the SR-HUP operational area for the purpose of conducting satellite IX
processing of uranium-bearing solution. Therefore, the NRC staff has
determined not to prepare an EIS.
IV. Further Information
Documents related to this action, including the application for
amendment and supporting documentation, will be available
electronically at the NRC's Electronic Reading Room at: http://www.NRC.gov/reading-rm/adams.html. From this site, you can access the
NRC's Agencywide Document Access and Management System (ADAMS), which
provides text and image files of NRC's public documents. The ADAMS
accession numbers for the documents related to this notice are:
Document date Description accession No.
10/11/06....................... PRI's request to ML062930232
12/28/07....................... PRI's supplemental ML070100517
responses to NRC staff
request for additional
7/30/07........................ ....................... ML072210887
3/17/07........................ PRI's supplemental ML071380284
radiation dose from SR-
4/16/07........................ ....................... ML071100064
5/4/07......................... ....................... ML071510592
11/29/07....................... WDEQ comments on pre- ML073450518
decisional draft EA.
12/12/07....................... WSHPO concurrence on ML073540744
determination of no
12/26/07....................... NRC staff final EA for ML073460771
addition of the ISL
If you do not have access to ADAMS or if there are problems in
accessing the documents located in ADAMS, contact the NRC's Public
Document Room (PDR) Reference staff at 1-800-397-4209, 301-415-4737, or
by e-mail to [email protected].
These documents may also be viewed electronically on the public
computers located at the NRC's PDR, O-1F21, One White Flint North,
11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20852. The PDR reproduction
contractor will copy documents for a fee.
Dated at Rockville, Maryland this 27th day of December 2007.
For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Keith I. McConnell,
Deputy Director, Decommissioning and Uranium Recovery, Licensing
Directorate, Division of Waste Management and Environmental Protection,
Office of Federal and State Materials and Environmental Management
[FR Doc. E8-101 Filed 1-7-08; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 7590-01-P