As reported in an earlier Program Update newsletter, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Legacy Management (LM) is compiling data for a Report to Congress on defense-related uranium mines. DOE was directed by the U.S. Congress in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act to undertake a review of, and prepare a report on, abandoned uranium mines (AUM) in the U.S. that provided ore for atomic energy defense activities. The report must be completed by July 2014. The article, “Abandoned Uranium Mines Report to Congress: LM Wants Your Input” from the January–March 2013 issue of the LM Program Update provides additional background information about this effort.
LM is evaluating the locations, health and safety impacts, prioritization, potential cost and feasibility of reclamation and remediation, and current status of the mines. An estimated 4,123 defense related legacy uranium mine claims have been identified. A primary source of information about the mines is Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) records. Currently, LM is comparing AEC records to other federal, state, and county records in an effort to obtain comprehensive information about the location and status of cleanup at each mine site. Examples of databases used to validate legacy mine locations include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (U.S. EPA) Uranium Location Database Compilation, U.S. EPA’s Navajo Nation AUM Screening Assessment Report and Atlas with Geospatial Data, and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Data System. LM has made contact with most of the agencies in the states where mines are located. The majority of legacy mines are in western states such as Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming (see Defense-related legacy uranium mine locations by state map below. Source: AEC records. Status as of 5/22/2013).
Using this data, LM has created categories of defenserelated legacy uranium mines based on the amount of uranium ore provided to AEC (see table below). Mine size, as well as remediation or reclamation status and risk factors, will be used to calculate cleanup costs as well as to prioritize and assess risks.
LM is consulting with U.S. EPA, U.S. Department of the Interior (Bureau of Land Management, Office of Surface Mining, etc.), the U.S. Forest Service, and other federal agencies to address contamination of abandoned mine lands (AML) through efforts such as the Federal Mining Dialogue. Additionally, LM continues to participate in stakeholder forums and to consult with technical staff from affected states and tribes. Engaging with AML programs as well as the interested public has proven beneficial in gaining information and expertise about legacy uranium mines. This knowledge will assist DOE in achieving its mandate from Congress.
More information about the AUM Report to Congress is available on LM’s website at www.lm.doe.gov/AUM. To submit questions, comments, or information about AUM activities, please e-mail AUM@lm.doe.gov. All input is welcome and appreciated.