WASHINGTON – The Nuclear Regulatory Commission took action yesterday to start work on a rulemaking that could prevent a future Environmental Protection Agency from ending the wanton contamination of groundwater across the Mountain West generated by uranium mining.
The following is a statement from Geoff Fettus, senior attorney in the nuclear program at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council):
“This rule, if finalized, could entrench for decades a scheme that enriches a polluting industry but leaves communities across the Mountain West exposed to radioactive and toxic groundwater. Instead, we must end the uranium-mining industry’s decades-long practice of polluting scarce sources of Western groundwater.
“The decision to start on this rulemaking, instead of waiting for EPA to issue strong, protective standards, is a giant step in the wrong direction.”
NRDC has demonstrated that in situ leach mining – in which chemicals are pumped into an aquifer to leach the uranium off the rock and the radioactive water pumped to the surface – contaminates the mined aquifer. The scale of destruction and long-term damage is unknown because of lax oversight from the NRC.
EPA had moved to issue a regulation to force the industry to clean up after itself, but the Trump administration withdrew those rules and adopted the industry’s argument that EPA doesn’t even have the legal authority to protect the water. Both the text of the law and its legislative history demonstrate this to be false.
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NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.