Wyoming Becomes “Agreement-State” Giving Authority to License and Inspect Mining and Milling of Uranium in State
Today, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead signed an agreement with the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) which gives the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) the authority to regulate uranium recovery operations within the State.
The NRC has previously maintained this authority. By managing the program at a state level, permitting redundancy will be eliminated and better oversight will be provided as Wyoming is closer to industry activities.
“Wyoming will regulate uranium using the same high standards set by the NRC,” said Governor Matt Mead. “Wyoming DEQ has done a great job ensuring that all the program requirements have been met and will continue to be effectively implemented. I thank the NRC and DEQ for standing this program up quickly and cost efficiently.”
“Wyoming had to develop a program that would meet the NRC compatibility requirements to become an Agreement State,” said Kyle Wendtland, Land Quality Division Administrator. “In order to accomplish this goal, Wyoming had to implement new governing statutes, rules and regulations, guidance, and policies and procedures compatible with NRC’s requirements.”
Wendtland added that the program also had to be staffed with employees that meet the NRC qualifications, such as expertise in health physics.
“The department met all of the program standup requirements in about a three-and-half-year time frame. This was two years ahead of the original proposed schedule and $2.5 million under budget,” said Wendtland.
According to Todd Parfitt, DEQ Director, much of the success in obtaining the agreement ahead of schedule and below budget, was the timely and high-quality responses from the NRC staff to DEQ.
“This was a cooperative effort, and thank you is simply not enough for the appreciation of the NRC staff involved in this effort,” said Parfitt.
With this approval, Wyoming will become the 38th state to receive “Agreement State” authority. Additionally, Wyoming will become the first state to obtain limited agreement for radioactive materials solely involved in uranium recovery operations. NRC will continue regulating the other radioactive material in the state used in settings such as laboratories, hospitals, and universities.
DEQ will assume “Agreement State” authority on September 30, 2018.
The Atomic Energy Act of 1954 as amended (AEA), Section 274, authorizes the NRC to enter into agreements with the states to allow them to assume regulatory functions that would otherwise be the responsibility of the NRC. States that choose to assume this regulatory authority over some or all of the radioactive materials within the state are therefore known as “Agreement States”.
In 2013, a feasibility study for becoming an “Agreement State” was completed for the Wyoming Legislature. This study provided a clear view of the process to become an “Agreement State”, the strategic decisions involved in that process, and an understanding of the regulatory issues and responsibilities associated with the maintenance of an “Agreement State” program after receiving approval from the NRC.
In 2015, the Wyoming Legislature and Governor Mead officially gave DEQ the authority to begin the process of becoming an “Agreement State”.