[ RadSafe ] FW: [NucNews] America's Greatest AtomicRadiation Crisis
radproject at sbcglobal.net
Mon Dec 3 14:24:08 CST 2007
Thanks very much for posting such an informative retrospective look, and
links to information about the issue of mill tailings. I appreciate the
effort which went into your post.
Do you have data about the mean, median, high and low radon
levels found in residences which had mill tailings used as fill around them?
I know the US government had spent very large sums of money on the
remediation of private homes.
I had had some dealings with Andy George, head of the radon studies group at
DOE's Environmental Measurement Lab from 1977 to 1979 regarding getting some
of their staff into forced hot air solar heated homes and condo complexes
in New England which used crushed granite heat storage reservoirs. Andy
said they had done extensive radon measurements related to mill tailings,
but no one had ever suggested the potential for very elevated radon levels
in forced hot air solar heated homes.
A single solar home built in New Hampshire at the time would typically have
60 to 100 tons of crushed Conway granite for heat storage, and the home air
passed directly through the granite at night to take heat that had been
stored during the day from panels heating air that stored the heat in the
heat storage reservoir.
These solar heated homes had very elevated radon levels, altho' I don't have
the values at my fingertips. However, it showed how elevated radon can turn
up in situations where it is not expected even in "green" situations like a
solar heated home using heat storage rock reservoirs releasing radon into a
very tight, energy efficient home. The elevated radon in solar homes using
heat storage reservoirs was not restricted to private homes. In one case, I
was able to arrange for DOE's EML to get into a multi-story condo complex
built using forced hot air solar storage, as a DOE Solar Development Group
project. Elevated radon levels were measure by DOE Environmental Measurement
Lab throughout the condo complex. The DOE Solar Development Group did not
want to cooperated with DOE's EML because measuring radon in a solar home
was so unsettling to program administrators, and the Solar Development side
of DOE dragged its feet for over a year before it would let measurments be
This increased dose to a resident from the increase in radon in a forced air
solar system would exceed the average dose received by a member of the
general public from nuclear power plant releases and operation by a very,
very wide margin [many orders of magnitude in WBDE].
Stewart Farber, MS Public Health
Farber Medical Solutions, LLC
Linac, Medical & HP Instrument Brokerage
 441-8433 [Office]
 522-2817 [Cell]
 367-0791 [Fax]
email: radproject at sbcglobal.net
----- Original Message -----
From: "Philip Egidi" <pvegidi at smtpgate.dphe.state.co.us>
To: "Norm Cohen" <ncohen12 at comcast.net>; "Radsafe" <radsafe at radlab.nl>;
"Steven Dapra" <sjd at swcp.com>; <Know_Nukes at yahoogroups.com>
Sent: Monday, December 03, 2007 1:36 PM
Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] FW: [NucNews] America's Greatest AtomicRadiation
Greetings from Grand Junction - 2007.
Yes, this is a VERY OLD article, as is mentioned at the end of the post. It
is a valuable posting for historical purposes, particularly the opposition
by industry and the AEC (in some ways that persisted for decades) to address
the problems as they mounted. The focus was on uranium as source material,
not the waste radium. AEC did not want to regulate it (still really doesn't
in some opinions), the States didn't have the resources, and the millers
didn't want to spend the money until they were forced to. The result was
pollution of rivers (the Animas River was dead for 20 miles below its mill
in the early 60s), the piles were uncovered and abandoned, and is some
places, like Grand Junction, were allowed to be taken and used off site for
all kinks of uses. It took years, but it did get addressed. A very
interesting book on the genesis of this problem, and the considerable
hurdles that had to be overcome to regulate these sites in the first place
can be found in:
"Warm Sands, Uranium Mill Tailings Policy in the Atomic West" by Eric
Mogren. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque NM, 2002. ISBN
Some of the people discussed in that article came to be very strong
proponents of regulation of mill tailings, particularly Bud Franz, who is
now retired and still living in Grand Junction (I work in the same office as
the group he used to manage), and Dr. Geno Saccomano, who ended up doing
considerable research on cancer in uranium miners. His last paper published
after his death found an increase in cancer for non-smoking miners as well
as those who smoked.
Once the UMTRA law was passed in late 1978, things started to change.
The DOE spent a lot of tax dollars (over $1.4 Billion US) cleaning up the
mill tailings under Grand Junction, Rifle, Durango, Gunnison mill sites and
vicinity properties. Hardly any funds were expended to clean up abandoned
uranium mines when compared to the mills. Some Federal Agencies and some
States have programs to try and reclaim the worst mines and lease tracks,
but it is a drop in the bucket. The native Americans did not fare well
either, where a lot of residual contamination remains on the reservations
from abandoned uranium mines. This has been highlighted recently in the LA
Times and in Congressional hearings.
There were about 22 mills cleaned up under the DOE portion of UMTRA (called
Title I). DOE is still addressing groundwater contamination at some of
One new one for DOE is Moab: http://www.gjem.energy.gov/ because the
licensee declared bankruptcy and left NRC holding the bag without enough
surety bonds on the site. Congress transferred it from Title II to Title I
a few years ago so the tax money could be used to clean up the site. That
project is in final planning stages, with cleanup planned over the next
decade or so, depending on funding.
Title II of UMTRA (regulated by NRC or the Agreement States) is ongoing, as
it addresses the mills that had a license in November 1978, or got one
DOE will be the long term custodian as they are cleaned up and closed out.
This does not include in-situ mining of uranium, which is also being used
and is on the rise in the west.
The UMTRA program cleaned up over I think 4,000 properties in Grand Junction
alone. I personally did over 1,000 surveys of properties looking for
tailings in the 1980s into the early 90s for ORAU/ORISE/ORNL. The program
ended around 1998, although the Colorado Department of Public Health and
Environment maintains a small post-UMTRA program that tracks sites that
weren't cleaned up (padding for sewer lines are an example).
New properties that are getting developed require either a records search
showing the results of prior surveys/cleanups or a new gamma survey is done
by the Department to check for tailings. An estimated 500,000 tons of
tailings might still be present under Grand Junction. We still find
properties that fell through the cracks or were "owner refusals" at the time
of the program. Since it was voluntary, not all people welcomed the
government coming on their property and doing these surveys and cleanups.
Now their children are stuck with the properties and are on the hook to
clean them up. I surveyed one last week in Colorado that had never been
known about and had 49 pCi/L radon in one bedroom and gamma exposure rates
of about 130 uR/h. The people have moved out of the house and are trying to
figure out how to clean it up.
The DOE maintains a disposal cell outside Grand Junction that is opened
annually to accept new tailings. The remaining cells around the other 22
sites are closed and checked annually by DOE and the state.
Theses lessons are not lost on those of us who are now facing the task of
tracking and regulating the new resurgence in uranium mining and milling in
the western states. Just last week I attended a planning commission hearing
for a conditional use permit for a revived uranium mine complex in Colorado
We are anticipating at least one new conventional uranium mill and one
in-situ mill application to come in for review in the next year or so. The
Department's Radioactive Materials Program doesn't regulate mining, that is
under MSHA and Minerals and Geology (or whatever they are called these
days), but we do regulate uranium milling. Colorado still has one uranium
mill that tries to operate (Cotter in Canon City), but they have had their
problems and are not operational these days. I spend my days (actually the
last 25 years) with one foot in the past and the other in the future.
NRC is evaluating a generic EIS for in-situ uranium mining (the comment
period just ended the other day), as well as looking at some tweaking of the
regulations. My opinion is that the EIS for conventional uranium milling
should also be looked at again, as it is tremendously outdated. We will see
what NRC decides in the near future. With uranium prices rebounding, and a
push for nuclear power, the front end of the fuel cycle needs to be
considered too. The regulations for uranium miners, under MSHA, have not
been updated in years, and are outdated, and do not offer the same level of
protection as other radiation workers get. This may be hopefully addressed
in the near future.
Radiation Management Unit
Radiation Control Program
Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division
222 S. 6th St. Rm. 232
Grand Junction, CO 81501
(970) 248-7198 fax
>>> Steven Dapra <sjd at swcp.com> 12/02/07 12:05 PM >>>
Note the qualifier below that this tailings article is from the
1970s. This is ooooold news. Hasn't the UMTRA project taken care of all
Norm: WHY did you post this here?? (Not that I expect an answer
of course . . . .)
At 12:46 PM 12/2/07 -0500, Norm Cohen wrote:
>Uranium tailings threaten health out west.
>Coalition for Peace and Justice; UNPLUG Salem Campaign, 321 Barr Ave,
>Linwood; NJ; 08221; 609-601-8583; Cell Phone - 609-335-8176; MySpace
>From: NucNews at yahoogroups.com [mailto:NucNews at yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of
>NO Nukes South Australia
>Sent: Friday, November 30, 2007 7:34 PM
>To: NucNews at yahoogroups.com
>Subject: [NucNews] America's Greatest Atomic Radiation Crisis
>AMERICA'S GREATEST ATOMIC RADIATION CRISIS
>By Don Munson
>Ever hear of uranium "tailings"? It's a fine,
>sand-like end product from the dozens of uranium
>ore-processing plants scattered throughout the
>Far West. Thought to be of no value, or danger,
>hundreds of thousands of tons of this material
>were dumped on the plains, to be snatched up by
>building contractors who used it on construction
>jobs-like hospitals, homes, schools and churches.
>Now, it's been discovered, the stuff is
>radioactively hot and we are facing a catastrophe
>of monumental proportions.
>** THE END **
>Note: This article was from the 1970's.
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