The Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act (UMTRCA) of 1978 gave the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) the responsibility of stabilizing, disposing, and controlling uranium mill tailings and other contaminated material at twenty-four uranium mill processing sites located across ten states and at approximately 5,200 associated properties.
In the 1950s and 1960s, private firms processed most uranium ore mined in the United States. After uranium mining came under federal control, companies abandoned their mill operations, leaving behind materials with potential long-term health hazards. These mills contained low-level radioactive wastes and other hazardous substances that eventually migrated to surrounding soil, groundwater, surface water, and emitted radon gas.
Under the Act, the DOE established the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) Project to monitor the cleanup of uranium mill tailings. The UMTRCA gave the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulatory authority over the cleanup and licensing of mill tailing facilities at sites under NRC license. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had the task of developing cleanup strategies and recording standards for mills. The UMTRA used on-site disposal methods for eleven of the mills, while excavating and disposing of the wastes found at the remaining thirteen sites to remote off-site disposal locations owned by the DOE.
Introduction to Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Program Office (U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Environmental Management)
Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978, as Amended: Full Text (Nuclear Regulatory Commission)