UPDATED: Is This Why Huntington Pilot Plant Was Buried? Uranium, Uranium Tailings, & Byproducts Brought Under NRC Control in 1978

Updated 4 years ago (c) 2013 by Tony E Rutherford & HNN Attribution Permitted
UPDATED: Is This Why Huntington Pilot Plant Was Buried?  Uranium, Uranium Tailings, & Byproducts Brought Under NRC Control in 1978

Since 1954 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (a.k.a. Atomic Energy Commission) has regulated the non-military use of a limited set of radioactive material. Federal authorities believed that the regulated materials, referred to as AEA materials, were a "hazard beyond the ability of states to control".

In 1978, the definition of "byproduct materials" was amended to include the tailings from uranium thorium ore processed primarily for their source material content. Prior to 1978, these materials were subject to state, not federal control. It was determined by federal regulators for these nuclear by products and materials states "could not protect the public health and safety".

Huntington, WV had a AEC leased plant, the Huntington Pilot Plant (Reduction Pilot Plant) which operated from 1952-1962 and sat at the Huntington Alloys site in a "cold standby" state.

Former Huntington Pilot Plant before demolition and burial
Former Huntington Pilot Plant before demolition and burial
File Photo

Since the AEC leased plant was dismantled in 1978-1979 and trucked to a then classified burial ground in Piketon, Ohio (on the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant site), it appears that West Virginia did not have authority to regulate materials at the structure, which undertook uranium processing and recycling of material from the Portsmouth, Paducah, and Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plants (and possibly others).

In addition to nickel, nickel carbonyl, uranium and plutonium, the HPP and the surroundings on which it sat has been associated with numerous toxic substances regulated by permits.

For transparency purposes, we invite you to view SOME of the public documents collected on the Atomic Energy Commission plant in Huntington: http://www.huntingtonnews.net/48321


Fact Sheet on Uranium Mill Tailings

Printable Version


In the early 1980s, the price of uranium fell due to a lack of orders for new nuclear power plants in the U.S. and the importing of uranium from other countries. As a result, U.S. uranium mills were shut down or had their operations scaled back. Recently, the price of uranium has rapidly increased from $9.70 per pound in 2002 to over 90 per pound in 2007. Due to this price increase, there have been numerous inquiries about the licensing of new uranium production facilities. Uranium mill tailings contain the radioactive element radium, which decays to produce radon, a radioactive gas. The radium in these tailings will not decay entirely for thousands of years. The mill tailings pose a potential hazard to public health and safety.

To provide for the disposal, long-term stabilization, and control of these mill tailings in a safe and environmentally sound manner and to minimize or eliminate radiation health hazards to the public, Congress enacted the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978 (UMTRCA). This Act established two programs to protect the public and the environment from uranium mill tailings.

The UMTRCA Title I program established a joint Federal/State-funded program for remedial action at abandoned mill tailings sites where tailings resulted largely from production of uranium for the weapons program. Now there is Federal ownership of the tailings disposal sites under general license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Under Title I, the Department of Energy (DOE) is responsible for cleanup and remediation of these abandoned sites. The NRC is required to evaluate DOE's design and implementation and, after remediation, concur that the sites meet standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The UMTRCA Title II program is directed toward uranium mill sites licensed by the NRC or Agreement States in or after 1978. Title II of the Act provides -

  • NRC authority to control radiological and non-radiological hazards.

  • EPA authority to set generally applicable standards for both radiological and non-radiological hazards.

  • Eventual State or Federal ownership of the disposal sites, under general license from NRC.

There are five Agreement States - Colorado, Illinois, Texas, Utah and Washington – that license "Atomic Energy Act section 11e.(2)"; material (i.e., certain mill tailings and related waste containing thorium or uranium). NRC is required to make a determination that all applicable standards and requirements have been met by uranium mills before termination of their Agreement State license.

Regulations and Standards

UMTRCA charged the EPA with the responsibility for issuing generally applicable standards for control of uranium mill tailings. In 1983, EPA issued standards for both Title I and Title II sites. In November 1985, as mandated by UMTRCA, NRC changed its regulations in 10 CFR Part 40, Appendix A to be consistent with EPA Title II standards. Since 1985, various changes have been made to Part 40 for the Title II sites. In 1995, EPA issued final Title I groundwater standards.



Comments powered by Disqus