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(Neb)-Federal Board Approves License Renewal For Crow Butte Mine

By: John Axtell Posted at: 12/28/2016 02:00 PM
CRAWFORD - The federal Atomic Safety and Licensing Board has approved a 10-year renewal of the operating license for the Crow Butte uranium mine southeast of Crawford, the latest step in a process that's lasted more than 9 years.

     The Nuclear Regulatory Commission had renewed the license for Cameco Resources in 2014, but contingent on approval by the Safety and Licensing Board.

     The Board postponed a decision to consider objections by opponents, including the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and held hearings in Crawford last year that heard evidence from both sides and drew both protesters and supporters of the mine.

     Opponents had filed a series of objections or contentions that included claims that continued mining would lead to pollution of the aquifer and potential health dangers.

      They also argued that the Environmental Assessment of renewal prepared by NRC staff, which found no significant impact, had failed to meet the requirements of federal law on several fronts including identifying and protecting cultural resources.

     The Licensing Board issued a partial finding in May that
dismissed 2 contentions and instructed NRC staff to do additional research and analysis on 2 others dealing with potential cultural sites in the area around the mine.

     A
second partial ruling issued earlier this month dealt with the remaining contentions, dismissing 7 and ruling the 8th, that the NRC failed to meet some requirements in determining the possible impact of any future land application of wastewater from the mine, was not sufficient to stop the project.

      The specific issue was that while the level of the mineral selenium in the wastewater is safe for human consumption, the Environmental Assessment offered no evidence it was safe for animals. Because of that, the Board told the NRC to provide additional documentation while allowing the registered intervenors future opportunities to file new objections to any update information.

     Cameco Resources filed for the 10-year renewal in 2007, a year before the old permit expired, but a massive backlog of license filings led the agency to allow operations to continue under the old permit.

      The relicensing process saw the NRC hold several public hearings after environmental groups, Native American activists, and some area ranchers raised objections.

      The Crow Butte mine began commercial operations in 1999 and is approaching its planned life expectancy, with all licensed areas now developed. Cameco has filed for a major expansion to the south, an application that's making its way through the NRC.


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