The Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act (Act) of 1978 is a U.S. federal law that aims to provide for the disposal, long-term stabilization, and control of uranium mill tailings in a safe and environmentally sound manner and to minimize or eliminate radiation health hazards to the public. The provisions of the Act are codified at 42 USCS §§ 7901 et seq. This Act established two programs: UMTRCA Title I program & UMTRCA Title II program to protect the public and the environment from uranium mill tailings:
The Act made the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for 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.
This Act was enacted consequent to Congress’s findings that the uranium mill tailings located at active and inactive mill operations may pose a potential and significant radiation health hazard to the public. Therefore, to protect the public health, safety, and welfare and regulate interstate commerce reasonable efforts were to be made to provide for the stabilization, disposal, and control in a safe and environmentally sound manner of such tailings in order to prevent or minimize radon diffusion into the environment and to prevent or minimize other environmental hazards from such tailings.
Pursuant to the Act, the DOE established the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) Project to monitor the cleanup of uranium mill tailings. The Act gave the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulatory authority over the cleanup and licensing of mill tailing facilities at sites under NRC license.
The following is an example of a federal statute stating the purpose of the Act:
The purposes of this Act are to provide:
(1) in cooperation with the interested States, Indian tribes, and the persons who own or control inactive mill tailings sites, a program of assessment and remedial action at such sites, including, where appropriate, the reprocessing of tailings to extract residual uranium and other mineral values where practicable, in order to stabilize and control such tailings in a safe and environmentally sound manner and to minimize or eliminate radiation health hazards to the public, and
(2) a program to regulate mill tailings during uranium or thorium ore processing at active mill operations and after termination of such operations in order to stabilize and control such tailings in a safe and environmentally sound manner and to minimize or eliminate radiation health hazards to the public. [42 USCS § 7901].