Wyoming has taken a step towards complete responsibility for the handling of radioactive materials involved in uranium operations. It's been a shared duty, with Wyoming covering the mining operations, and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) taking over once the product entered processing. Ryan Schierman, Uranium Recovery Program Manager for the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, said that caused discontent within the uranium industry. He’s managed the transition process.
"I think the impetus to this and where industry pushed is there was dual overlap which meant delays in permitting, also it was duplication. We were looking at the same issues both from a stateside and a federal side," he said.
Preparing for full responsibility has not been a quick task. The state legislature recommended becoming an agreement state, as it's called, in February of 2015. Three and half years later, Schierman expects the transition to finally be done in early October. He and the DEQ have been preparing to take on all the new responsibilities. The department has already added six technical positions, partially to handle the 14 new licenses. There will be a variety of new responsibilities to tackle.
"It’ll be licensing, permitting… we’ll have inspection and compliance to make sure that is occurring. We’ll be taking the role as regulatory authority so issuing guidance, those types of items will transfer to the state," Schierman said.
He added giving the state total authority over uranium operations will allow it respond to issues quicker and govern operations in the best interests of Wyoming. The NRC published its assessment of the proposed agreement in the federal register. It’s open for public comment until July 26.