By Kimberly Mazza
CHEYENNE, Wyo.- A letter of termination for Western Nuclear Inc.’s (WNI) Split Rock Uranium license was signed by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Director Todd Parfitt and the DEQ’s Land Quality Division (LQD) Administrator Kyle Wendtland.
The signatures not only represent the transference of custodianship for long-term care and maintenance of the uranium milling site from Western Nuclear to the Department of Energy (DOE) but also represent a significant achievement for Wyoming.
In 2018, Wyoming secured regulatory authority from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for uranium milling and mining, becoming an Agreement State. According to Kyle Wendtland, DEQ’s Land Quality Division Administrator, and whose Division was responsible for this accomplishment, “This is the first Title II milling site in Wyoming that has completed the rigorous steps to terminate an operating license since Wyoming became an Agreement State.” Kyle also noted that funding was provided by Western Nuclear Inc. through a trust fund required by the NRC and the DOE for long term care and maintenance of the site.
Brandi O’Brien is the LQD’s Natural Resources Program Manager for the Uranium Recovery Program and was a staff member involved in the process of Wyoming becoming an Agreement State. “What this termination shows is that Wyoming, as an Agreement State, can work through the detailed regulatory process and efficiently get the job done while implementing all the required environmental safeguards. The NRC and DOE have been fantastic to work with through this process, and this transfer shows that our regulatory process is working for Wyoming,” stated Brandi.
The NRC will now regulate the DOE to ensure the site is being maintained according to federal regulations. “This is good news for Wyoming,” added Brandi. “The DOE, not the state, is now responsible for maintaining the Split Rock uranium mill site.”
In 1957 the Split Rock uranium mill commenced operations in the high plains of central Wyoming about two miles northeast of Jeffery City in Fremont County, Wyoming on approximately 5,400 acres. Most of the ore which fed the mill originated in open pit mines at the Gas Hills mining district. At peak capacity, the mill could process 1,700 tons of ore per day. In 1981 the mill went on standby status until 1986 to complete the disposal of the tailings at the site.
“Not only does this site mark an important milestone for Wyoming and its uranium mining, but signing the termination letter shows that when federal agencies and Wyoming work cooperatively together, we can achieve our environmental protection goals and objectives,” noted DEQ Director Parfitt. “This letter memorializes the great work of Wyoming DEQ.”