EPA issues permits for Dewey Burdock project

December 1, 2020, 9:33AMNuclear News

The Dewey Burdock project area, near Edgemont, S.D., in 2014. Photo: Azarga Uranium

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued its final permits for Canada-based Azarga Uranium’s underground injection control (UIC) activities at the Dewey Burdock in situ recovery (ISR) uranium project in South Dakota, the company announced recently.

The EPA’s action includes two permits: a UIC Class III Area Permit for the ISR of uranium and a UIC Class V Area Permit for deep injection wells that will be used to dispose of ISR-process waste fluids after they have been treated to meet radioactive waste and hazardous waste standards.

The EPA is also finalizing an aquifer exemption approval in connection with the Class III permit to allow for resource recovery in the uranium-bearing portions of the Inyan Kara group of aquifers.

Protective measures: Both permits will authorize the operation of multiple injection wells within the project area, according to a November 24 EPA news release. Included in the permits are requirements for the treatment of Class V injection fluids to ensure that the fluids are not radioactive or hazardous waste and extensive monitoring of the areas surrounding the Class III injection wellfields before, during, and after ISR operations to ensure that all regulatory standards are met.

Additional permit requirements include securing financial assurances and testing related to the proper operation, management, and closure of injection wells, as well as extensive recordkeeping and reporting, the EPA said.

What they’re saying: “These permits reflect many years of evaluation and public comment on [Azarga’s] applications to recover uranium from ore-bearing formations at the Dewey Burdock project location,” said EPA regional administrator Gregory Sopkin. “EPA’s final actions are based on a thorough consideration of scientific, technical, and regulatory aspects of the permits and a review of all comments received, including those received during tribal consultation. This process has contributed to the development of requirements that will protect the region’s groundwater while enabling the safe recovery of valuable uranium resources.”

Azarga’s president and chief executive officer, Blake Steele, said, “At a time when the uranium market remains in a structural deficit and the United States government has shown historic bipartisan support for the uranium sector, as evidenced by the Senate Committee on Appropriations draft fiscal year 2021 funding measures and subcommittee allocations’ inclusion of US$150 million for a United States uranium reserve, Azarga Uranium continues to unlock the value of one of the preeminent undeveloped in situ recovery uranium projects in the USA.”

Almost there: The EPA permits represent the second of three major regulatory agency approvals required for the Dewey Burdock project, and the final key federal agency approval. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has already issued the company’s source and by-product materials license. Still needed is the imprimatur of the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources. According to Azarga, the department’s staff has recommended permit approval.

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