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A Primer on Federal and State Occupational Safety and Health Laws and Regulations Applicable to Uranium Mining and Milling

Laura E. Beverage, Esq., Karen L. Johnston, Esq., Uranium Exploration and Development

As demand for alternative energy sources increases world-wide, nuclear power is expected to see a resurgence as a source of emission-free power. As availability declines and prices rise for conventional energy sources such as oil and gas, nuclear power has become an attractive alternative energy source after years of reduced reliance on nuclear power. Moreover, the threat of nuclear weapons in the on-going fight against terrorism may create further focus on the availability of uranium resources. As the methods of recovery of those resources continue to evolve, mining and milling of uranium are likely to represent more attractive business opportunities.

This paper provides a basic overview of the primary occupational safety and health statutes and standards applicable to workers in the active extractive and processing aspects of uranium. In addition to concerns about radiation exposure control, mining and milling present a plethora of industrial safety issues that are addressed through broad-ranging regulation by federal and state agencies. The discussion provides a primer on federal occupational safety and health statutory and regulatory authority. Where distinctions exist in the state-equivalent of the federal agencies responsible for worker health and safety in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Wyoming at uranium mining and milling sites, those distinctions are referen