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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is responsible for regulating milling operations, and issues Federal permits independent from the mining plans which are regulated by state agencies.
Federal standards for milling must be met, but states are authorized to impose even stricter requirements.
The final product at the mine site is "yellowcake," with ore concentrated to about 80% uranium oxide (U).
While open pit and underground mines are regulated by state agencies, extraction of uranium at Coles Hill by in-situ leaching would be regulated by a Federal rather than a state agency Source: Nuclear Regulatory Commission, In Situ Recovery Facilities Because most uranium mines are in arid locations, opponents to the proposed uranium mines in Virginia highlight the potential risks of radioactive mining and mill wastes escaping the site through runoff or groundwater seepage.
Uranium normally interacts with groundwater to form the uranyl ion, [UO This ion is very stable and soluble.
uranium mining leases and downstream water system intakes Source: Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC), map of former uranium mining leases in southern Virginia In 2008, the General Assembly rejected a proposed study that could have led to a revision in the 1982 ban on uranium mining in Virginia, after one influential state delegate noted that his district gets some of its drinking water from downstream of the proposed mine.
Virginia Beach is also downstream, because it draws water from Gaston Reservoir.