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USUR: The United States Uranium Registry

Robert H. Moore, the USUR’s founding director

Although uranium had been known to and used by man for more than two centuries, there was still a great deal to be uncovered regarding its behavior and effects in humans. Thus, the United States Uranium Registry (USUR) was established in 1978 by the Hanford Environmental Health Foundation under DOE funding. Robert H. Moore, an occupational physician with some pathology training early in his career, was appointed as half-time director. Health physics and clerical staff were shared with the USTR.

The USUR was a parallel but administratively separate program from the USTR whose three major goals were to:

  • characterize the occupational health aspects of the uranium fuel cycle,
  • measure the concentration and distribution of uranium and the uranium decay chain in the tissues of exposed workers, and
  • identify populations suitable for health related studies.

Although the USUR adopted a similar operational strategy to that of the USTR, and utilized much of the same staff as its sister registry the USTR, the two organizations were administratively separate. The USUR maintained its own files, had its own stationary and forms, and carried out its own recruitment efforts. The USUR’s strategy for recruiting registrants was similar to that of the USTR, though it also relied heavily on individual personal contacts. Nonetheless, the USUR was not nearly so successful; by October 1, 1991, the Uranium Registry had only 32 living registrants, and had received tissues from one surgical case and 12 postmortem donors, including one whole body donor.

With technical support from Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratories, the USUR initiated a series of studies designed to characterize the uranium industry and its hazards within the United States. These led to four technical reports. The first, published in 1981, was an overview of occupational exposure to uranium. Two reports published the following year dealt more specifically with the radiological health aspects of uranium milling and commercial uranium conversion, enrichment and fuel fabrication. The fourth report, also published in 1982, was a comprehensive evaluation of the epidemiologic aspects of lung cancer in hard rock uranium miners. It concluded, among other things, that a histologic study of this group was warranted. The USUR sponsored a successful colloquium on the biokinetics and analysis of uranium in man in 1984, and, in conjunction with the Pacific Northwest Laboratory, edited and published the proceedings of workshops on uranium nephrotoxicity and ultra sensitive analytical techniques.