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Costs of Uranium Mill Tailings Management

(last updated 22 Apr 2012)


> see also: Unit Converter

Comparison on an International Basis

BMWi 1995

Kosten der Stillegung und Sanierung von Urangewinnungsprojekten im internationalen Vergleich - Einflußgrößen und Abhängigkeiten - Auszug aus dem Abschlußbericht zum Forschungsauftrag Nr.37/93, im Auftrag des Bundesministeriums für Wirtschaft durchgeführt von Uranerzbergbau GmbH, BMWi Studienreihe Nr.90, Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft , Bonn 1995 [Comparison of Decommissioning and Cleanup Costs of Uranium Producing Projects on an International Basis; with summaries in English, French, Spanish, and Russian]

"The 14 uranium producing countries investigated with regard to rehabilitation costs represent a cumulative uranium production until and including 1992 of approximately 1.14 million tonnes of uranium or nearly 3 billion pounds of uranium oxide (U3O8). This corresponds to approx. 63% of the entire cumulative world production of uranium. This production is accompanied by about 1,681 million tonnes of processing residues. 780 million tonnes thereof are related to plants which produced or still produce uranium as a by-product. The accumulated and estimated costs for the decommissioning and rehabilitation of the uranium-producing plants referred to in this study amount to about US$ 3.7 billion (cost basis: 1993). The resulting specific rehabilitation costs are US$ 1.25 per lb of U3O8 and US$ 2.20 per tonne of tailings. Omitting plants which produce/produced uranium as by-product of gold and copper production, the specific cost per tonne of milling doubles to nearly US$ 4.00.

These cost values are, however, indicative only because the specific costs for different projects and countries vary widely: They range from a minimum of US$ 0.12 per lb of U3O8 (Canada) and US$ 0.12 per tonne of tailings (South Africa), to a maximum of approximately US$ 40 per lb of U3O8 (Sweden) and US$ 68 per tonne of tailings (UMTRA Title I Program, USA).

This large range indicates that costs depend on numerous factors having different effects." [...]

Decommissioning and Cleanup Costs of Uranium Producing Projects
Country Production
t U (incl.1992)
million t
Total Cost
million US$ (1993)
Specific Cost
US$/t tailings US$/lb U3O8
Australia, total 54,22598.785.100.860.60
Bulgaria (d) 21,87123.0173.107.533.04
Canada 257,702160.677.100.480.12
Czech Republic (d) 101,90148.8433.338.881.64
France 70,03831.4128.454.090.71
Gabon 21,4466.530.134.640.54
Germany, total 218,463    
Hungary 19,97019.078.404.131.51
Namibia 53,074350.
Niger 56,84517.279.874.640.54
South Africa 143,305700.081.970.120.22
Spain 1,1451.214.8212.354.98
Sweden 2001.520.9813.9940.35
USA, total (e) 310,000222.92,428.9610.903.01
UMTRA Title I 56,00031.32,140.0068.3714.70
UMTRA Title II 254,000191.6288.961.510.44
SUBTOTAL (a)  901.03,596.793.99 
SUBTOTAL (b)  780.0103.740.13 
TOTAL 1,141,2761,681.03,700.532.20(c) 1.25

(a) from plants where uranium is the only product
(b) from plants where uranium is a by-product of gold and copper production
(c) weighted average
(d) including production from in-situ leaching
(e) excluding non-conventional production (ISL etc.)
(f) without Olympic Dam


Environmental Remediation of Uranium Production Facilities , ISBN 92-64-19509-2, OECD NEA / IAEA, Paris, Feb 2002, 328 p.
> View full book online (Google books)

> See: Chapter 9. Costs and Funding (p. 103 - 120)



USA: Decommissioning Costs for Title II Sites

Location and Status of Uranium Mills at the End of 1996 (map - US DOE IDB97)

Status of Conventional Uranium Mill Sites at the End of 1996 (table - US DOE IDB97)

Estimated Decommissioning Costs for Conventional Uranium Production Facilities (a) as of January 1, 1994 (Thousand Dollars)
Name Mill Dismantling Costs Tailings Reclamation Costs Groundwater Restoration Costs Indirect Costs Total Decommiss. Costs
Ambrosia Lake, NM 1,432 12,485 1,183 4,293 19,393
Bear Creek, WY 628 6,635 2,559 2,974 12,796
Cañon City, CO 944 8,123 3,238 530 12,835
Church Rock, NM 709 3,574 2,180 2,134 8,597
Ford, WA 1,000 5,500 5,750 2,500 14,750
Gas Hills (ANC), WY (b) 400 4,800 200 2,000 7,400
Gas Hills (UMETCO), WY 996 8,500 3,735 3,826 17,057
Grants, NM 1,654 6,593 9,972 5,073 23,292
Highland, WY 2,500 5,600 600 900 9,600
L-Bar, NM 709 10,456 729 3,492 15,386
Lisbon, UT 600 5,400 1,600 1,500 9,100
Lucky Mc, WY 565 3,983 2,390 2,253 9,191
Panna Maria, TX 609 5,221 1,700 2,401 9,931
Ray Point, TX 500 1,800 500 1,300 4,100
Shirley Basin, WY 1,094 3,017 603 1,697 6,411
Split Rock, WY 800 10,000 3,614 11,500 25,914
Sweetwater, WY 581 2,776 275 1,426 5,058
Uravan, CO 944 26,751 3,142 7,442 38,279
White Mesa, UT 654 14,656 (c) 0 4,345 19,655
Total 17,319 145,870 43,970 61,586 268,745
Average 912 7,677 2,314 3,241 14,144

(a) The following sites did not have complete data and are excluded from this table: Bluewater, Edgemont, Falls City, Moab, Petrotomics, Sherwood, and Shootering.
(b) American Nuclear Corporation.
(c) White Mesa reported "0" for groundwater restoration costs. These costs may have been included under another category. All facilities have at least some groundwater restoration costs.
Decommissioning of U.S. Uranium Production Facilities. U.S. DOE Energy Information Administration, Report No. DOE/EIA-0592, February 1995.
Available by FTP- Download (681k, PDF format).


Mill Tailings Reclamation Summary as of January 1, 1994
Mill (a) Tailings Area (Acre) Tailings Tonnages (Thousand Tons) Tailings Reclamation Costs (b) (Thousand Dollars) Total Decommiss. Costs (b) (Thousand Dollars) Tailings Cost (b) per Ton (Dollars) Total Decommiss. Costs (b) per Ton (Dollars) Tailings Cost (b) per Acre (Dollars) Tailings Tons per Acre
Ambrosia Lake, NM 328 33,180 12,485 19,393 0.38 0.58 38,064 101,159
Bear Creek, WY 150 4,740 6,635 12,796 1.40 2.70 44,233 31,600
Cañon City, CO 165 2,315 8,123 (b) 12,835 3.51 5.54 49,230 14,030
Church Rock, NM 100 3,527 3,574 8,597 1.01 2.44 35,740 35,270
Ford, WA 133 3,086 5,500 14,750 1.78 4.78 41,353 23,203
Gas Hills (ANC), WY (c) 117 5,842 4,800 7,400 0.82 1.27 41,026 49,932
Gas Hills (UMETCO), WY 146 8,047 8,500 17,057 1.06 2.12 58,219 55,116
Grants, NM 215 22,377 6,593 23,292 0.29 1.04 30,665 104,079
Highland, WY 290 11,354 5,600 9,600 0.49 0.85 19,310 39,152
L-Bar, NM 115 2,094 10,456 15,386 4.99 7.35 90,922 18,209
Lisbon, UT 35 3,858 5,400 9,100 1.40 2.36 154,286 110,229
Lucky Mc, WY 248 11,685 3,983 9,191 0.34 0.79 16,060 47,117
Panna Maria, TX 250 6,504 5,221 9,931 0.80 1.55 20,884 26,016
Ray Point, TX 45 441 1,800 4,100 4.08 9.30 40,000 9,800
Shirley Basin, WY 263 8,157 3,017 6,411 0.37 0.80 11,471 31,015
Split Rock, WY 167 7,716 10,000 25,914 1.30 3.36 59,880 46,204
Sweetwater, WY 300 2,315 2,776 5,058 1.20 2.18 9,253 7,717
Uravan, CO 85 10,472 26,751 38,279 2.55 2.66 314,718 123,200
White Mesa, UT 333 3,527 14,656 19,655 4.16 5.57 44,012 10,592
Total 3,485 151,237 145,870 268,745        
Average 183 7,960 7,677 14,144 0.97 1.78 41,857 43,397

(a) The following sites did not have complete data and are excluded from this table: Bluewater, Edgemont, Falls City, Moab, Petrotomics, Sherwood, and Shootering.
(b) All costs are estimated.
(c) American Nuclear Corporation.
Note: Totals may not equal sum of components because of independent rounding.
1 acre = 4046.8 m2
1 (short) ton = 907.185 kg

Decommissioning of U.S. Uranium Production Facilities. U.S. DOE Energy Information Administration, Report No. DOE/EIA-0592, February 1995.
Available by FTP- Download (681k, PDF format).


Title X of the Energy Policy Act of 1992: Uranium/Thorium Reimbursement Program
Federal Reimbursement for Costs of Remedial Action at Active Uranium and Thorium Processing Sites

Status of Payments through Fiscal Year 2001 and Estimated Future Payments - Uranium (dollars in thousands) - excerpt -
Licensee Site Federal reimbur- sement ratio e) Total Payments FY 1994 - FY 2001 Estimated Payments: FY 2001 through End of Program. b)
  - American Nuclear CorporationGas Hills, WY0.36580720
  - State of Wyoming1,218626
Atlantic Richfield CompanyBluewater, NM0.37032,3060
Atlas Corporation/Moab Mill Reclamation Trust. d)Moab, UT0.5618,903789
Cotter CorporationCañon City, CO0.1432,391736
Dawn Mining CompanyFord, WA0.3783,1244,740
Homestake Mining CompanyGrants, NM0.51235,54017,410
Pathfinder Mines CorporationLucky Mc, WY0.2437,5321,167
Petrotomics CompanyShirley Basin, WY0.1152,392516
Quivira Mining CompanyAmbrosia Lake, NM0.30214,2496,844
Tennessee Valley AuthorityEdgemont, SD0.81312,3343,795
Umetco Minerals CorporationUravan, CO0.54343,27013,313
East Gas Hills, WY0.26313,5687,305
Western Nuclear, IncorporatedSplit Rock, WY0.43527,5214,177
Sub-total, Uranium 0.552205,15561,438

b) These amounts are estimates of future claims provided by the licensees in early 2001.
d) Effective December 30, 1999, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission transferred the license from the Atlas Corporation to a newly created trust approved by a bankruptcy court. In FY 2000 and FY 2001, Title X payments were made to the trust. The license was terminated and DOE assumed title to the site in October 2001. The current trust is expected to be dissolved in early CY 2002, and a new trust will be formed and will be eligible for reimbursement of the remaining claim amount that is scheduled for approval in April 2002. That will be the final Title X liability for the Moab site.
e) the portion of costs of remedial action attributable to byproduct material generated as an incident of sales to the United States

FY 2003 Congressional Budget, Environmental Management/Uranium Facilities Maintenance and Remediation Appropriation Language (132k PDF)
Federal Register: May 23, 1994: 10 CFR Part 765, Reimbursement for Costs of Remedial Action at Active Uranium and Thorium Processing Sites; Final Rule and Notice



USA: Costs for UMTRA Project (Title I Sites)

U.S. Uranium Production Facilities: Operating History and Remediation Cost Under Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project as of 2000 , U.S. DOE Energy Information Administration, August 2001


Locations and Status of UMTRAP sites (map - US DOE IDB97)


Estimated cost and cancer deaths prevented by the UMTRA project based on FY98 federal UMTRA budget
SiteTailings [million t] (a)Cleanup cost
[US$ million]
Specific cost
[US$/t tailings]
Deaths prevented
in 100 years
Cost per death prevented in 100 years
[US$ million]
Grand Junction, CO4.2256.3615880.44
Salt Lake City, UT3.375.0233130.24
Rifle, CO3.894.925402.4
Durango, CO3.163.120222.8
Canonsburg, PA0.3235.811215.02.4
Gunnison, CO1.063.2636.59.7
Riverton, WY2.245.6215.68.1
Falls City, TX6.756.78.52.325
Shiprock, NM3.422.96.72.011
Tuba City, AZ2.034.9171.918
Mexican Hat, UT3.153.2171.341
Naturita, CO0.759.8850.9166
Lakeview, OR1.232.6270.27120
Ambrosia Lake, NM3.339.0120.086450
Monument Valley, AZ1.323.3180.0161,500
Lowman, ID0.1514.9990.0131,100
Green River, UT0.4621.5470.0073,100
Slick Rock, CO0.853.1660.00318,000
Maybell, CO3.939.1100.00313,000
Spook, WY0.3810.3270.0025,200
Site totals45.311,105.2249991.1
Vicinity properties 345.2 2901.2
Grand totals 1,450.4 1,2891.1
(a) calculated from volume using density of 1.6
t = metric tonne
Mark L. Miller, Robert E. Cornish, and C. Beth Pomatto: Calculation of the Number of Cancer Deaths Prevented by the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project, in: Health Physics, Vol. 76, No. 5, (May 1999), p. 544-546. Decommissioning Data - USA

> See also: Risk Reduction and Cost-Effectiveness in the UMTRA Project , by Robert E. Cornish, Mark L. Miller, C. Beth Pomatto; Waste Management Symposium, Tucson, Arizona, 1997

US DOE Cost Reduction and Productivity Improvement:

National Performance Review 1994

The Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) Project Office at DOE's Albuquerque Operations Office has saved or avoided costs of $59 million since instituting its Cost Reduction/Productivity Improvement Program (CR/PIP) in 1988.

US GAO Review of UMTRA Project

Uranium Mill Tailings: Cleanup Continues, But Future Costs Are Uncertain, U.S. General Accounting Office, Chapter Report, December 15, 1995, GAO/RCED-96-37.
> download full text

Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the Department of Energy's (DOE) program for cleaning up uranium mill tailings, focusing on: (1) the status and cost of DOE surface and groundwater cleanups; and (2) factors that could affect the federal government's costs and liabilities in the future.

GAO noted that:

  1. DOE intends to complete the cleanup of surface and groundwater contamination sites by 2014, at a cost of more than $2.4 billion;
  2. out of 24 sites, surface cleanup is complete at 15, under way at 7, and idle at 2;
  3. surface cleanup costs total around $2 billion to date and may be completed in 1998 at an additional cost of $300 million;
  4. DOE postponed its groundwater cleanup until 1991 because of its focus on surface cleanup and a delay in the Environmental Protection Agency's final groundwater standards;
  5. DOE has not reached an agreement with any of the affected states or tribes to develop cleanup strategies or financial support;
  6. DOE will need another $147 million to clean up the affected groundwater sites;
  7. the costs and completion dates of the cleanups depend on whether DOE keeps a disposal site open to dispose of future unearthed tailings and whether states contribute 10 percent of the groundwater cleanup expenses; and
  8. the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not updated the minimum charge for owners of Title II sites to reflect the cost of basic surveillance and maintenance.

Uranium Mill Tailings: Status and Future Costs of Cleanup, Testimony, February 28, 1996, GAO/T-RCED-96- 85. (Statement of Bernice Steinhardt, Associate Director, Energy, Resources, and Science Issues, Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division, before the Subcommittee on Energy and Power, Committee on Commerce, House of Representatives)
> download full text

GAO reviewed the status and cost of the Department of Energy's (DOE) uranium mill tailings cleanup program and the factors that could affect future costs. GAO found that:
  1. if DOE completes its surface cleanup program in 1998, it will have cost $2.3 billion, taken 8 years longer than expected, and be $621 million over budget;
  2. DOE cleanup costs increased because there were more contaminated sites than originally anticipated, some sites had more contamination than others, changes were needed to respond to state and local concerns;
  3. the future costs of the uranium mill tailings cleanup will largely depend on the remediation methods used and the willingness of states to share in the final cleanup costs; and
  4. the Nuclear Regulatory Commission needs to ensure that enough funds are collected from private site owners to protect U.S. taxpayers from future cleanup costs.

DOE Cleanup: Status and Future Costs of Uranium Mill Tailings Program, by Bernice Steinhardt, Associate Director for Energy, Resources, and Science Issues, before the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, House Committee on Science. GAO/T-RCED-96-167, May 1, 1996.
> download full text

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