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Decommissioning of Moab, Utah, Uranium Mill Tailings

(last updated 30 Jan 2014)

Contents:


General

Atlas Corp. Moab (Utah) uranium mill tailings site:
NRC License No. SUA-917
NRC Docket No. 40-3453

> Views of Atlas tailings pile: image (79k) external link new window
> Aerial view Moab tailings site: Google Maps external link new window · MSRMaps external link new window · National Geographic external link new window · U.S. DOE (Sep. 20, 2010) new window
> Aerial view of Crescent Junction disposal site: Google Maps external link new window · MSRMaps external link new window · U.S. DOE (Dec. 16, 2010) new window
> Webcams: Moab tailings site external link · Crescent junction disposal site external link (U.S. DOE)

Links:
Moab, Utah page external link · Moab news external link (DOE)
Moab Uranium Mill Tailings external link (Utah DEQ)
Moab Millsite Stakeholder Group external link (Utah DEQ / Grand County Council)
Moab Tailings Homepage external link (Grand County, Utah)

News:
> Search Salt Lake Tribune archive external link
> Search Deseret News archive external link
> The Times-Independent external link (Moab)

Atlas Minerals Inc. (formerly Atlas Corporation)
370 Seventeenth St
Suite 3140
Denver, CO 80202, USA
Tel. +1-303-629-2440, Fax: +1-303-629-2445

> Search for Atlas news releases: PR Newswire external link · Yahoo external link · CNW external link
> Search EDGAR Database for Atlas Records external link
Atlas 1999 Annual Report external link (EDGAR database, 248k)

Shareholders of Atlas Minerals Inc. are (among others), as of March 15, 2000:

On Dec. 27, 1999, the license was transferred to the trustee PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP external link (PWC).
On Oct. 26, 2001, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Grand Junction Office (GJO) assumed ownership of the site.


Current Issues

Moab tailings relocation project receives additional funding

Cleanup work at the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) site will continue with no interruptions through late September, thanks to an unexpected boost in federal funding.
The omnibus spending bill that President Barack Obama signed into law on Jan. 17 provides $38 million for operations at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-managed site through the end of the federal fiscal year, according to the DOE's Moab Federal Project Director Don Metzler. That's about $2.2 million more than the DOE requested for the current federal fiscal year, which runs through Sept. 30.
Portage, Inc., the Idaho-based company that holds the federal contract for the Moab cleanup project, had to recently pause tailings shipments to its long-term disposal cell near Crescent Junction as a result of last year's federal government shutdown. But there will not be any further curtailments this fiscal year, Metzler said. (Moab Times Independent Jan. 30, 2014)

200 million gallons of contaminated ground water extracted from former Atlas, Moab, uranium mill site

The Department of Energy (DOE) announced today that it has extracted 200 million gallons [757,060 cubic metres] of contaminated ground water from the Moab site in Utah as part of the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project. Actively remediating the contaminated ground water is part of the project's scope, which also includes relocating a 16-million-ton uranium mill tailings pile away from the Colorado River. (DOE EM July 29, 2013)

U.S. House of Representatives approves more money to relocate Moab tailings

The House this week added more money to remove radioactive tailings on the banks of the Colorado River near Moab. Last year, Congress appropriated $30 million for the cleanup, an amount that kept work going for nine months. The House-passed bill offers $40 million. (Salt Lake Tribune July 11, 2013)

6 Million short tons of mill tailings removed from DOE Moab Project Site

On June 18, 2013, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced that 6 million [short] tons of uranium mill tailings have been shipped from Moab, Utah, under the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project to an engineered disposal cell near Crescent Junction, Utah. The shipments mark continued progress toward relocating the 16-million-ton uranium mill tailings pile away from the Colorado River.

Public input invited on future use of former Atlas, Moab, uranium mill property

Local residents are invited to help create a community vision for the future of the former Atlas uranium mill property during a workshop at the Grand Center, 182 North 500 West, at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 15.
The workshop marks the beginning of the public input process, managed by Grand County’s Site Futures Committee, according to a news release from the group. The committee is hoping to achieve an initial community vision by the end of the year, which will be periodically updated as needed until the remediation project is completed. (Moab Times Independent, May 13, 2013)
> View: Site Futures Committee external link (Grand County)

Moab tailings relocation project to be scaled back due to funding issues

Portage Inc., the Idaho Falls-based company that was recently awarded a five-year contract for the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action project, has announced that cleanup work at the former Atlas Uranium mill site north of Moab will be scaled back from a year-round effort to nine months annually for the next five years, U.S. Department of Energy officials said this week. (Moab Times Independent, Apr. 5, 2012)
Efforts continue by the Grand County Council and the Moab Tailings Project Steering Committee to convince the federal government and Congress to provide additional funding for the cleanup of the former Atlas Uranium Corp. mill site north of Moab. Local government officials and steering committee members have said they believe an additional $5 to $7 million would be sufficient to keep the project going year-round. (Moab Times Independent, Aug. 30, 2012)

Moab mill tailings relocation project reaches milestone of 5 million short tons disposed

About 5 million [short] tons of uranium-tainted waste has been removed so far from the banks of the Colorado River near Moab. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the milestone Monday (Feb. 27), almost three years after work began to relocate the 16 million-[short] ton pile to a landfill about 30 miles north at Crescent Junction. (Salt Lake Tribune Feb. 27, 2012)

With stimulus funding expired, Moab tailings relocation continues at slower pace

Progress at the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) cleanup project north of Moab continues despite layoffs and flooding at the site earlier this summer. Cuts in federal funding forced contractors to lay off more than 150 employees in July.
In 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy received $108 million in federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, allowing contractors to hire almost 200 workers to help accelerate the relocation of about 16 million tons of toxic waste from the former Atlas Uranium mill site to a permanent disposal site near Crescent Junction. Additional stimulus funding is not available and the project is now operating on a budget of about $31 million annually, necessitating the staff cuts.
"We're still moving 5,000 tons of tailings a day, five days a week," said Don Metzler, Moab federal project director for the DOE. "It's about half of what we were able to do with the extra staff, but it's the best we can do with the available funds." (Moab Times Independent Sep. 8, 2011)

Buffer zone contains flood at Moab tailings site - so far

Despite flooding, the banks along the Colorado River appear to be holding up so far at the Atlas tailings cleanup site in Moab. "There is water on the site near the riverbank," said Wendee Ryan, spokeswoman for a cleanup contractor at the site. "But it has not gotten up where the pile is."
Over the past year, cleanup crews finished removing uranium-contaminated waste from the riverbank and built a bike path along its edge. They also have installed shallow catchbasins between the river and three new berms at the toe of the 130-acre pile. Those measures, plus a recently implemented flood-control plan at the site, have helped create a kind of buffer zone that separates the contaminated soil in the pile from the riverbank areas that already have been cleaned up, according to Lee Shenton, Grand County’s cleanup liaison.
Shenton said he has a photo of the massive tailings heap from 1984, when the river blasted into the pile at 66,000 cubic feet [1,870 cubic metres] per second. The river topped the rebuilt riverbank this week, with river volumes reaching 36,000 cfs [1,000 m3/s]. Projections are for flows of up to 46,000 cfs [1,300 m3/s], he said. (Salt Lake Tribune June 3, 2011)

Moab tailings relocation to slow as stimulus money dries up

In two years, the Department of Energy has hauled away nearly 4 million tons of uranium tailings, which for decades had been leaching into the adjacent Colorado River. Now, with another 12 million tons still to go, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money that has fueled the accelerated cleanup is about to run out. Progress is expected to slow to a comparative crawl as the Energy Department slashes the cleanup team by two-thirds next month. Instead of 320 people on the job, there will be funding enough for around 100 under the DOE's projected budget for cleaning up the old uranium mill.
Congress gave $6 billion in stimulus money to the Energy Department two years ago. And the DOE pumped $104 million of that into moving the tailings from the mill site. The cash infusion made it possible to run two, 88-car trainloads of waste a day up to the Crescent Junction disposal site about 32 miles north of the pile. With the stimulus program scheduled to run out next month, project manager Don Metzler expects to run one trainload a day four days a week. (The Salt Lake Tribune May 9, 2011)

Moab mill tailings relocation project reaches milestone of 2 million short tons disposed

On Aug. 11, 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy reached another milestone on the Moab, Utah, Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project: 2 million [short] tons of tailings shipped by rail from the Moab site to the Crescent Junction, Utah, site for permanent disposal. Funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act supported nearly 60 percent of the total shipments. (U.S. DOE Aug. 11, 2010)

Rockslides plague Atlas Moab tailings relocation shipments

A significant landslide last week dropped rock and soil onto the rail bench where tailings from the old Atlas uranium processing mill site are transferred to railcars, officials with the Department of Energy said. The July 21 slide did not reach the tracks, and no injuries or damage to the railcars occurred. The impact on rail activities was minimal and did not slow work at the project site, where radioactive material from the old mill is being loaded onto rail cars for transport to a permanent disposal site near Crescent Junction, according to Wendee Ryan, contract spokesperson for the project.
Last week's incident marked the second time this month that a rockslide raised concerns among Union Pacific officials and contractors about the stability of the hillsides along the rail line. On July 12, train operations were suspended for about nine hours after train operators came upon rock on the tracks in the "Big Cut" just south of the Gemini Bridges parking lot north of Moab, Ryan said. In that incident, the train crew spotted the rock in time to stop the train, and clear the tracks she said. (Moab Times-Independent July 29, 2010)

Insufficient design cover thickness identified at edge of Crescent Junction disposal site for Moab tailings

Due to a design error, a narrow strip along the edge of the Crescent Junction disposal cell will exceed the 20 pCi/m2s radon exhalation standard, according to recent model runs. DOE, however, maintains that the overall radon exhalation rate from the complete deposit will nevertheless meet the standard.
> View/download: R. Chang Email with Attachments external link (ADAMS Acc. No. ML101550008)
On April 20, 2010, DOE submitted to NRC a proposal how to avoid in the future the insufficient cover thickness at the edge of the disposal cell, which the NRC accepted on Nov. 15, 2010.

Relocation project for Atlas Moab tailings could lose two thirds of funding by 2012

Cleanup of the 16-million ton uranium mill-tailings pile near Moab, Utah, could be slowed for lack of funding, the head of the project said. The U.S. Department of Energy cleanup that is hauling the pile north to Crescent Junction was helped significantly by stimulus money, Don Metzler, director of the project, said at the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce last month. Funding for the project "is not secure at all," Metzler said. Budget forecasting suggests that 2012 will be a "tough time" for the Energy Department, Metzler said, but spending $90 million a year would make it possible to complete the cleanup by 2019, saving hundreds of millions in life-cycle costs of the $1 billion project. By dint of several breaks, including stimulus funding, the project is operating with about $90 million a year now, but is to fall to the base amount of $30 million a year after 2011. (Grand Junction Sentinel May 31, 2010)

Moab uranium tailings relocation reaches million-short ton milestone

The U.S. Energy Department said this week that more than 1 million (short) tons of uranium mill tailings have been moved from the banks of the Colorado River near Moab to a disposal cell 30 miles away at Crescent Junction, north of Interstate 70. Federal stimulus funds has helped pay for about half of the volume moved so far. (The Salt Lake Tribune Mar. 4, 2010)

Moab tailings relocation suspended after truck accident

A truck carrying uranium mill tailings from a Moab cleanup project headed by EnergySolutions tipped over and spilled some of the radioactive dirt last Wednesday (Oct. 14). The multimillion-dollar cleanup project was suspended until Tuesday (Oct. 20) for a safety evaluation, EnergySolutions spokesman Mark Walker said. EnergySolutions had been carting dirt up a haul road at the site Wednesday evening when the driver came too close to the shoulder and the truck tipped over, Walker said. The driver was fine but taken to the hospital for a precautionary evaluation, he said. (Deseret News Oct. 18, 2009)

DOE officials developing "aggressive solutions" for groundwater remediation at Atlas Moab uranium mill tailings site

The presence of ammonia in a "backwater" between the Atlas tailings pile and the Colorado River is complicating things slightly at the Moab Tailings Project site, according to Department of Energy Project Director Don Metzler. "Our goal is to get this [reading] down to 1 ppm," Metzler said.
"There is a likelihood we could get funded so that the project is done in 10 years," Metzler said, noting that the original planning for the tailings removal allowed for 20 years to get the job done. That means 10 years less time to work out groundwater issues, he said.
Now the project works out an aggressive solution, according to Metzler. One possibility under consideration is to increase the pH (reduce acidity) so that the ammonia will gasify into the air. Another possibility would be to treat the water to remove both ammonia and uranium from it. But that would be more expensive and would take resources away from moving the tailings faster, Metzler said. (Moab Times Oct. 1, 2009)

2019 deadline for completion of Moab uranium tailings relocation becoming realistic, if additonal funding is provided

Will relocation of the Atlas tailings pile be completed by 2019 as required by federal law? "The odds are getting better and better all the time," said Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) during a recent tour of the Atlas site with Department of Energy and Grand County officials. Given a boost from federal economic stimulus funds, the project will begin shipping containers on two trains per day starting Aug. 17, DOE officials said. In November, those trains will increase from 22 cars each to 34 cars, according to DOE project director Don Metzler. With that expansion the 2019 deadline becomes realistic, provided that, once the stimulus funds are used up, extra money is appropriated by Congress or allocated to the Moab project away from other DOE projects, Metzler said. (Moab Times Aug. 13, 2009)

Moab uranium mill tailings relocation picks up speed

With funding received through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the project will ship an additional 2 million tons of mill tailings from Moab to Crescent Junction, Utah by the end of fiscal year 2011. To meet the increase in the quantity of uranium mill tailings to be transported, DOE plans to begin multiple train shipments each day, Monday through Friday, by August 17. As of July 24, a total of about 160,000 tons of mill tailings has been shipped, including 15,000 tons under the Recovery Act. The Recovery Act funding accelerates the estimated project completion date from 2028 to 2025 and with efficiencies DOE hopes to further accelerate the project to completion by 2022. (DOE July 29, 2009)

Extra funding to help move Moab tailings faster

The U.S. Energy Department will throw $108 million of federal stimulus money at the effort to clean up 16 million tons of uranium tailings on the banks of the Colorado River near southeastern Utah's Moab. The extra funding is expected to fast-track the clean-up, moving up to 2 million more tons than previously scheduled to a permanent disposal site by 2011. That move will almost double the amount of tailings moved within two years to 4.5 million tons. (Salt Lake Tribune March 31, 2009)

First tailings relocation shipment departs from Moab

Chances are good that the first train hauling uranium tailings from the old Atlas mill site north of Moab will depart the site on April 20, 2009, according to Department of Energy Project Director Don Metzler. That date is a month earlier than previously announced. (Moab Times 26 Feb. 2009)
> Download DOE release April 20, 2009 external link (PDF)
Transition into full operations was recognized at a ribbon-cutting ceremony held on May 4, 2009.

DOE says relocation of Atlas tailings will begin in May, 2009

DOE Project Manager Don Metzler announced that trains will begin hauling the tailings in May, 2009. The initial schedule will be based on completion of the project by 2028, he said, but all the infrastructure will be in place so that the pace can be accelerated in 2012 allowing for completion by 2019 if more funding can be obtained either by special appropriation from Congress or by DOE giving this project priority over others. "We will be ready for whatever Washington tells us," Metzler said. (Moab Times Oct. 16, 2008)

DOE confirms it will move Moab tailings by rail, not truck

About 16 million tons of mill tailings abutting the Colorado River near Moab will be moved by rail to a permanent disposal site, the Department of Energy said on Aug. 5, 2008, reaffirming a decision not to ship the contaminated uranium mill tailings by truck along rural roads. "After evaluating the alternatives for safely transporting the mill tailings from Moab and considering input received from citizens in the Moab community and surrounding areas, [the Department of Energy] has decided to ship the tailings using the existing Union Pacific Railroad track," Assistant Energy Secretary for Environmental Management James A. Rispoli said in a news release. The decision could delay relocating the tailings, left over from uranium mining in the area. Truck shipments could have started sooner than by rail since the track for hauling the contaminants will not be completed until 2009. (Salt Lake Tribune Aug. 5, 2008)

NRC issues technical evaluation report for remedial action at Moab uranium mill tailings site; calls for groundwater remediation

"The NRC staff's review of DOE's RAP and all associated documentation pertinent to the proposed remedial action for the uranium mill tailings site at Moab, Utah, has not identified any issues that suggest that NRC should not concur in the proposed remedial action. However, the RAP does not address remediation of groundwater contamination at the Moab site. Although the staff considers DOE's deferral of groundwater cleanup to be acceptable, it precludes us from fully concurring at this time. When groundwater cleanup is adequately addressed, NRC will provide its final concurrence on the remedial action for the Moab site." (Final Technical Evaluation Report for the Proposed Remedial Action of the Moab, Utah uranium mill tailings site, July 2008)

Cost for relocation of Moab tailings by 2019 could exceed $1 billion

The cost of hauling away the Moab tailings by 2019 could exceed $1 billion, according to the latest estimate by the U.S. Energy Department, the agency managing the cleanup. Congress ordered updated cost projections based on a cleanup timetable that is nearly a decade shorter than DOE's. The department had been planning to spend about $30 million a year through 2028 to remove the leftover uranium waste piled up on the banks of the Colorado River outside of Moab. But securing annual funding is likely to be much tougher when the annual costs are between $79 million and $103 million from 2010 to 2019, as the DOE estimates. The total cost would be between $844.2 million and $1.1 billion, under the projections DOE submitted in a report to Congress on July 1, 2008. (Salt Lake Tribune July 1, 2008)

DOE releases Final Remedial Action Plan for Moab uranium mill tailings relocation

Final Remedial Action Plan and Site Design for Stabilization of Moab Title I Uranium Mill Tailings at the Crescent Junction, Utah, Disposal Site external link, DOE–EM/GJ1547, Moab UMTRA Project, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Environmental Management, Feb. 2008
Alternate source external link (NRC ADAMS ML080920459)

DOE amends Record of Decision for relocation of Moab tailings to use either truck and/or rail transport

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is amending its decision regarding the transportation method that DOE will use to relocate uranium mill tailings and other contaminated materials (residual radioactive material) at the Moab milling site and vicinity properties in Utah. In its Record of Decision, DOE had decided to relocate the residual radioactive material using predominately rail, with truck transport for some oversized materials. Under this amended Record of Decision (ROD), DOE will use either truck and/or rail for all materials.
Federal Register: February 29, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 41) p. 11103-11104 (download full text external link)

Relocation of Moab uranium mill tailings pile will take at least until 2025 despite 2019 congressional deadline

Despite a congressional mandate to remove the mountain of uranium tailings and contaminated soil by 2019, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman told House members on Feb. 7, 2008, that his department won't finish the project until 2025 or later. (The Salt Lake Tribune Feb. 7, 2008)

Relocation of Moab uranium mill tailings pile gets 2019 deadline

Under a provision Congressman Jim Matheson pushed into the defense spending bill enacted this past week, the U.S. Department of Energy must finish the entire tailings relocation project by 2019. Trucking radioactive tailings and contaminated soil from the 435-acre former Atlas Uranium Mill site 30 miles to Crescent Junction is expected to take five years. And that means the DOE has to get to work, said Matheson spokeswoman Alyson Heyrend. (The Salt Lake Tribune Jan. 25, 2008)

BLM issues order on land transfer for Atlas tailings repository site

The Department of Energy has filed an application requesting the Secretary of the Interior to permanently transfer 500 acres of public land to the Department of Energy (DOE) to be used for the Crescent Junction Uranium Mill Tailings Repository.
Federal Register: November 9, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 217) p. 63624-63625 (download full text external link)

The Bureau of Land Management issued the requested land order on March 20, 2008.
Federal Register: March 31, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 62) p. 16900 (download full text external link)

DOE raises cost estimate for relocation of Moab tailings

The U.S. Energy Department said its new estimate for removing the Moab uranium mill tailings is $635 million to $835 million. Previously, the price tag reached $697 million. DOE's Don Metzler suggested to the state Radiation Control Board that a new, longer timeline boosted the price. (The Salt Lake Tribune Nov. 3, 2007)

DOE releases Revised Draft Remedial Action Plan for Moab uranium mill tailings relocation

Revised Draft Remedial Action Plan and Site Design for Stabilization of Moab Title I Uranium Mill Tailings at the Crescent Junction, Utah, Disposal Site external link, Moab UMTRA Project, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Environmental Management, June 2007

Contract awarded for relocation of first lot of Atlas Moab uranium tailings

On June 20, 2007, the Department of Energy awarded a contract to jump-start the removal of radioactive sludge near the Colorado River in southern Utah, but the agreement will not run nearly long enough to complete the often-delayed project. The federal money will allow crews to begin improving rail lines and loading and unloading docks for the 16 million tons of uranium tailings to be moved from Moab to Crescent Junction, about 30 miles to the north. EnergySolutions of Salt Lake City received the $98.4 million contract, which runs through September 2011. DOE federal projects manager Don Metzler said he hoped to have 2 tons of the tailings moved to Crescent Junction by then and that the contract could be renewed to keep the project going. EnergySolutions spokesman Mark Walker said there could be six months of planning and another six months of construction work before the waste shipments begin, which the company hopes will happen by late 2008. (AP June 20, 2007)

Relocation of Moab tailings to take more than 20 years

Due to budget constraints, the relocation of the uranium tailings near Moab will take five times as long as initially projected, potentially dragging on through 2028, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said on Feb. 8, 2007. When the Energy Department made a final decision in 2005 to haul the 10.5 million short tons of tailings, it had planned to begin moving the pile in 2007 and complete the project between 2011 and 2012. (The Salt Lake Tribune Feb. 9, 2007)

DOE releases Draft Remedial Action Plan for Moab uranium mill tailings relocation

Draft Remedial Action Plan and Site Design for Stabilization of Moab Title I Uranium Mill Tailings at the Crescent Junction, Utah, Disposal Site, Remedial Action Selection Report external link, Moab UMTRA Project, DOE-EM/GJ1270-2006, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Environmental Management, August 2006

Flooding spurs new concern over Atlas Moab tailings

Flash flooding in Moab two weeks ago has provided new incentive for state and local officials to keep the pressure on the U.S. Energy Department to stay on schedule with the cleanup of the Atlas mill uranium tailings. The deluge - 2 to 4 inches (5 - 10 cm) of rain in a matter of hours - cut through the layer of sand that covers the massive pile of uranium waste on the banks of the Colorado River. It also washed out a containment berm and left a puddle on top of the 130-acre pile.
The Energy Department oversees the cleanup and says there is no evidence that contaminated tailings escaped. Don Metzler, in charge of the massive cleanup, said his crews quickly replaced the dirt cover. (The Salt Lake Tribune July 27, 2006)

EPA concurs with DOE's Moab tailings Final EIS

On Feb. 3, 2006, EPA announced that "EPA's earlier concerns were addressed in the Final EIS; therefore, EPA does not object to the proposed action."
Federal Register: February 3, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 23) p. 5836-5837 (download full text external link)

"EPA supports the Department of Energy's selection of the Crescent Junction off-site location and the movement of these tailings by rail. This location has the least environmental and cultural impact of any of the alternatives considered. The stable geologic and surface conditions at the Crescent Junction alternative will provide isolation of these tailings without public health risks for the long term. Moving these tailings by rail will avoid disruption of highway traffic and can be accomplished in the least amount of time."
Federal Register: February 24, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 37) p. 9540-9541 (download full text external link)

DOE applies for DOT exemption for transport of Moab tailings

On Nov. 14, 2005, U.S. DOE applied for a special DOT permit "to authorize the transportation in specific activity radioactive materials (uranium mill tailings) under special conditions in non-DOT specification packagings without labeling and placarding".
Comments must be received on or before January 17, 2006.

Federal Register: December 16, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 241) p. 74865 (download full text external link)

> Download related documents: PHMSA-2005-23246 external link (DOT)

DOI issues land order securing land for relocation of Moab tailings

Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management: Public Land Order No. 7649; Withdrawal of Public Land for the Moab Mill Site Remediation Project; Utah
Federal Register: November 15, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 219) p. 69351 (download full text external link)

DOE signs Decision to move Moab tailings

On Sep. 14, 2005, U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman announced that a Record of Decision (ROD) clearing the way for the removal of 11.9 million short tons of radioactive Uranium Mill Tailings from the banks the Colorado River in Utah has been signed.  Under the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project Site Record of Decision, the tailings will be moved, predominately by rail, to the proposed Crescent Junction, Utah, site more than 30 miles from the Colorado River.
Federal Register: September 21, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 182) p. 55358-55365 (download full text external link)
> Download DOE release Sep. 14, 2005 external link (PDF)
> Download Record of Decision external link (PDF - Utah DEQ)

DOE releases Final EIS for relocation of Moab, Utah, uranium mill tailings

The EIS details the preferred option of removal of the tailings pile and contaminated materials, along with ground water remediation. The tailings will be moved, predominately by rail, to the proposed Crescent Junction, Utah, site, more than 30 miles from the Colorado River.

> Download DOE release July 25, 2005 external link (PDF)
> Download Remediation of the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings, Grand and San Juan Counties, Utah, Final Environmental Impact Statement, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Environmental Management, DOE/EIS-0355, July 2005 external link · alternate source external link

DOE announces relocation of Moab tailings to Crescent Junction as preferred alternative

On April 6, 2005, the U.S. Department of Energy announced the department's preferred alternatives for remediation of the Moab, Utah, Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project Site:  active groundwater remediation, and offsite disposal of the tailings pile and other contaminated materials to the proposed Crescent Junction disposal site. In the draft EIS, DOE had not identified a preferred alternative. (DOE release April 6, 2005)

EPA agrees tailings pile near Moab shouldn't stay

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has told the Department of Energy that its proposal to leave 12 million tons of radioactive waste next to the Colorado River near Moab is "environmentally unsatisfactory" and a potential prolonged risk to public health. (Salt Lake Tribune March 6, 2005)
"The basis for our Environmental Unsatisfactory rating for the On-site Alternative is the potential for prolonged environmental and public health risk that could result from the continued release of toxic contaminants to ground and surface waters because of potential failure of the proposed remedy. The on-site remedy does not include a liner beneath the disposal pile, thus allowing river flooding to continually reintroduce contaminants into the river. Under such circumstances, the onsite remedy would not satisfy the requirements of 40 CFR 192 and the groundwater protection mandates of the State of Utah. In addition, the river could migrate towards the pile, and the salt-bed underlying the pile could dissolve, over the life of the remedy. Such natural actions would greatly compromise the integrity of the remedy." (EPA Region 8 letter to DOE, Feb. 18, 2005)
> Download EPA Region 8 letter to DOE (Feb. 18, 2005) external link (PDF)
> Download Detailed EPA Comments external link (PDF)

Congressmen from Western US call for relocation of Atlas tailings

Twenty-one House members from the West are urging the Energy Department to move the Atlas tailings pile away from the Colorado River, citing the risk of contamination of the drinking water for people living downstream. "As elected representatives, it is our responsibility to convey to the Department of Energy the hazards created by the continued presence of the tailings pile near the source of water for many of our constituents," the House members wrote. "We hope you will work with us toward removal of the Atlas Tailings pile." (Salt Lake Tribune March 1, 2005)

Moab City Council passes resolution urging DOE to move Atlas tailings pile

On Feb. 8, 2005, the Moab City Council unanimously approved a resolution urging the Department of Energy to remove the Atlas Mill tailings pile from the flood plain of the Colorado River to a safer more appropriate location.

In addition, the City of Moab launched a new web site external link providing information, education, resources, and contacts on the issues involved in the decision as to the final fate of the pile. (The Times-Independent Moab Feb. 10, 2005)

Scientist questions DOE's view that Colorado River is migrating away from Atlas Moab tailings pile

Dr. John Dohrenwend, Adjunct Professor of Geosciences at University of Arizona, questions the DOE's position on the migration behaviour of the Colorado River near the Atlas Moab uranium mill tailings pile. While DOE assumes in the draft EIS that the river is migrating away from the pile, Dr Dohrenwend argues the converse. (The Times-Independent Moab Jan. 7, 2005)

DOE releases Draft EIS for Moab, Utah, uranium mill tailings, without indicating preferred alternative

Comments about the Draft Environmental Impact Statement will be accepted through February 18, 2005.

> View DOE release Nov. 9, 2004 (dated Nov. 5) external link (PDF)
> Federal Register: December 3, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 232) p. 70256-70257 (download full text external link)

> Download Draft EIS (DOE/EIS-0355D) external link · alternate source external link

World first uranium mill tailings webcam in Moab, Utah

From April 27, 2004, the view of the National Weather Service's Moab, Utah, webcam has been changed from southeast to southwest, now showing the Atlas uranium mill tailings pile.
> live webcam external link · alternate URL with history function external link (NWS)

Fourteen members of Congress criticize delays in cleanup of the Atlas uranium mill tailings pile

The lawmakers told Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham in a March 11, 2004, letter that his agency is taking too long deciding how to remove the massive mound of polluted waste from the banks of the Colorado River near Moab. And they also criticized his agency's refusal to identify which of five cleanup options the Energy Department favors in a soon-to-be-released draft cleanup plan. (Salt Lake Tribune March 19, 2004)

DOE to keep decision on fate of Moab tailings to itself until October

Federal agencies usually identify a "preferred alternative" when they release a draft of the environmental impact statement (EIS) required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), considered the premier law to ensure public involvement in environmental decision-making.
With a draft expected in April 2004 on the Atlas project, the public normally could count on learning what the DOE sees as the best solution. Instead, the agency has opted to keep its preferences to itself until it releases its final EIS in October 2004.
In effect, the public will have just 45 days to weigh in on DOE's five complex and high-priced solutions, which include options from capping the tailings in place on the banks of the Colorado to pumping it by pipeline to the White Mesa uranium recycling mill in nearby San Juan County. (Salt Lake Tribune Feb. 2, 2004)

BLM reserves land for tentative alternative disposal sites

Federal Register: November 20, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 224) p. 65473-65474 (download full text external link)

Comments must be received on or before February 18, 2004.

DOE issues Floodplain/Wetlands Statement of Findings for Interim Action

Federal Register: May 23, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 100) p. 28203-28204 (download full text external link)

DOE will allow 15 days of public review after May 23, 2003, before implementing the proposed action.

> Download Moab Project, Floodplain and Wetlands Assessment for Interim Actions at the Moab Project Site, May 2003 external link (1.1MB PDF)

DOE reduces number of Alternative Disposal Sites considered for Atlas Moab tailings

On April 15, 2003, DOE announced to exclude the following decommissioning options for the Atlas Moab tailings from further consideration: relocation to Carbon Development Corporation's (ECDC) Solid Waste Disposal Site in East Carbon, Utah, and relocation to the existing tailings disposal cell in Green River, Utah.

> Download DOE GJO release Apr. 15, 2003 external link (100k PDF)

DOE decides to initiate EIS on Atlas tailings pile

The U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) will not release a decision this fall on how it will deal with the cleanup of the Atlas Mill tailings site north of town. Instead, DOE officials will initiate a complete study of the area and will issue a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) outlining which option for cleanup – relocation or capping the tailings in place – it will follow.
As part of the EIS, the agency will conduct a “complete evaluation” of how the 13 million tons of uranium mill tailings affects the community. The study will look at a variety of issues including ground water, transportation, and public health. The EIS process, which involves considerable public input, will delay until 2004 a decision on a remediation plan for the Cold War era uranium mill waste located 750 feet from the Colorado River. (The Times-Independent Moab, Nov. 7, 2002)

> Download DOE release Nov. 19, 2002 external link (82k PDF)

> Download DOE release Dec. 19, 2002 external link (120k PDF)

> See also: "Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement and To Conduct Public Scoping Meetings, and Notice of Floodplain and Wetlands Involvement for Remediation of the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Site in Grand County, UT", Federal Register: December 20, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 245) p. 77969-77973 (download full text external link)
and related correction in Federal Register: December 30, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 250) p. 79588 (download full text external link)
Written comments or suggestions concerning the scope of the EIS must be submitted by February 14, 2003.
> See also DOE announcement of scoping meetings, Jan. 13, 2003 external link (PDF)

National Academy of Sciences calls for more study before decision on fate of Moab tailings is made

On June 13, 2002, the National Academy of Sciences external link presented the results of its review of DOE's draft plan for remediation of the Moab tailings (see below).

"More Study Needed Before Utah Uranium Is Sealed or Moved

June 13 -- The U.S. Department of Energy should collect more data and conduct more detailed analyses before it decides what to do with toxic and radioactive wastes at a former uranium mill in Moab, Utah, says a new National Academies report. The agency is considering whether to seal up or remove a 12-million ton pile of uranium mill tailings and contaminated soil that, according to the new report, will eventually come into contact with the nearby Colorado River unless preventive measures are taken."

Remedial Action at the Moab Site -- Now and for the Long Term: Letter Report external link Committee on Long-Term Institutional Management of DOE Legacy Waste Sites: Phase 2, National Research Council, 2002, 46 p.


Summo Minerals proposes to truck Atlas tailings to Lisbon Valley site

Summo Minerals Corporation external link, parent company of the Lisbon Valley Mining Company, which operates a copper mine about 50 miles (80 km) southeast of Moab, has submitted a proposal to the Department of Energy to truck the Atlas tailings pile to their site and co-deposit it with their ore heap leach residues. By doing so, they say they can save taxpayers $100 million to $200 million. (The Times-Independent Moab, Jan. 24, 2002)

IUC proposes slurry pipeline for Atlas tailings relocation to White Mesa Mill site

International Uranium Corporation (IUC), owner of the White Mesa Mill south of Blanding, wants to build a slurry pipeline to transport the Atlas tailings from Moab to White Mesa over a distance of approx. 140 km. The news broke during a special meeting of the Grand County Council on Dec. 19, 2001. (The Times-Independent Moab, Dec. 27, 2001)

On February 1, 2002, International Uranium Corporation announced a teaming agreement with Washington Group International external link, Inc. to pursue the Moab tailings relocation project.

The Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Council, based in Towaoc, Colo., passed a resolution opposing the construction of the pipeline. Tribal council members are concerned about possible impacts to the health and environment of the White Mesa community. They believe the plan would result in little or no economic return. Another worry was that receiving the tailings for storage could open the door to more radioactive material arriving, turning the area into a storage site rather than a processing facility. Threats to tribal air and water resources were also of concern to the council. (The Reno Gazette-Journal, April 2, 2002)

During a consultation meeting held by DOE on Sep. 12, 2003, representatives of two Ute tribes and the White Mesa Ute chapter stated that relocating 13 million tons of uranium mill waste to White Mesa in southeastern Utah is unequivocally unacceptable. (The Salt Lake Tribune Sep. 14, 2003)

DOE sets up web site on Moab tailings remediation project

DOE Moab, Utah page external link
Moab Site Project, Preliminary Plan For Remediation, Draft, U.S. DOE, Oct. 2001 external link (4.7MB PDF)

BLM to segregate land for disposal site for Atlas, Moab, tailings from location and entry

Federal Register: November 7, 2001 (Vol. 66, No. 216) p. 56345 (download full text external link):
"SUMMARY: The U.S. Department of Energy has filed an application to withdraw approximately 20,808 acres of public land for a period of 20 years, for a disposal cell for uranium mill tailings in Grand County, Utah. This notice segregates the lands for up to 2 years from location and entry under the United States mining laws subject to valid existing rights."
Comments must be received on or before February 5, 2002.

DOE assumes ownership of Atlas Moab tailings site

On October 26, 2001, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Grand Junction Office (GJO), as required by Public Law 106-398, assumed ownership of the land and assets associated with the Moab site (Atlas tailings site), Moab, Utah. Until this time activities at the site have been conducted under a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) materials license held by the Moab Mill Reclamation Trust and administered by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Trustee.
On October 30, 2001, DOE completed a draft plan for remediation and transmitted it to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for review.
> View DOE GJO news release Oct. 31, 2001 external link

Uranium cleanup unfunded

President Bush has included no money in his 2002 budget to clean up the abandoned uranium mill tailings site near Moab, Utah, where federal officials have estimated 16,000 gallons of water containing radioactive uranium tailings are leaking into the Colorado River each day. Despite legislation passed by Congress last year giving the Department of Energy authority to begin cleaning up the site, the department has set aside no specific funding to get started. (Las Vegas Review-Journal, April 24, 2001)

Wildlife Service Pulls Support of Tailings Cap

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) external link is withdrawing its support to temporarily cap the radioactive Atlas uranium mill tailings at their site north of Moab. (Salt Lake Tribune, Feb. 18, 2001)

President signs bill to relocate Atlas Moab tailings

A bill ordering the Atlas uranium mill tailings dug up and moved from the flood plain of the Colorado River near Moab was approved Oct. 12, 2000 by the U.S. Senate. The measure, which passed the House on Oct. 11, now goes to the president for his signature. (Salt Lake Tribune, Oct. 13, 2000)
President Clinton signed the bill on Oct. 30, 2000.

Legislation to relocate Atlas Moab tailings pile a step closer

"Federal legislation allowing cleanup of the Atlas uranium mill tailings near Moab has been endorsed by congressional leaders and should be approved by the full Senate and House of Representatives sometime next week.
Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, successfully pushed through legislation that transfers ownership of the huge pile of sand-like waste to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and orders its removed from the banks of the Colorado River. Grand County officials have proposed burying the 13 million tons of radioactive waste at a site 18 miles north of town." (Salt Lake Tribune, Sep 26, 2000)
> The legislation is part of the defense authorization bill H.R. 4205 external link and became Public Law No: 106-398
> see also Bill introduced in Senate to relocate Atlas Moab tailings

Radiation dose standard at nearest residence of Atlas Moab tailings only met for non-permanent occupancy

In a memorandum prepared by Senes Consultants on behalf of the Moab Mill Reclamation Trust, the annual above-background dose from radon and gamma radiation is calculated for the nearest residence of the Atlas Moab tailings for the years 1994 - 1999. The annual dose ranged between 42.5 - 95.1 mrem (0.425 - 0.951 mSv).
This calculation is based on an assumed occupancy of 90%. For 100% occupancy, the 100 mrem (1 mSv) annual dose standard would have been exceeded in the years 1995 and 1999. This means that the residents are forced to spend 10% of the year elsewhere, if they don't want to exceed the annual dose standard.
(Senes Consultants Limited: Estimated Annual Radiation Doses at the Nearest Residence, Former Atlas Mill Site, Moab, Utah for the Years 1994 to 1999; 22 August 2000. available through ADAMS external link)

Trustee submits Dewatering Design Plan for in-place reclamation of Atlas Moab tailings

"The recommended option [...] provides for the installation of a vacuum assisted wick drainage system. That method will minimize the flowrate of liquids into the groundwater while accelerating the removal of water from the Pile. Correspondingly, undesirable chemical constituents in the Pile will flow upwards and out of the Pile rather than into the groundwater."
(Moab Mill Reclamation Trust Dewatering Design Plan, June 15, 2000, available through ADAMS external link)

Bill introduced in Senate to relocate Atlas Moab tailings

On May 18, 2000, Sen. Bob Bennett introduced S.2588 external link in the U.S. Senate that would give the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) the job of cleaning up the Atlas Moab uranium mill tailings pile. Bennett's bill also would provide for the return of traditional homelands to the Ute Indian Tribe. Royalties from the eventual oil shale development would help pay for the tailings cleanup. The two-pronged bill is known as the "Ute-Moab Land Restoration Act," and is a companion bill to a similar measure introduced in the House by Rep. Chris Cannon. (Salt Lake Tribune, May 19, 2000)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to revisit cleanup plan for Atlas Moab tailings

In a major victory for rare native fish, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) external link has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to reassess its plan for groundwater cleanup and endangered species protection at the Atlas uranium tailings dump in Moab.
The decision to re-open the cleanup plan means that the NRC decision to put a cap on the pile and leave it next to the river will be put on hold until analysis is complete.
> View Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund news release April 27, 2000 external link

Plateau Resources proposes to relocate Atlas tailings to Shootaring Canyon mill site

U.S. Energy affiliate Plateau Resources has proposed to relocate the Atlas uranium mill tailings from Moab, Utah, over almost 200 miles to the site of its mothballed Shootaring Canyon uranium mill near Ticaboo, Utah. Plateau Resources has requested from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission an amendment to their Shootaring Canyon license that would allow the company to accept the Atlas waste tailings. (Deseret News April 24, 2000)

Trustee requests revisal of completion dates for Atlas tailings in-place reclamation

Federal Register: April 17, 2000 (Vol. 65, No. 74) p. 20490-20491 (download full text external link):
"SUMMARY: Notice is hereby given that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has received, by letter dated March 31, 2000, a request from Moab Mill Reclamation Trust to amend License Condition (LC) 55 A and B of Source Material License SUA-917 for the Moab, Utah, facility. The license amendment request proposes to modify LC 55 A.(1) to change the completion date for placement of the windblown tailings on the pile to December 31, 2001; LC 55 A.(3) to change the completion date for placement of the final radon barrier on the pile to December 31, 2002; LC 55 B.(1) to change the completion date for placement of the erosion protection on the pile to June 30, 2003; and LC 55 B.(2) to change the completion date for ground-water corrective actions to July 31, 2008."
A request for a hearing must be filed within 30 days of the publication of this notice.

New bill introduced to relocate Atlas Moab uranium mill tailings pile

On April 4, 2000, Representative Chris Cannon (R-UT) introduced H.R.4165 external link titled "To assist the economic development of the Ute Indian Tribe by authorizing the transfer to the Tribe of Oil Shale Reserve Numbered 2, to protect the Colorado River by providing for the removal of the tailings from the Atlas uranium milling site near Moab, Utah, and for other purposes."

Seepage from Atlas Moab uranium mill tailings pile lethal to fish

"A new U.S. Geological Survey external link report proves that ammonia leaking into the Colorado River from the Atlas tailings, a huge pile of uranium-processing waste near Moab, is lethal to fish.
The report on studies conducted between August 1998 and February 2000 shows ammonia levels as high as 1,500 milligrams per liter -- far above the 12 milligrams per liter at which the fish are known to survive.
When researchers placed caged experimental fish in the river below the tailings pile, the fish died, usually within an hour. In some situations, they died immediately." (Salt Lake Tribune April 4, 2000)

Government and Ute sign agreement to relocate Atlas tailings

On Feb. 11, 2000, federal government officials and members of Utah's Ute Indian Tribe signed an agreement to move a 150-acre pile of radioactive tailings from near the Colorado River to a safer location. The agreement also returns 80,000 acres taken from the tribe during World War I. In exchange for the oil- and gas-rich land, the Utes agreed to return a portion of the royalties to help pay for the cleanup.
The federal government will pay more than half the $300 million removal cost of the 10.5 million tons of tailings because 56 percent of the uranium went to weapons programs.
The agreement still needs congressional approval. (Salt Lake Tribune / Deseret News Feb. 12, 2000)

Bill Hedden receives "Beyond the Headlines Award" for fight for cleanup of Atlas Moab uranium mill tailings pile

On February 1, 2000, Bill Hedden, the Utah Conservation Director of the Grand Canyon Trust external link, received the Project On Government Oversight's (POGO) external link "Beyond the Headlines Award". POGO honors Mr. Hedden for his tireless work to force the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to cleanup the Colorado River from the devastating effects of the Atlas Corporation uranium mill waste.
> View POGO's press release (Jan. 12, 2000) external link

U.S. DOE announces plan to relocate Atlas Moab uranium mill tailings

During a ceremony, held on January 14, 2000, high on a cliffside bench above the tailings, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson announced a sweeping plan for relocating the Atlas Moab tailings away from the bank of the Colorado River. With this plan, Richardson is addressing the fears of Los Angeles water officials that the water supply for millions of Southern Californians would be threatened if the 10.5 million short tons of radioactive dirt were left on the flood plain of the Colorado River.
Two big hurdles remain in the drive to clear away the pile, left near Moab by Atlas when it went bankrupt: funding the multi-year project, which the DOE estimates would cost $300 million, and transferring authority from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to the DOE. (Deseret News / Salt Lake Tribune Jan 15, 2000)
> View DOE News Release Jan. 14, 2000 external link
> View speech of Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson (Jan. 14, 2000) external link

 

> For older issues, see Moab Issues Archive: 1996-1999


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> See Moab Archive 1996-1999


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