Moab tailings clean-up milestone

25 June 2013

Over one-third of the 16 million tonnes of tailings from the former Moab uranium mill in Utah have now been transferred to a nearby site for disposal.

Moab tailings clean-up - 6m tons (DOE)
Workers celebrate the shipment of the six millionth tonne of tailings (Image: DOE)

The Moab mill was constructed in 1956 and operated until 1984. Plant operator Atlas Minerals Corporation was declared bankrupt in 1998 and the Department of Energy (DOE) took responsibility for the site's remediation.

The site, next to the Colorado River, encompasses some 176 hectares, of which about 53 hectares is covered by a 24-metre-thick mill tailings pile. Tailings are the sandy process waste material from uranium mining.

The DOE began shipping the tailings by rail from Moab to Crescent Junction, 48 kilometres to the north, in April 2009. The DOE recently announced that some six million tonnes of tailings have now been moved.

Project director Donald Metzler commented, "The federal budget continues to be stretched thin, and I am proud this project has used its limited funding wisely and is almost 38% complete. This has been accomplished while striving to exceed DOE's stringent safety goals and despite a first-ever, three-month curtailment of shipping operations this past winter."

The completed Crescent Junction engineered disposal cell will be about 1585 metres long by 732 metres wide and is being constructed in phases.

President Barack Obama's budget request for fiscal year 2014 includes almost $36 million for the Moab clean-up project. The project is expected to be completed in 2025.

Up to the end of 1970, the uranium concentrate produced by the Moab mill was sold to the US Atomic Energy Commission for use in the country's defence programs. After 1970, production was primarily for commercial sales to nuclear power plants.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News