Mill tailings cleanup passes 10 million ton milestone

Russell McCallister

A project to move and store a massive pile of uranium mill tailings along the Colorado River near Moab, Utah, has passed another milestone.

The Department of Energy reported that 10 million tons of tailings have been moved from Moab and shipped 30 miles to a disposal site near Crescent Junction, Utah. That’s more than 60 percent the estimated 16 million tons of tailings.

“A decade ago, the project shipped its first train load of material. We are proud to see the tremendous progress our tram has made since then, all with a commitment to safety, environmental stewardship and efficiently completing this project,” said Russell McCallister, Moab federal cleanup director.

The mill tailings are a sand-like material left over from a uranium ore processing facility. The tailings are transported by rail in sealed metal containers to Crescent Junction. The tailings are placed in a Nuclear Regulatory Commission-approved disposal cell near Crescent Junction and capped with a 9-foot-thick, multi-layered cover of native soils and rock.

The Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management oversees the project as part of a national effort to clean up the aftermatch of nuclear weapons development and government-sponsored nuclear energy research. Work is under way at 16 sites.