Tailings removal project marks 10 years of shipments

A project to move and store a massive pile of uranium mill tailings along the Colorado River near Moab, Utah, has passed a milestone with 10 years of shipments.

On April 20, 2009, the first trainload carrying mill tailings departed from the Moab site. Ten years later, more than 9.5 million tons of the estimated 16 million tons of tailings have been shipped the  30 miles to a disposal site near Crescent Junction, Utah. The Department of Energy oversees the project.

“I want to take the opportunity to thank each and every employee for their commitment and hard work. We will continue to focus on safety, environmental stewardship and moving the project forward,” said Russell McCallister, federal cleanup director. “I would also like to recognize all of our folks for their dedication to doing things better, faster and smarter than ever before.”

Mill tailings are the sand-like material left over from processing uranium ore at the former facility near Moab. Although more than 90 percent of the uranium was extracted from the ore and sold, radium and other products remained in the tailings.

Tailings are transported by rail in sealed metal containers to Crescent Junction site and placed in a DOE- constructed, Nuclear Regulatory Commission-approved disposal cell. The cell is capped with a 9-foot-thick, multi-layered cover of native soils and rock.