Grand Junction, CO ― One quarter of the uranium mill tailings pile located in Moab, Utah, has been relocated to the Crescent Junction, Utah, site for permanent disposal. Four million tons of the 16 million tons total has been relocated under the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project managed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
A little over 2 years ago, Remedial Action Contractor EnergySolutions began shipping the tailings by rail away from their current location next to the Colorado River, to Crescent Junction 30 miles north. The project received a boost in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that increased the weekly train shipments from four to 10.
“To be a quarter of the way done in about 2 years was unthinkable when we first started shipping in April 2009,” recollects Federal Project Director Donald Metzler. “We have surpassed every goal for tailings disposal we have set,” added a proud Metzler.
With the remaining Recovery Act funding being expended by early summer, the shipping schedule will revert to the original schedule of one daily train, 4 days a week.
At Crescent Junction, the tailings are placed in a DOE-constructed disposal cell that is excavated 25 feet below grade. The tailings material in the cell is a total of 50 feet thick, reaching 25 feet aboveground. The tailings are then capped with a 10-foot-thick, multi-layered cover composed of native soils and rock. Last summer, the project began placing final cover material on the portion of the compacted tailings that had met the final grade.
Through use of extraction and freshwater injection, the project continues to protect the Colorado River by minimizing the discharge of elevated concentrations of ammonia and uranium. These ground water contaminants, which resulted from the processing of uranium ore, can be harmful to young-of-year fish that use the backwater channels as habitat during late summer.