One of three articulated railcars recently added to the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project. Each railcar can hold four intermodal containers.
One of three articulated railcars recently added to the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project. Each railcar can hold four intermodal containers.

MOAB, UtahEM’s Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) Project is now transporting more residual radioactive material per shipment for disposal than ever before.

The project recently incorporated three additional railcars, making it possible to increase the number of intermodal containers on each train shipment.

The train transports mill tailings and other contaminated materials from the Moab Site to the Crescent Junction disposal cell four times a week. EM and Moab Site contractor North Wind Portage recently teamed up with Union Pacific Railroad to reevaluate railcar positioning in the loading and unloading areas at both sites. The team determined that additional railcars could be added to each shipment.

Earlier this year, the project was shipping up to 576 containers each week. With the added railcars, the project is now capable of shipping an additional 24 containers with approximately 815 additional tons of waste.

“It’s imperative that we recalibrate our thinking around innovation and creativity to continuously examine how we do business and strive to noticeably reduce the amount of tailings at Moab. By increasing the train’s load, we can now move more mill tailings for nearly the same cost, making each shipment even more impactful,” Federal Cleanup Director Russell McCallister said.

Scrapers excavate a new portion of the disposal cell at Crescent Junction, Utah. In the distance, crews unload containers from the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project train.
Scrapers excavate a new portion of the disposal cell at Crescent Junction, Utah. In the distance, crews unload containers from the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project train.

Mill tailings are a sand-like material that remain from processing uranium ore. The tailings are
excavated and shipped to the Crescent Junction disposal cell about 30 miles north, where they are placed and capped with a multi-layered cover composed of native soils and rock.

Since the project began, the cell has been excavated in phases. Work on the most recent phase began in September and is anticipated to wrap up by the end of the year. Workers will eventually excavate 1 million cubic yards of material to complete the third phase of cell construction.

The excavated material will be repurposed and used to continue construction of an embankment known as the “wedge.” The wedge, which lies between the repository and cliffs north of the disposal site, helps divert surface water runoff from precipitation. The excavated material will be added to build up the existing wedge.