Sunday, August 10, 2008

Moab tailings will move by rail

The government will ship 16 million tons of waste 30 miles.

Moab site aerial photo - US DOEWithin the next 10 years approximately 12 million cubic yards of the MOAB uranium mill tailings will take a final journey of just 30 miles and end a disturbing episode in the history of the West. This week the Department of Energy restated its intent to move the tailings by rail from their current location on the banks of the Colorado river to a disposal site at Crescent Junction, UT.

How the tailings got there

The Salt Lake City Tribune reports that over time the tailings have leached ammonia, uranium and other contaminants into the Colorado River, which serves some 50 million people in seven states. The tailings were created as part of the uranium boom & bust cycle. In 1956 the Moab uranium mill began operation processing 1,400 tons of ore a day.

The operation was sold in 1962 to Atlas which operated the plant until 1984. Atlas placed an interim cover over the tailings pile in 1995 as part of decommissioning activities conducted between 1988 and 1995. Atlas proposed to reclaim the tailings pile for permanent disposal in its current location but declared bankruptcy in 1998. In doing so it relinquished its NRC license and forfeited its reclamation bond.

Work starts soon

Work on the railroad line to move the tailings is expected to begin in Fall of this year and be completed about six months later. Special containers will be brought in to the tailings site to be loaded with the waste material for transport. The shipping operation will not use ordinary hopper cars. Because of the volume and weight of the material, it could take up to a decade to complete the shipments and close the Moab site forever.

UP pulling powerDOE at one time considered using trucks to haul the debris, but was persuaded that U.S. Highway 191 couldn't handle the oversize shipments. EnergySolutions, which is managing the project for DOE, estimates that using rail will involve a train shipment a day with 178 rail cars. The trains will run six days a week for the next ten years assuming the money is available from Congress. The total project cost is expected to be about $800 million dollars.

NRC on board

DOE also said that the NRC is required to concur on the plan. The agency has regulatory authority over the management of uranium tailings. In a prepared statement, James Rispoli, DOE Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management, said work with NRC has taken place 'in record time," and that cooperation between the two agencies has allowed them to expedite the project.

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On the net - Department of Energy MOAB project office website

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1 comment:

Joffan said...

Is there a real pollution concern from the processing chemical contaminants or is this just radiophobia?

If the main driver for this dirt-shuffling exercise is traces of remaining uranium, then it is a serious waste of human time, resources and ingenuity.