Removal of radioactive tailings near Moab could last until 2028
SALT LAKE CITY ” Tons of uranium tailings near the Colorado River in southern Utah, a legacy of the Cold War, probably won’t be removed for another 21 years, U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said.
U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, said the disclosure was “shocking.” In 2005, when the government said it would haul the tailings to a lined pit 30 miles north, the job was supposed to be done by 2012.
“The information I have is that 2028 is the schedule,” Bodman said at a House committee hearing Thursday. “We have a lot of demands on our environmental operations.”
Energy Department spokeswoman Megan Barnett said 2028 is the target based on the agency’s budget, but the date could change when a contractor is selected.
The department is reviewing proposals from contractors who would move at least 2.5 million tons over five years. The Bush administration has proposed spending $23 million on the Moab project in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
“This is an expensive project. I don’t want to deny that. … I’ve always been worried that budget constraints are going to lower this on the priority scale,” Matheson said.
The pile of thick sludge covers about 130 acres outside Arches National Park, near Moab. Atlas Minerals Corp. bought the uranium mill in 1962 but closed it in 1984.
In 1998, the company filed for bankruptcy, leaving a temporary cap on the pile.
The Energy Department has pumped 75 million gallons of contaminated water and put other measures in place to keep chemicals from reaching the Colorado River, Barnett said.
“We are committed to making progress there,” she said.
The river provides drinking water for an estimated 25 million people downstream from the site.
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, www.sltrib.com
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