Uranium mill cleanup hits 2M-ton mark

The cleanup of 16 million tons of uranium mill tailings from a pile near the Colorado River just upstream from Moab, Utah, hit the 2-million-ton mark last week.

The milestone was attained Wednesday, earlier than expected, officials said, because of funds made available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The $1 billion project received an additional $108 million from the recovery act.

So far this year, the project has spent $83 million of the recovery act funding, or about 77 percent.

Without that funding, it would have been “at least another year” before the cleanup hit the same milestone, said Don Metzler, Moab federal project director.

The additional funding has more than doubled the pace at which mill tailings have been removed from the pile and carried 35 miles north by rail to Crescent Junction, where they’re being buried at the base of the Book Cliffs, miles from the Colorado River.

Officials hope to have the cleanup complete by 2019, but that depends on continued funding at the current level.

The Obama administration is proposing a $9 million cut in federal spending on the project, reducing the amount budgeted for fiscal 2012 to about $30 million.

Without funding from the recovery act, officials hope to complete the cleanup by 2025.

Of the 225 people working on the cleanup, 65 to 70 live in Colorado.


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