Milestone: Ten million tons of mill tailings have been moved to Crescent

Uranium mill tailings removed from this site near Moab recently reached a total of 10 million tons, leaving roughly 40% of the project remaining. Photo by Carter Pape

Ten million tons of uranium mill tailings have been removed from the former mill site on the north side of the Colorado River near Moab and taken to a disposal cell near Crescent Junction.

This is a milestone, say officials with the U.S. Department of Energy overseeing the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project. More than 62 percent of the estimated 16 million tons have been shipped.

“A decade ago, the project shipped its first train load of material,” Federal Cleanup Director Russell McCallister said. “We are proud to see the tremendous progress our team has made since then, all with a commitment to safety, environmental stewardship, and efficiently completing this project.”

Mill tailings are a sand-like material that remain from processing uranium ore. Tailings are transported by rail in locked steel containers to Crescent Junction, 30 miles north of the Moab site. The tailings are placed in the disposal cell, which is capped with a multi-layered cover composed of native soils and rock.

A milestone celebration is scheduled for Oct. 8.

DOE’s Office of Environmental Management oversees the project. “EM’s mission is to complete the safe cleanup of the environmental legacy resulting from five decades of nuclear weapons development and government-sponsored nuclear energy research,” said a press release from the DOE. Cleanup work is currently ongoing at 16 sites across the United States. This year marks 30 years of cleanup under the EM program.