The proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill could be online in 2017

September 4, 2013

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From the Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

The Pinon Ridge Mill has cleared several major permit hurdles and survived court challenges from environmental groups. Its proposed location is in Paradox Valley between Naturita and Bedrock off Colorado Highway 90…

Energy Fuels Resources Corp., a Canadian-based company with a main office in Littleton, Colo., has been working towards building the $150 million plant for the last six years. EF also owns the White Mesa Mill, south of Blanding, Utah, which is currently the only operating uranium mill in the country.

The new Pinon Ridge mill would process uranium ore using an acid leach process to produce yellowcake, a concentrated uranium product that is fabricated into fuel rods for nuclear reactors. The mill is expected to process 500 tons a day of uranium ore from re-opened mines on the Colorado Plateau, Uravan Mineral Belt, and Arizona Strip.

The Environmental Protection Agency has granted EF a permit for the construction of tailings impoundment and evaporation ponds. A radioactive materials license was approved by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in April for the project…

The company still needs a construction permit from CDPHE before the project can break ground. Pending approval of permits, construction of the mill could be completed by early 2017. Public comments on the construction permit will be accepted. For more information go to http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CDPHE-Main/CBON/1251583470000

More Piñon Ridge uranium mill coverage here and here.


Comment period for the proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill open until September 13, public hearing August 13

August 6, 2013

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From The Watch (Gus Jarvis):

A public comment period is open until Sept. 13 on a proposal to build a uranium mill in the West End of Montrose County, with a public hearing set for Aug. 13, from 6-9 p.m., at the Nucla Moose Lodge.

Energy Fuels, Inc., the Canadian mining company proposing to build the first uranium processing mill in the U.S. in 30 years, submitted its construction plan and decommissioning funding plan for the proposed Pinon Ridge mill to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in May. The two plans are in accordance with the Radioactive Materials License Energy Fuels received in April.

If it is approved and built, Energy Fuels plans to operate the uranium/vanadium mill at a rate of 500 tons per day. Energy Fuels’ Construction Plan for the mill is a detailed outline for building and operating the mill facility, administration building, ore stockpile pads, tailings cells, evaporation ponds and surface water control features.

According to the construction plan, Energy Fuels plans to begin State Hwy. 90-access construction in the third quarter of 2015, with the mill’s detailed engineering completed by the first quarter of 2016. The company hopes to begin construction on the mill in early 2016. Mechanical completion of the mill and its commissioning is expected early 2017. During the main period of the mill’s construction, it is expected that approximately 200 people will be employed on the project.

Energy Fuels’ Decommissioning Funding Plan contains the cost estimate for decommissioning the mill, a description of the timing and method for assuring decommissioning funds and a certification by Energy Fuels that funding for decommissioning will be provided in the amount declared in its materials license.

This plan also provides a cost estimate for the long-term care fund and proposes a time of payment based on the import of uranium ore to the project site.

Both plans are available at http://colorado.gov/CDPHE. Hard copies can be viewed at the Nucla Public Library and at the Montrose County Planning and Development office.

From the Associated Press via the The Denver Post:

The Colorado health department is accepting public input on a Toronto-based energy company’s plan to build what would be the first new uranium mill in the United States in more than 30 years.
Representatives with Energy Fuels Resources Corp. said Friday the company has filed documents with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment outlining a construction plan for the Pinon Ridge mill on 880 acres in western Colorado’s Montrose County. The company wants to transform uranium ore into uranium oxide, which would then be sent out of state to be turned into fuel for nuclear reactors.

The mill is expected to process 500 tons a day of uranium and vanadium, which is used in steel alloys and high-tech batteries.

Energy Fuels also has submitted a plan to fund maintenance and surveillance of the site after it is decommissioned and turned over to the state or the Department of Energy. The company was granted a radioactive materials license for the proposed mill in April.

Project leaders hope to begin construction of the mill at the beginning of 2016, to begin stockpiling ore later that year and to begin processing it in 2017.

Energy Fuels, which announced plans for the mill in 2007, will primarily process ore from mines in Gateway, Colo., and La Sal, Utah, according to CDPHE documents.

Colorado originally authorized the mill in 2011, but the decision prompted appeals from a handful of activist groups. A Denver judge eventually invalidated that license after finding that the state did not hold formal public hearings. Following new hearings, the license was granted anew this year.

Colorado’s public health department has scheduled a meeting in Nucla on Aug. 13 to gather comment on the plans for construction and funding for decommissioning. It will accept input by email, mail or fax until Sept. 13.

More Piñon Ridge uranium mill coverage here and here.


The proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill gets state license #ColoradoRiver

April 25, 2013

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Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment:

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Radiation Program today announced Energy Fuels Resources Corp. has met all the regulatory requirements for a radioactive materials license for the Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill in western Montrose County, Colo. State law requires the department to approve applications when such requirements are met.

The license was required before Energy Fuels could construct its planned 500-tons-per day uranium/vanadium mill approximately 12 miles west of Naturita, Colo., in the Paradox Valley.

The mill will process uranium ore from mines in the region to produce uranium oxide, which requires additional processing outside Colorado to become fuel for nuclear reactors. The mill also will recover vanadium, a metal used in steel alloys and high-tech batteries.

The license imposes a number of conditions on Energy Fuels involving construction of the mill; the receipt, possession, use and transfer of radioactive materials; and procedures to minimize risks to property and public health and safety, and to prevent loss or theft of radioactive material. Notably, the license requires an enhanced groundwater monitoring plan, subject to annual review.

A separate settlement agreement between Telluride and San Miguel County with Energy Fuels sets up additional protections related to the transportation of radioactive materials, blowing dust and water quality monitoring. In addition to the approximately $13 million financial surety established by the state, this agreement increases Energy Fuels’ total surety to an amount not less than $15 million.

Dr. Chris Urbina, executive director and chief medical officer of the department, said, “With the approval of the license, our work is not done. We will continue to work with the community members and officials to keep them informed of progress.”

During construction and operation of the Piñon Ridge facility, the department’s oversight will continue, including regular inspections and an annual review of the financial assurance. The department expects to have at least one staff member whose primary assignment will include monitoring and inspections of the facility.

Ron Henderson, chairman of the Montrose Board of County Commissioners said, “An exhaustive process has been followed and validated with the approval of this license.”
Montrose Commissioner David White said, “This validates the science behind the application, design and potential construction of the mill. It is a state-of-the-art facility and will benefit the citizens of Montrose County, the state of Colorado and the United States for decades to come.”

The license application was submitted by Energy Fuels on Nov. 18, 2009, and has undergone a thorough technical and regulatory review. Prior to its approval of the license, the department and the applicant conducted eight public meetings in 2010 in Nucla, Naturita, Paradox, Montrose, Telluride and Ophir. And in November 2012, the department held a six-day hearing in Nucla to allow cross-examination of witnesses and to solicit additional public comment. All of the information was thoroughly reviewed by the state’s Radiation Program prior to the decision to grant the license.

The administrative record includes comprehensive reports and comments by engineers, scientists, environmental and business groups, government officials from western Colorado counties and towns, and regulators. Anyone interested can view the department’s Decision Analysis and Environmental Impact Analysis, which includes a copy of the license and the department’s responses to public comments.

Dr. Urbina said, “From the beginning, we have listened carefully to the public and worked with Energy Fuels to minimize risks to public health and the environment. Today’s engineering standards – and strict environmental regulations – far exceed those in place when the last such mill was constructed more than 25 years ago. We are confident these standards and regulations will ensure the safe construction and operation of the facility.”

From the Associated Press (Alexandra Tilsley) The Denver Post:

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued Toronto-based Energy Fuels a radioactive materials license, clearing the way for the creation of the Pinon Ridge Mill in western Colorado’s Montrose County…

That doesn’t mean construction is imminent. Energy Fuels spokesman Curtis Moore said the company is waiting for the price of uranium to rise. Currently, Moore said, uranium is priced at about $40 per pound, down from about $72 per pound before the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Plant in 2011. The spot price of uranium was more than $135 a pound when Energy Fuels announced plans for the mill in 2007…

Energy Fuels also plans to open or reopen a number of Colorado mines, Moore said. Those mines are all small—perhaps a few hundred acres in size—and are mostly in areas that have been mined previously. “These are historic mines, historic mining districts. These are not pristine wilderness districts,” Moore said…

Warren Smith, community involvement manager for the Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division of CDPHE, said importing radioactive waste is not allowed under the license. He notes that waste produced by the mill will be stored in underground cells designed to last at least 200 years. The license carries a number of other environmental safeguards, including requirements that Energy Fuels monitor groundwater for contamination and install fences and wires to keep wildlife away from areas that might have radiation…

Montrose County Commission David White said that most area residents seem assured that the plan is environmentally sound and are excited about the economic possibilities. Once constructed, the mill is expected to create at least 85 jobs, with up to 400 jobs generated by opening additional mines and increasing economic activity, according to Moore.

More Piñon Ridge uranium mill coverage here and here.


CDPHE is moving ahead with permit for the proposed Piñon Ridge Mill

March 2, 2013

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Here’s the letter and order from Chris Urbina at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment:

Attached is my signed decision regarding the matter of Energy Fuels radioactive materials license and the pending appeal by Sheep Mountain Alliance. It is a legal document. On January 14, 2013, Judge Richard Dana decided that the hearing conducted was sufficient to meet the requirements of the Colorado Administrative Procedure Act. These decisions clear the way for the department’s final decision regarding the pending radioactive materials license application to be issued in April 2013.

Even though the Sheep Mountain Alliance appeal is being denied, the department will give serious consideration to the testimony provided in this hearing as the department decides whether to issue the license and what mitigation, if any, to include if the license is granted. We have listened, and will continue to listen, to diverse and comprehensive testimony from all interested parties regarding this application, from community members impacted by the potential licensing of the mill; from people who want jobs that would be created by a new mill; from environmentalists who want to know that public health and the environment will be protected; and from industry that wants to develop natural resources.

While there is a disagreement on the nature of this hearing process, there is no disagreement that it helped the state acquire additional information and perspectives useful to the department’s decision.

The license, if approved, will protect public health and the environment. The department’s decision will be based upon an extensive review of the application, and associated documents and testimony, including documents and testimony submitted in the November hearing, and a consideration of the short- and long-term impacts of the proposed mill, including radiological and non-radiological impacts to water, air and wildlife, as well as economic, social
and transportation-related impacts.

From The Denver Post:

Urbina’s executive order clears the way for a final decision on Energy Fuels request for a radioactive materials license for a proposed uranium and vanadium mill near Nucla. That decision is expected in April.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

A state official on Thursday rejected an environmental organization’s appeal of a license for a uranium mill near Naturita, but stopped short of issuing a new permit.

The Telluride-based Sheep Mountain Alliance last year appealed a decision by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and a Denver District judge invalidated the license. As part of the ruling, the department was required to conduct hearings in which witnesses could be cross-examined, a process that was undertaken over several days last year in Nucla.

The decision by Dr. Christopher Urbina, executive director of the Health Department, leaves the question of whether to issue a radioactive materials-handling permit to Energy Fuels Inc. That decision will be taken up by the department’s radiation-management program, which is to make a decision in April on whether to reissue the permit.

Energy Fuels is planning to build a $150 million mill, the first to be built in the United States in three decades, near Naturita.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

A favorable action by state regulators has the backers of a planned uranium mill in Montrose County saying that long-term economics also augur well for the mill.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is to decide in April whether to issue a radioactive materials-handling permit to Energy Fuels Inc., but on Thursday it rejected an appeal of a previous license by an environmental group. The decision, however, requires regulators within the department to consider comments made over several days last fall before an administrative law judge, Richard Dana. The ruling is “another step forward in the process,” Energy Fuels spokesman Curtis Moore said, noting that the company expects continued opposition from environmental groups.

The Sheep Mountain Alliance was pleased that the agency is required to consider evidence raised at the hearing in the fall. “In light of this damning evidence on the potential impacts of the Pinon Ridge Mill and the lack of a thorough and independent review process by the state, we believe they have no other option than to deny the license after a second more professionally conducted review process,” Director Hilary White said.

Environmental groups are “free to do what they wish,” Moore said, but “it seems to me they are wasting their members’ money and resources when they could be solving real environmental issues.”

Energy Fuels remains committed to constructing the $150 million mill, Moore said, noting that while the current market for uranium is “soft,” or about $43 a pound, the medium- to long-term economics of uranium “look better now than they even did pre-Fukushima.”

A tidal wave in 2011 swamped a nuclear reactor in the Fukushima province of Japan, stoking fears of nuclear power around the world and causing the price of uranium to fall dramatically.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Judge John N. McMullen tells the CDPHE that it’s time for a do-over on the radioactive license for the proposed Piñon Ridge Mill

June 15, 2012

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The Sheep Mountain Alliance (@sheepmtn) sent out this tweet yesterday morning:

Victory for @sheepmtn in our lawsuit to stop the Piñon Ridge #Uranium Mill

They were kind enough to link to the judge’s order on Scribd. Here’s an excerpt:

The Court, having found unlawful CDPHE’s action in issuing the License, sets aside that action, invalidates the License, and remands the case for further proceedings consistent with this Order

From the Montrose Daily Press:

The CDPHE has been ordered to convene a hearing within 75 days of July 5, and to notice that hearing. “This hearing will be a substitute for the Feb. 17, 2010 public meeting,” the ruling says. The CDPHE must remake its licensing decision by following statutory procedures. The body has 270 days from July 5 to approve or deny Energy Fuels’ application. Until such decision is made “Energy Fuels Resources may not proceed with any activity on the site formerly permitted by the license.”

The company, can, however, take reasonable action to protect the public and the environment, and to prevent economic waste as long as doing so does not endanger the public or environment. Such actions have to be taken under the supervision of the CDPHE.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Judge John N. McMullen ruled June 13 that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment erred by issuing the license to Energy Fuels without public hearings required under the regulatory process.
Pinon Ridge would be the first new rock-crushing uranium mill to be built in the U.S. in 25 years. Communities in the area said they were concerned that lapses in state’s approval process prevented a thorough evaluation of potential and water quality impacts. “We asked for an opportunity to have meaningful public participation and we got it,” said attorney Richard Webster, who represented the towns of Telluride and Ophir in the lawsuit.

Another concern for the towns was the issue of bonding against potential future cleanup costs, as well as the spread of pollution from radioactive dust, Webster said, adding that the lawsuit focused on the regulatory process rather than those substantive issues.

Federal nuclear regulators appeared to agree with the local challenges. In a March 6 letter to environmental attorney Jeff Parsons, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission also said that the state didn’t fully meet legal requirements for public involvement.

From the Denver Business Journal (Neil Westergaard):

Denver District Court Judge John McMullen on Wednesday invalidated the mill’s license, citing the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for not following state and federal rules guaranteeing public input into the licensing process. McMullen, however, upheld the department in all of the other claims brought in the case by Public Justice, a Washington, D.C.-based public interest law firm, that acted on behalf of the towns of Telluride and Ophir…

The health department reserved comment, but in a statement, noted that the court ruled in the department’s favor in 10 of the 11 issues before it in the case. “The court ruled against the department only on the 11th claim, based upon a conflict in the Colorado Radiation Control Act and state radiation regulations,” the department said in its statement. “In doing so, the court rejected all arguments about how to reconcile the conflict and instead fashioned its own remedy. The court also rejected the plaintiff’s claim, raised for the first time in the plaintiff’s opening brief, that the department’s administrative record filed with the court was defective…

Energy Fuels said last year that it expects to spend $140 million reopening the uranium mill. The mill would employ about 85 people. Another 200 would work at the company’s two uranium mines in Colorado and Utah, which already have been permitted.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


The EPA has given tentative approval for the proposed Piñon Ridge Mill tailings cell and evaporation ponds

October 28, 2011

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Here’s the letter from EPA Assistant Regional Administrator Stephen S. Tuber to the Energy Fuels Company.

More coverage from the Associated Press (Catharine Tsai) via The Pueblo Chieftain:

Federal regulators have approved Energy Fuels Resources Corp.’s plan to build a roughly 30-acre tailings cell and about 40 acres of evaporation ponds at its proposed Pinon Ridge uranium mill in Southwest Colorado, but there are conditions. The Environmental Protection Agency said in a letter Wednesday that the approval is contingent on the agency approving a plan by the company to monitor ground and surface water.

More coverage from Gary Harmon writing for The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a construction approval to Energy Fuels Resources Corp. for the construction and operation of uranium byproduct material impoundments at the Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill.

Company officials still have to obtain air-quality permits from the state and are hoping to begin construction in 2012.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Energy policy — nuclear: Energy Fuels plans to spend $1 million over the next 18 months in preparation to process uranium at the proposed Piñon Ridge Mill

June 20, 2011

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Energy Fuels Resources Inc. will spend about $1 million during the next 18 months on mines, drilling and other activities aimed at getting ready for feeding ore to the mill, the company said. “Energy Fuels is quietly assembling an impressive array of properties on the Colorado Plateau,” Energy Fuels President and Chief Executive Officer Steven P. Antony said.

While pursuing construction of the $150 million mill, Energy Fuels is taking steps to ascertain the value of its current holdings and seek new sources of uranium and vanadium, possibly in other mines that Energy Fuels might consider acquiring. “Our ultimate goal is to bring these proven and formerly producing mines back into production and process the material at the Pinon Ridge Mill,” Antony said.

Plans include drilling, resource verification and the preparation of technical reports to reflect the size and grade of resources in compliance with Canadian reporting standards, company spokesman Gary Steele said…

Meanwhile, it is seeking U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approval of a state air-quality permit and construction of the tailings impoundment.

More coverage Katharhynn Heidelberg writing for the Montrose Daily Press. From the article:

“What we’re doing is acquiring more property that has uranium, that might eventually be made into mines in the future, in Southwest Colorado and southeastern Utah,” said spokesman Curtis Moore on Friday. “We’re not increasing any mill capacity.”

The proposed Piñon Ridge mill’s permits and licenses allow for 500 tons per day of uranium and vanadium to be processed. Although Energy Fuels wants to expand mine properties by acquiring leases and mineral rights, the mill itself is not expanding, Moore said. “The mill cap of 500 tons per day, that’s what we’re permitted for. That’s not changing,” he said.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


2014 Colorado Legislation: SB14-192 would further regulate mining for radioactive materials #COleg

April 26, 2014

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

Democrats in the Colorado Senate are considering a bill to place more controls over uranium mining that opponents say are duplicative and unnecessary. The measure, SB192, would require uranium and thorium mines to get a radioactive materials license from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and meet certain criteria for keeping contaminated materials out of the state’s groundwater supplies.

But opponents say federal and state regulations over such things are already stringent, and the proposed changes are being pushed by anti-nuclear energy advocates who want to stop all uranium mining.

Harold Roberts, chief operating officer of Lakewood-based Energy Fuels, the company that has been working to open the Pinon Ridge Mill in western Montrose County for the past three years, told the Senate Health & Human Services Committee that the measure is fraught with problems. He told the panel, which approved the bill Thursday on a 4-3 party-line vote, the measure only increases red tape, would spark more litigation and would have no impact on protecting public health or the environment.

“My point is, we’re highly regulated and I don’t see that SB192 would do anything to improve those regulations,” he told the seven-member panel.

Much of the testimony for the measure stemmed from residents who live near the Cotter Uranium Mill near Canon City, a uranium processing mill that was declared a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund clean-up site in 1984.

Opponents to the measure said that much has changed since then, and state and federal regulations today are far more stringent to prevent such a thing from happening elsewhere. Roberts said his proposed mill has spent more than a $1 million over the past three years in extra groundwater investigations and facility upgrades at the request of state regulators.

Last year, the company received a radioactive-materials handling permit from the state, but it is waiting to build the $150 million mill located near Naturita until the price of yellowcake, a uranium concentrate powder, increases. Currently, those prices are at a fraction of what they were before the recession began in 2008.

The bill heads to the full Senate for more debate.

More 2014 Colorado legislation here.


Energy policy — nuclear: First new uranium mill in the U.S. in 25 years gets the go ahead from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

January 8, 2011

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From The Telluride Daily Planet (Katie Klingsporn):

The progress of the mill has been followed with fervid interest here since the early stages of its application, and Wednesday’s news evoked a mix of elation — from supporters who see in it the promise of jobs — and grim disappointment — from opponents who believe a uranium mill will bring devastation to the environment and health of the region.

But in the offices of Energy Fuels Inc., the Canadian company that proposes to build the mill, the mood was one of joy. “We’re extremely pleased and we feel like the decision substantiates the case we’ve worked so hard to make for the last couple of years,” said Gary Steele, senior vice president of corporate marketing at Energy Fuels. “We look forward to moving our project ahead.” Steele said the company still needs to secure investments and tie up a few loose ends. But if all goes well, Energy Fuels hopes to have the mill up and running in the first half of 2012, he said.

The license, which was granted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, permits Energy Fuels to construct a uranium/vanadium mill roughly 12 miles west of Naturita in Paradox Valley — a lonely and wind-scoured valley where redrock walls rise to the sky and the Dolores River flows. The mill, which would sit on a site that is roughly 17 acres, could process up to 500 tons of materials per day. As planned, the facility would run 24 hours a day, almost every day of the year, with up to 85 employees, Energy Fuels has said…

On Wednesday, Hilary White, SMA’s executive director, said the state ignored crucial information and overlooked holes in the applicant’s application. “We’re of course extremely disappointed,” she said. “We feel this was a rushed decision, and we feel that the state chose to ignore hundreds of pages of comments submitted by scientific and technical experts expressing concerns about the impacts…” Sheep Mountain funded a position on its staff to research the mill and fight the application. White said Energy Fuels lacks adequate plans to address an emergency and its plan to contain radioactive waste doesn’t meet state standards. And while the decision comes with conditions, White called them insufficient. A report commissioned by SMA also argued that the mill will actually do further damage to the region’s already hobbled economy…

Historically, the west ends of Montrose and San Miguel counties boomed with mining activity. Ore from the area went toward the Manhattan Project, and the culture of mining is deeply imbedded in the communities. Naturita’s Tammy Sutherland, who watched her family make a living off of the mining companies during a childhood in the West End, said the news felt like victory. “We’re more than thrilled,” she said. “It’s something this country needs, this area needs … We’re all pretty excited.”

From the Montrose Daily Press (Katharhynn Heidelberg):

In 2009, Montrose County commissioners approved a special-use permit that allows the mill to be sited in an area zoned for general agriculture.

More Pinon Ridge Mill coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.


Energy policy — nuclear: First new uranium mill in the U.S. in 25 years gets the go ahead from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

January 6, 2011

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Update: From the High Country News Goat blog (Nathan Rice):

At $11.1 million, the Piñon Ridge clean-up bond is half that of the Cotter uranium mill in Cañon City, Colo. — the only other licensed mill in the state…

Having cleared the state’s first bureaucratic bar, Energy Fuels Resources Corp. must complete a handful of other federal, state and local permits, which may be more difficult to obtain, before breaking dirt in the Uravan Mineral Belt. A county land use permit for the mill remains in litigation. But if Piñon Ridge hits its estimated opening date of 2012, the mill could kick the region’s once-thriving uranium industry out of its slumber.

Update: From The Telluride Watch:

Because Colorado is among 37 “agreement states” to which federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission transfers authority to regulate and license uranium, the mill could not be built without the state license approval. It proposes to process 500 tons of ore per day, 350 days per year, to produce uranium and vanadium oxides, for 40 years…

“We’re of course extremely disappointed, and we continue to be very concerned that this mill and the process that approved this mill will allow for pollution of clean air and clean water for the entire region, and undermine the region’s long term prosperity,” said Hilary White, executive director of the Telluride-based conservation group Sheep Mountain Alliance, which opposes the mill, in response to the news. “We think this was a rushed decision and it appears the regulators ignored hundreds of pages of comments from scientific experts that raised concerns about the mill’s impacts.” White said it would take some time for the group to review the decision document and to decide upon its response…

“We’re pleased,” with the initial decision, said Energy Fuels Chief Executive Officer Steve Antony. “We have to wade through the decision to see what they’ve asked us to do to be in compliance to decide whether or not we’re going to appeal.” In the event the company does not pursue an appeal, Antony estimated that construction could begin on the mill no earlier than fall 2011. “We still have fundraising to complete and final engineering to do before you can actually turn the dirt,” he said.

From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

Hilary White, executive director of Telluride-based Sheep Mountain Alliance, which is already suing Montrose County for its special use permit approval of the project, said it’s too soon to discuss legal action against the state. But she said her organization will weigh all of its options, including appeal, after fully digesting the 432-page license decision…

White argues the state did not fully consider the potential environmental and socio-economic impacts the mill will have on the region’s air and water quality given the outdoor recreation and tourism economy that has grown in the area in the decades since the last major uranium boom in the 1950s and 60s. She pointed to a recently released study commissioned by her organization. “It’s just unfortunate that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment that is charged with protecting the public health and the environment of the state of Colorado chose to ignore significant — not only public health — but serious environmental and socio-economic impacts that could result from this mill,” White said.

Warren Smith, community involvement manager of the state’s Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division, said the concerns raised by the public and groups such as Sheep Mountain Alliance that participated in the review process are addressed in the decision and the Environmental Impact Analysis. “Because Sheep Mountain Alliance has issued this reaction on the same day as our decision was announced, it is unlikely that they have actually read the 432-page decision document that we believe addresses all of these issues,” Smith said in an email. “Therefore, we do not see a reason to respond to these allegations at this time.”

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

A 432-page state analysis concluded that Energy Fuels’ application satisfied state requirements to assess impacts on public health, rivers and groundwater. Health department reviewers decided toxic material escaping from the mill — 12 miles west of Naturita in the Paradox Valley — would be minimal, Tarlton said. Mining industry leaders called the permit a step toward energy independence. Although the U.S. is the largest consumer of nuclear energy, about 95 percent of uranium is imported, said Colorado Mining Association president Stuart Sanderson. Today, about 20 percent of the electricity Americans use comes from nuclear power plants fueled by the uranium “yellowcake” that mills produce. “There’s only one operating uranium mill in the United States, and the issuance of this license should help provide a path to bring production online from other uranium operations in Colorado and along the Colorado- Utah border,” Sanderson said. Energy Fuels would crush 500 tons a day of uranium and vanadium — if the company can line up $140 million. It’s hired a Hong Kong-based agent to hunt for capital in China, South Korea and other Asian nations where demand for uranium to fuel new power plants is growing.

More Pinon Ridge Mill coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.


Energy policy — nuclear: First new uranium mill in the U.S. in 25 years gets the go ahead from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

January 5, 2011

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Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (Warren Smith):

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Approves Radioactive Materials License for Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill
DENVER—The Radiation Program of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment today announced approval of a radioactive materials license for the Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill in western Montrose County, Colo. The license is required before Energy Fuels Resources Corp. can construct a 500-tons-per-day uranium/vanadium mill approximately 12 miles west of Naturita, Colo., in the Paradox Valley. The facility will be the first new conventional uranium mill built in the United States in more than 25 years.

“Energy Fuels has demonstrated it can build and operate the mill in a manner that is protective of both human health and the environment,” said Steve Tarlton, Radiation Program manager. “Our comprehensive review considered short- and long-term impacts of the proposed mill, including radiological and nonradiological impacts to water, air and wildlife, as well as economic, social and transportation-related impacts.”

The department conducted significant outreach in 2009 and 2010 related to the radioactive materials license, and shared information with local government officials and several state agencies. The department conducted or participated in eight public meetings in Montrose and San Miguel counties, and submitted more than 400 technical questions to Energy Fuels during the 14-month-long application review process. The Montrose County Commissioners submitted comments on the Environmental Report. The department also considered hundreds of comment letters, e-mails, and cards from stakeholders in the development of the 432-page license decision.
In approving the license, the department imposed a number of conditions on Energy Fuels. Before construction can begin, the company must do the following:

• Obtain all applicable permits and other authorizations of local, state and federal agencies with authority over health, safety and environmental protection.

• Obtain Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment approval of final design and construction plans, including plans for quality assurance and quality control. Before the mill can receive any radioactive material,

• Radiation and worker protection procedures and equipment must be in place; along with personnel trained in using them;

• The company must conduct at least two emergency response exercises involving two different incident scenarios, involving off-site response agencies in one or both of the drills;

• Environmental monitoring procedures and equipment must be in place, along with personnel trained in using them. Routine operations require,

• Worker training and monitoring;

• Environmental monitoring;

• Site security;

• Documentation and reporting;

• Facility maintenance;

• Material control;

• Emergency or spill response.

Energy Fuels must remain in compliance with financial assurance requirements, including an approved financial warranty for decommissioning for $11,070,890, and a long-term care fund in the amount of $827,590 deposited in the state treasury.

Throughout the term of the license, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment may impose additional requirements and conditions regarding the receipt, possession, use and transfer of radioactive material to minimize risks to public health and safety or property, and to prevent loss or theft of material.

The department’s Decision Analysis and Environmental Impact Analysis, which includes a copy of the license, is available online at: http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/hm/rad/rml/energyfuels/index.htm.

For more information about the license, please see the attached Energy Fuels Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill Radioactive Materials License Approval Fact Sheet.

From the Grand Junction Free Press (Sharon Sullivan):

…[The] Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Radiation Program announced today its approval of a radioactive materials license for the Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill in western Montrose County…

Radiation program manager Steve Tarlton said in a press release that “short- and long-term impacts, including radiological and nonradiological impacts to water, air and wildlife, as well as economic, social and transportation-related impacts,” were considered in making the decision.

More Pinon Ridge Mill coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.


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