Public comment period open for Cotter Mill license

July 21, 2014
Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site via the Environmental Protection Agency

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site via the Environmental Protection Agency

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Public comment is being accepted on the process of licensing the Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill until decommissioning is complete. A total of six new documents are available for comment until Sept. 16. The documents outline the radioactive materials license changes that Cotter officials will operate under while cleaning up the mill site.

The mill has not processed uranium since 2006 and Cotter officials, along with state and federal health officials, are working toward a full cleanup of the site which has been on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund list since 1984. Although the state will not terminate the license until all decommissioning, remediation and reclamation activities are complete, provisions in the license need to change.

The site can no longer be used to produce yellowcake from uranium and only the Zirconium ore that already is on site will be allowed there. The cleanup of the site will address an impoundment that has been used to store tailings and the recently torn down mill buildings. Cotter officials have agreed to set aside a financial assurance of $17,837,983 to cover the cost of decommissioning activities. In addition, a longterm care fund will cover post-license termination activities. The $250,000 fund was created in 1978 and has grown to $1,018,243 through interest payments.

The documents pertaining to the license changes and a map of the Cotter Mill site can be viewed at http://recycle4colorado.ipower.com/Cotter/2014/14cotterdocs.htm. Comments should be sent to Warren Smith, community involvement manager for the state health department via email at warren.smith@state.co.us or mailed to Smith at Colorado Department of Public Health, 4300 Cherry Creek Drive South, Denver, CO 80246-1530.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.


Water Lines: Colorado needs a better water plan — Jim Pokrandt #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan

July 16, 2014


From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Jim Pokrandt):

It’s almost time for football training camps, so here’s a gridiron analogy for Colorado River water policy watchers: Western Colorado is defending two end zones. One is the Colorado River. The other is agriculture. The West Slope team has to make a big defensive play. If water planning errs on the side of overdeveloping the Colorado River, the river loses, the West Slope economy loses and West Slope agriculture could be on the way out.

This is how the Colorado River Basin Roundtable is viewing its contribution to the Colorado Water Plan ordered up by Gov. John Hickenlooper. A draft plan will be submitted this December and a final plan in December 2015. The Roundtable is assessing local water supply needs and environmental concerns for inclusion into the plan and there is plenty of work to consider in the region. But the big play may very well be the keeping of powerful forces from scoring on our two goal lines.

Here’s why: Colorado’s population is slated to double by 2050. Most of it will be on the Front Range, but our region is growing too. Mother Nature is not making any new water. We still depend on the same hydrological cycle that goes back to Day 1. So where is the “new” water going to come from? Right now, there seems to be two top targets, the Colorado River and agriculture (where 85 percent of state water use lies in irrigated fields). Colorado needs a better plan.

The Colorado Basin Roundtable represents Mesa, Garfield, Summit, Eagle, Grand and Pitkin counties. This region already sends between 450,000 and 600,000 acre feet of water annually across the Continental Divide through transmountain diversions (TMDs) to support the Front Range and the Arkansas River Basin.

That water is 100 percent gone. There are no return flows, such as there are with West Slope water users. On top of that, this region could see another 140,000 acre feet go east. A number of Roundtable constituents have long-standing or prospective agreements with Front Range interests wrapped around smaller TMDs. Existing infrastructure can still take some more water. That’s the scorecard right now. We assert another big TMD threatens streamflows and thus the recreational and agricultural economies that define Western Colorado, not to mention the environment.

In the bigger picture, the Colorado River Compact of 1922 requires Colorado to bypass about 70 percent of the river system to the state line to comply with legal limits on depletions so six other states can have their legal share of the water. Failure to do so, by overdeveloping the river, threatens compact curtailments and chaos nobody wants to see. For one thing, that kind of bad water planning could result in a rush to buy or condemn West Slope agricultural water rights.

The Roundtable has heard these concerns loudly and clearly from its own members across the six counties as well as from citizens who have given voice to our section of the water plan, known as the Basin Implementation Plan (BIP). A draft of the BIP can be viewed and comments offered by going online to http://coloradobip.sgm‐inc.com/. It is under the “Resources” tab.

Jim Pokrandt is Colorado Basin Roundtable Chair.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Energy Fuels sells the Piñon Ridge uranium plant site

July 14, 2014
Piñon Ridge uranium plant site

Piñon Ridge uranium plant site

From the Denver Business Journal (Caitlin Hendee):

Energy Fuels, which previously had plans to build the nation’s first new uranium mill in 30 years, sold its Piñon Ridge license and several other assets in Western Colorado.

The Toronto, Canada-based company (TSE: EFR) that has an office in Lakewood bought a large quantity of land in the western part of the state almost five years ago.
Colorado in May gave the mill the required “radioactive materials handling” license, but company spokesperson Curtis Moore told the DBJ that Energy Fuels wouldn’t begin construction until “market conditions warrant.”

The company would also need an “air permit” from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to begin the $150 million project.

The mill has been an area of hot debate for environmental activists, who in March sued the U.S. Forest Service to stop the government from allowing the mill to be built near the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Energy Fuels instead diverted plans to build it in Montrose County.

But the company said it has entered into agreements to sell the license and the Piñon Ridge mill to a private investor group managed by Baobab Asset Management LLC and George Glasier.

Glasier served as president from 2006 until March of 2010.

The company said the sale also includes mining assets — such as the Sunday Complex, the Willhunt project, the Sage Mine, the Van 4 mine, the Farmer Girl project, the Dunn project and the San Rafael project — all located along the Colorado-Utah border.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill and Assets Set to Be Sold for $2 Million

July 8, 2014

More nuclear coverage here.


By watershed, the greatest density of uranium mines is in SW Colorado — Bob Berwyn

June 10, 2014

More nuclear coverage here.


2014 Colorado Legislation: SB14-192 is on its way to Governor Hickenlooper’s desk

May 8, 2014
Lincoln/Cotter Mill Park superfund site

Lincoln/Cotter Mill Park superfund site

From the Cañon City Daily Record (Christy Steadman):

“The passage of the Uranium Groundwater Protection bill today will help restore our use and rights to our wells,” Sharyn Cunningham, Lincoln Park resident, said.

John Hamrick, facility manager at Cotter Corp., said SB 192 ceases “a year-and-a-half of progress in the negotiation process” with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to abide by the federal rules regarding “what is the best way” concerning clean-up. He said the negotiations were a measure to clean up what would eventually “go away” naturally.

Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado, said the area’s community members and activists “deserve a hearty congratulations for turning their passion into a legislative victory.”

“No community should have to endure the long-term exposure to uranium and other contamination as the community of Cañon City has at the hands of the Cotter Corp.,” he said.

Hamrick said he wanted to remind people that “to the best of Cotter’s knowledge, nobody is drinking ground water (contaminated) above any health limits or ground water protection standards.”[...]

Another issue with SB 192, said Hamrick, is the requirement to use the most expedited and best available technology for the clean-up. He said there will be only one technology that could reach both those requirements, and as of yet, nobody knows what it is nor an idea of its cost.

“Water quality is improving in Lincoln Park naturally,” Hamrick said. “(SB 192) adds a lot of unknown costs without a lot of public benefits.”

More nuclear coverage here.


2014 Colorado legislation: Cañon City residents are cautiously optimistic for results from SB14-192

May 2, 2014
Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site via The Denver Post

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site via The Denver Post

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Residents here are thankful for bipartisan legislation passed [by the Senate] Wednesday that will help clean up groundwater contamination by Cotter Corp.’s uranium mill. The legislation will ensure that uranium mills clean up ongoing contamination of residents’ groundwater as expeditiously as possible, with the best available technology. The legislation will help give direction to the state health department as it oversees the cleanup, according to Chris Arend of Conservation Colorado.

Residents of the Lincoln Park neighborhood just north of the Cotter Uranium Mill site have been hooked up to city water so they can avoid using wells that have been contaminated by uranium and molybdenum which seeped from the mill site.

The neighborhood and Cotter mill have been part of a Superfund cleanup site since 1984.

“For my Lincoln Park neighbors, forsaking our historic use of our water wells was never an option. We knew we needed to keep fighting for full and active cleanup of our wells, not only to restore our current rights but for future residents,” said Sharyn Cunningham, a Lincoln Park resident who is co-chair of Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste.

“After 30 years of contamination and indifference, the residents of Lincoln Park saw significant movement in their campaign for the Cotter Corp. to finally clean up its mess,” said Pete Maysmith of Conservation Colorado. “No community should have to endure the long-term exposure to uranium and other contamination as the community of Canon City has.”

Cotter officials, along with state and federal health officials, are overseeing decommissioning and full cleanup now that the mill is closed.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here. More nuclear coverage here.


2014 Colorado legislation: SB14-192 passes the Senate #COleg

May 1, 2014
Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill Site via The Denver Post

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill Site via The Denver Post

From the Cañon City Daily Record (Christy Steadman):

The Colorado Senate passed Senate Bill 192 on Tuesday, which concerns uranium licensing and groundwater protection, but causes conflict between Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill and Lincoln Park residents.

In a press release issued by Conservation Colorado representative Chris Arend, residents of Lincoln Park “expressed support for (the) bipartisan legislation … that will help rectify 30 years of groundwater contamination by Cotter Corp.”

“The passage of SB 192 today will help restore our use and rights to our wells and begin to rectify the damage the Cotter Corporation has caused in our community,” Sharyn Cunningham, Lincoln Park resident said in the release.

John Hamrick, facility manager at Cotter Corp., said they have been in negotiations with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to abide by the federal rules regarding “what is the best way” concerning clean-up. He said that is “now in jeopardy” because of SB 192, and a year-and-a-half of progress in the negotiation process will have to be discarded, and they will now have “to go back to zero.”

“(Additionally), the State of Colorado is federally preempted from passing a law that requires the EPA to select a specific clean-up remedy,” Hamrick said.

In the release, Lincoln Park resident Pete Maysmith said SB 192 “will help clean-up residents’ groundwater and restore the historic use of their water wells.”

“No community should have to endure the long-term exposure to uranium and other contamination as the community of Cañon City has at the hands of the Cotter Corp.,” Maysmith said.

Here’s a release from Conservation Colorado:

Impacted residents and members of the Colorado conservation community expressed support for bipartisan legislation passed today that will help rectify 30 years of groundwater contamination by Cotter Corporation in Canon City, Colorado. Residents of the Lincoln Park neighborhood in Canon City had been told that the best way to deal with Cotter’s pollution was for the community to abandon use of their wells.

“For my Lincoln Park neighbors forsaking our historic use of our water wells was never an option. We knew we needed to keep fighting for full and active clean up of our wells not only to restore our current rights but for future residents,” said Sharyn Cunningham, Lincoln Park resident. “The passage of SB 192 today will help restore our use and rights to our wells and begin to rectify the damage the Cotter Corporation has caused in our community.”

“Today after 30 years of contamination and indifference, the residents of Lincoln Park saw significant movement in their campaign for the Cotter Corporation to finally clean up its mess in Cañon City,” said Pete Maysmith. “No community should have to endure the long term exposure to uranium and other contamination as the community of Cañon City has at the hands of the Cotter Corporation. The legislation passed today will help clean up residents’ groundwater and restore the historic use of their water wells.”

Although pleased that contaminated water would be cleaned-up, supporters expressed concern that the Colorado Senate stripped out licensing requirements that would protect against future contamination.

“We are disappointed in Colorado Senate amendments to remove important protections for experimental uranium milling proposed for our community,” said Cathe Meyrick, resident of the Tallahassee Area in Fremont County. “The legislation would have clarified that licensing is required before the industry deploys experimental uranium recovery techniques with potentially grave impacts on our groundwater. Regardless of this setback, we will rely on a committed community and look for other mechanisms to protect our groundwater.”

The proposed new technologies involve extraction through the creation of an underground uranium slurry (i.e., underground borehole mining) and concentration through physical, rather than chemical means (i.e., ablation). These new uranium recovery methods are being proposed for uranium deposits in Fremont County (Tallahassee Area/Arkansas River) and in Weld County (Centennial Project and Keota).

Both Conservation Colorado and impacted landowners in Fremont and Weld County will work to reinstate the provisions as the bill moves forward.

More nuclear coverage here.


Moab tailings cleanup reaches 5-year mark — Deseret News #ColoradoRiver

April 28, 2014

moabtailingscleanupsite

From the Deseret News (Amy Joi O’Donoghue):

This week marked the five year anniversary of when the U.S. Department of Energy began the $1 billion cleanup of the 16 million tons of tailings left over a legacy of uranium mining at the now defunct Atlas Mill.

The 130-acre site was leaching uranium and hazardous chemicals into the Colorado River, spurring contamination concerns for 30 million downstream users.

In 2009, an infusion of $108 million in federal stimulus money fast-tracked the project, accelerating the removal of the tailings to a disposal site 30 miles away at Crescent Junction.

“It is slowly getting there,” said project manager Don Metzler. “It is on track and we feel good about that.”

Metzler, whose supervision of the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action garnered national recognition in 2011, said the massive cleanup effort is now 42 percent complete.

“We have moved 6.7 million tons of the 16 million tons,” he said. “We still have a lot to go.”

The tailings are scooped and loaded into the beds of huge dump trucks and then poured into rail cars. A train leaves the site once a day, four days a week, traveling north to a specially-engineered disposal site at Crescent Junction.

Metzler said the annual funding of $35 million received a boost to $38 million, and the additional money will be used to further cover a section of the disposal cell.

“We do this in sequential steps. We are not going to wait until the entire project is over before we cover,” he said.

Clay and rock material has been put on 40 acres and another 10 acres or so will also receive a protective fill.

Metzler is also in the process of implementing a flood control plan.

With spring runoff in full swing, the Colorado River has risen 2 feet in the past few weeks, Metzler said, and it expected to crest its banks in another 30 to 40 days.

Protective berms have been engineered to keep the river water away from the radioactive dirt, he added, and the project will be doing community outreach to keep residents informed of flood threats.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


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

April 26, 2014

uranium

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.


Cotter and the CPDHE are still trying to work out a de-commissioning agreement for the Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site

April 5, 2014
Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill Site via The Denver Post

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill Site via The Denver Post

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

A broken pipe at Cotter Corp.’s dismantled mill in central Colorado spewed 20,000 gallons of uranium-laced waste — just as Cotter is negotiating with state and federal authorities to end one of the nation’s longest-running Superfund cleanups.

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials said last weekend’s spill stayed on Cotter property.

In addition, uranium and molybdenum contamination, apparently from other sources on the Cotter property, has spiked at a monitoring well in adjacent Cañon City. A Feb. 20 report by Cotter’s consultant said groundwater uranium levels at the well in the Lincoln Park neighborhood “were the highest recorded for this location,” slightly exceeding the health standard of 30 parts per billion. State health data show uranium levels are consistently above health limits at other wells throughout the neighborhood but haven’t recently spiked.

“This isn’t acceptable,” Fremont County Commissioner Tim Payne said of the spill – the fourth since 2010. “(CDPHE officials) told us it is staying on Cotter’s property. But 20,000 gallons? You have to worry about that getting into groundwater.”

Environmental Protection Agency and CDPHE officials are negotiating an agreement with Cotter to guide cleanup, data-gathering, remediation and what to do with 15 million tons of radioactive uranium tailings. Options range from removal — Cotter estimates that cost at more than $895 million — or burial in existing or new impoundment ponds.

Gov. John Hickenlooper intervened last year to hear residents’ concerns and try to speed final cleanup.

Cotter vice president John Hamrick said the agreement will lay out timetables for the company to propose options with cost estimates.

The spill happened when a coupler sleeve split on a 6-inch plastic pipe, part of a 30-year-old system that was pumping back toxic groundwater from a 300-foot barrier at the low end of Cotter’s 2,538-acre property, Hamrick said.

Lab analysis provided by Cotter showed the spilled waste contained uranium about 94 times higher than the health standard, and molybdenum at 3,740 ppb, well above the 100-ppb standard for that metal, said Jennifer Opila, leader of the state’s radioactive materials unit.

She said Cotter’s system for pumping back toxic groundwater is designed so that groundwater does not leave the site, preventing any risk to the public.

In November, Cotter reported a spill of 4,000 to 9,000 gallons. That was five times more than the amount spilled in November 2012. Another spill happened in 2010.

At the neighborhood in Cañon City, the spike in uranium contamination probably reflects slow migration of toxic material from Cold War-era unlined waste ponds finally reaching the front of an underground plume, Hamrick said.

“It is a blip. It does not appear to be an upward trend. If it was, we would be looking at it,” Hamrick said. “We will be working with state and EPA experts to look at the whole groundwater monitoring and remediation system.”

An EPA spokeswoman agreed the spike does not appear to be part of an upward trend, based on monitoring at other wells, but she said the agency does take any elevated uranium levels seriously.

The Cotter mill, now owned by defense contractor General Atomics, opened in 1958, processing uranium for nuclear weapons and fuel. Cotter discharged liquid waste, including radioactive material and heavy metals, into 11 unlined ponds until 1978. The ponds were replaced in 1982 with two lined waste ponds. Well tests in Cañon City found contamination, and in 1984, federal authorities declared a Superfund environmental disaster.

Colorado officials let Cotter keep operating until 2011, and mill workers periodically processed ore until 2006.

A community group, Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste, has been pressing for details and expressing concerns about the Cotter site. Energy Minerals Law Center attorney Travis Stills, representing residents, said the data show “the likely expansion of the uranium plume, following the path of a more mobile molybdenum plume” into Cañon City toward the Arkansas River.

The residents deserve independent fact-gathering and a proper cleanup, Stills said.

“There’s an official, decades-old indifference to groundwater protection and cleanup of groundwater contamination at the Cotter site — even though sustainable and clean groundwater for drinking, orchards, gardens and livestock remains important to present and future Lincoln Park residents,” he said. “This community is profoundly committed to reclaiming and protecting its groundwater.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund coverage here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill: New spill contained onsite

March 11, 2014
Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site via The Denver Post

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site via The Denver Post

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

For the second time in five months, Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill officials have discovered a leak of contaminated water, but both spills reportedly were contained on-site. On Monday, Cotter personnel reported to Colorado Department of Public Health officials a release of greater than 500 gallons of water from the barrier system pump-back pipeline. The water spilled was contaminated groundwater recovered by the barrier system and being pumped back to the facility.

The spill was discovered at 8 a.m. Monday and mill personnel were last on-site at approximately 4:30 p.m. Friday. The spill did not result in contaminated materials leaving the Cotter property. More information will be provided as the investigation continues, according to Deb Shaw, health department program assistant. A similar spill occurred in November when between 4,000 and 9,000 gallons of contaminated water seeped from the same pipeline.

Contaminated water usually is pumped, along with groundwater, to an on-site evaporation pond to prevent further contamination in Lincoln Park, which has been a part of a Superfund cleanup site since 1988. The now-defunct mill is in the process of decommissioning and has not been used to process uranium since 2006.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

More details have emerged in connection with a Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill leak of contaminated water which occurred over the weekend south of town. State health officials reported Tuesday that about 20,000 gallons of the contaminated water leaked from the pump-back system pipeline.

“Analytical results show that the water contained 2,840 micrograms per liter of uranium and 3,740 micrograms per liter of molybdenum. For comparison, the groundwater standard in Colorado for uranium is 30 micrograms per liter and for molybdenum is 100 micrograms per liter,” said Deb Shaw, program assistant for the state health department.

At those concentrations of contamination the spill is not reportable to the National Response Center because the quantity is below 10.3 million gallons, Shaw said.

The contamination did not seep off of Cotter property.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site: November 5 spill caused by pipeline joint failure

November 23, 2013
Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill Site via The Denver Post

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill Site via The Denver Post

From the Cañon City Daily Record (Christy Steadman):

Jennifer Opila, Radioactive Materials Unit Leader for the CDPHE, explained how the 1988 pumpback system at Cotter functions. Opila said the cause of the Nov. 5 spill was that a joint in the pipeline of the pumpback system broke. She described it as a “catastrophic break,” meaning it was not a “slow and seeping” spill.

Opila said employees found “water coming out of the ground” just north of well No. 333 and “that’s how they knew the pipe had ruptured.”

According to Cotter’s Environmental Coordinator/Radiation Safety Officer Jim Cain, the spill was measured within a 12-hour window and based on inspection times and flow, an estimated 4,000 to 9,000 gallons of water was spilled. A water sample was collected and the analysis reported that .03 pounds of uranium and .15 pounds of molybdenum was found, according to Cain.

Cotter made the required oral report of the spill and provided a requested written report, Opila said, and the pipe was repaired and operable by the next day.

The pipeline is three feet underground and consists of 3,856 linear feet of six-inch schedule 90 PVC pipe and 3,053 linear feet of four-inch schedule 90 PVC pipe.

Vice President of Cotter Mill Operations John Hamrick said there have been three leaks “in three different years, all for different reasons.”

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site: 9,000 gallon spill contained on mill property

November 8, 2013
Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill site via The Denver Post

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill site via The Denver Post

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill officials on Tuesday discovered contaminated water escaped a pump-back system at the mill site but the spill has been contained to the mill property. According to Warren Smith, community involvement manager for the state health department, the release of contaminated water was limited to between 4,000 and 9,000 gallons. The leak occurred at the junction of two pipe sections near the Soil Conservation Service pump back site, which is designed to prevent contaminated surface water from seeping into the neighboring Lincoln Park neighborhood.

“The soil in the area of the release is saturated. It will be allowed to dry so the pipe can be excavated and repaired,” Smith said.

Water samples were analyzed and based on concentration levels present, the maximum estimated release of uranium is limited to 1.1 ounces and the estimated molybdenum release is 2.6 ounces.

Contaminated water usually is pumped, along with groundwater, to an onsite evaporation pond to prevent further contamination in Lincoln Park, which has been a part of a Superfund cleanup site since 1988. The now-defunct mill is in the process of decommissioning and has not been used to process uranium since 2006.

From the Colorado Independent (Shelby Kinney-Lang):

Cotter Corporation informed the health department of the leaking pipes on Tuesday in a “verbal report” delivered over the phone. No health department personnel have inspected the spill site, as yet, and no formal report has yet been filed. Cotter said it will let the contaminated ground dry before excavating and repairing the pipe…

“We’ve got a company looking to walk away from a problem without actually cleaning it up,” said Travis E. Stills, an energy and conservation lawyer who has been working with community groups in Cañon City since the mid-2000s. Stills represents Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste on several ongoing state open records suits that seek information that passed between Cotter, the state health department and the Environmental Protection Agency concerning the uranium mill and the Lincoln Park Superfund Site, but which health department withheld from public review.

Uranium is extraordinarily toxic. The health department reports that if the pipe did in fact leak 9,000 gallons, the concentration in the water of uranium would be 834 micrograms per liter and the concentration of molybdenum, also a toxic chemical, would be 2,018 micrograms per liter. For perspective, the EPA places the health safety level of uranium at 30 micrograms per liter…

“They got a hole in the pipe and it leaked back into the ground,” he said.

Warren Smith, community involvement manager in the Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division of the department, insisted there was no danger to public health.

“There is no public health risk here, because there is no exposure to the public,” Smith said. “Health risk depends on two factors: the release and exposure. If there’s no receptor to be exposed to it, where’s the risk?”

Smith said that the health department performs regular inspections of the Cotter site. The most recent was a September inspection. Because the pipe was buried, Smith said it would be a stretch to “characterize it as an [inspection] oversight.”

Smith said it would be a serious lapse if Cotter had failed to report the spill. Inspections don’t occur often enough for the state to have happened upon the spill any time soon.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund cleanup: Cotter wants to reduce the frequency of groundwater monitoring

October 23, 2013
Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill Site via The Denver Post

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill Site via The Denver Post

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Public comment is being sought on a Cotter Corp. uranium mill proposal seeking to reduce the frequency of groundwater monitoring on 11 new wells. The state health department has preliminarily approved the request and will take public input before making a final decision. Cotter Corp. Mill Manager John Hamrick indicated more than a year’s worth of sampling has been amassed on 11 new wells, which were dug in late 2011 to help establish the extent of groundwater contamination.

“Once we’ve established 12 months of measurements, we generally move to quarterly sampling as we do with all the other wells,” Hamrick explained.

The mill and a portion of the neighboring Lincoln Park community have been an EPA Superfund site since 1988 due to uranium and molybdenum contamination in groundwater and soils. Groundwater is not used by residents in the contaminated area of Lincoln Park as they all have been connected to the city water supply.

Hamrick said the average uranium value for each of the new monitoring wells is below the Colorado Groundwater Quality Standard. Only three wells have exceeded the standard for uranium — one six times, another twice and the third just once.

The average molybdenum concentration for most of the new wells also was below the state standard and only three wells have exceeded that standard out of 115 samples.

The state health department reviewed the request as did the Cotter Community Advisory Group. Regulators feel, “Significant baseline data” has been collected to allow for quarterly monitoring instead of monthly, said Jennifer Opila, unit leader for the state heath department’s radioactive materials division.

Public comment will be accepted Monday through Sept. 13. Comments can be sent to Warren Smith, community involvement manager, via email at warren.smith@state.co.us or by calling 303-692-3373.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill coverage here and here.


Green River Basin: Utah may get its first nuke electrical generation plant if the water is there #ColoradoRiver

September 29, 2013
Desert landscape NW of Green River, Utah -- Photo via Heal Utah

Desert landscape NW of Green River, Utah — Photo via Heal Utah

From the Deseret News (Amy Joi O’Donoghue):

The fate of a proposed nuclear power plant — the first in Utah — turns on the ebb and flow of the Green River, where proponents of the project want to divert water to cool the plant’s nuclear reactors.

For five days in a small courtroom in Price last week, Judge George Harmond — who once served on the Utah Board of Water Resources — listened to reasons why the decision to grant that water for the plant was within the law or, alternately, why it contravened the statute governing water allocations.

Ultimately, whatever the 7th District judge decides — he took the case under advisement and will issue a decision within 60 days — the loser in this contest is destined to appeal.

I wonder what is different in the new designs that makes them require less water than Fukushima Daiichi did. It seems to me that it requires unlimited volumes of water when you are fighting for control of a fission reaction. That sort of supply is not apparent in the landscape near the reactor site.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Energy Fuels plans to permit the proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill and then shelve the project for better times

September 11, 2013

paradoxvalley

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Montrose County officials took heart in Energy Fuels Inc.‘s plans to proceed with permitting its proposed Naturita mill, which it acknowledged to investors won’t go forward until the market improves. “There was no way at the current market price that they could possibly consider” building the $150 million mill, Dianna Reams of Naturita said. “It would be foolhardy at best.”

Energy Fuels leaders told investors last week that construction of the mill would depend on an increase in the price of uranium oxide, currently languishing at $34 a pound. “We are continuing to move the Piñon Ridge Mill forward in permitting,” Energy Fuels spokesman Curtis Moore said. “However, we do not intend to build it until market conditions warrant, and the price of uranium recovers.”

The question on prices “is ‘when,’ not ‘if,’ ” Moore said.

The Telluride-based Sheep Mountain Alliance, which has opposed Energy Fuels in court, said it’s clear that Energy Fuels has no intention of building the mill. “It is time for elected officials and community leaders to work towards real and achievable economic opportunities for the West End communities,” Sheep Mountain Alliance Director Hilary Cooper said. “These could include the development of clean, renewable energy, small-scale agriculture and cultural and recreational opportunities which would all provide long-term growth benefits.”

Energy Fuels has been telling county officials for the last six months that building the mill was untenable at current prices. “It’s all economics,” White said, noting that the price of uranium still could rise. “What we have to remember is that the U.S. does import 94 percent of the uranium it uses” and a breakdown in the foreign supply could force prices back up, White said.

Global uranium prices have been hit with the double-whammy of the rise of natural gas and the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that caused a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Montrose County is considering helping to fund an economic development office for what is known as the West End of the county, including the towns of Naturita, Norwood and Nucla, White said. West End residents are familiar with the market constraints on Energy Fuels, White said. “Mining has been a part of their heritage for 100 years and so they know the ups and downs of the mining industry,” White said.

Energy Fuels has submitted construction plans for the mill, which would occupy an 800-acre site near Naturita, said Reams, whose family is involved in construction and mining. “It does clear way for construction as soon as they are ready to go.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Energy Fuels plans to permit the proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill and then shelve the project for better times

September 7, 2013

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

Energy Fuels Resources Inc. will keep holding its license to build the Piñon Ridge uranium mill in the Paradox Valley of Montrose County, but it has no plans to act on the license, said President and CEO Stephen Antony.

“We intend to keep that license in a current, valid form, but not move on construction of the mill until market conditions support it,” Antony said.

The statement is old news to uranium experts, but it comes as a surprise to some Coloradans.

The company’s Piñon Ridge website says, “Energy Fuels anticipates starting construction in late 2012 or 2013.” And its plan on file with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment calls for the mill west of Naturita to be operational by early 2017, with construction beginning in 2015.

Warren Smith, a community involvement manager for the state health department, said Energy Fuels has not contacted his department with any plans to deviate from the schedule it has submitted. The license is valid for five years.

But uranium market analysts have known since Energy Fuels bought the White Mesa uranium mill in Utah that the company has put Piñon Ridge on the back burner. In fact, the company said so itself in a little-noticed statement in December 2012. It came in an annual report filed with financial regulators in Canada, where Energy Fuels is incorporated.

“With the recent acquisition by the Company of the White Mesa Mill, the Company no longer needs to construct the Piñon Ridge Mill in order to meet its planned production for the foreseeable future. Therefore, the Company does not intend to proceed with construction of the mill at this time,” the report said.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


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.


Developers opt out of water rights application for the proposed Piñon Ridge Mill

August 28, 2013

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Opponents of a proposed uranium mill near Naturita crowed Friday that a judge dismissed the mill’s water-right claim, but the mill’s backers noted that it was they who sought the dismissal.

The Sheep Mountain Alliance fired off a news release after Water Judge Steven Patrick dismissed Energy Fuel’s Inc.‘s petition for rights on the San Miguel River.

Patrick dismissed the case, but he did so in a way that permits Energy Fuels to reapply for the water right if necessary. The environmental organization had sought to prevent the company from refiling for the water.

The company failure to pursue the water rights “clearly indicates the lack of intent to follow through on the construction of the uranium mill.” Hilary Cooper, executive director of the alliance, said in the statement.

“We decided that we did not need this water at this time,” Curtis Moore, Energy Fuels director of investor relations and public relations, wrote in an email. “Keep in mind that we have wells and a water right in the Dolores River basin that should meet most (or all) of our water needs.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill: Cleanup awaiting state go ahead

August 19, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

State health officials have preliminarily ordered Cotter Corp. Mill officials not to do any cleanup work pending future decommissioning and reclamation guidelines. Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill Manager John Hamrick had requested permission to excavate the ore pad area after uranium ore was removed and shipped to the White Mesa Mill in Blanding, Utah.

The state health department’s Jennifer Opila, unit leader, said although an earlier work pause has been lifted, Cotter will not be authorized to proceed with, “New decommissioning or reclamation activities.” She said the decision to deny the request was made after health officials and the Community Advisory Group discussed the issue. The public is invited to comment on the state’s preliminary decision.

Comment will be accepted Monday through Sept. 20. The public also can comment during the same time frame on completion reports for Lincoln Park water wells.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill: Public comments sought on proposal to reduce the frequency of groundwater monitoring

August 9, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Public comment is being sought on a Cotter Corp. uranium mill proposal seeking to reduce the frequency of groundwater monitoring on 11 new wells. The state health department has preliminarily approved the request and will take public input before making a final decision. Cotter Corp. Mill Manager John Hamrick indicated more than a year’s worth of sampling has been amassed on 11 new wells, which were dug in late 2011 to help establish the extent of groundwater contamination.

“Once we’ve established 12 months of measurements, we generally move to quarterly sampling as we do with all the other wells,” Hamrick explained.

The mill and a portion of the neighboring Lincoln Park community have been an EPA Superfund site since 1988 due to uranium and molybdenum contamination in groundwater and soils. Groundwater is not used by residents in the contaminated area of Lincoln Park as they all have been connected to the city water supply.

Hamrick said the average uranium value for each of the new monitoring wells is below the Colorado Groundwater Quality Standard. Only three wells have exceeded the standard for uranium — one six times, another twice and the third just once. The average molybdenum concentration for most of the new wells also was below the state standard and only three wells have exceeded that standard out of 115 samples.

The state health department reviewed the request as did the Cotter Community Advisory Group. Regulators feel, “Significant baseline data” has been collected to allow for quarterly monitoring instead of monthly, said Jennifer Opila, unit leader for the state heath department’s radioactive materials division.

Public comment will be accepted Monday through Sept. 13. Comments can be sent to Warren Smith, community involvement manager, via email at warren.smith@state.co.us or by calling 303-692-3373.

More nuclear 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.


Moab uranium mill tailings cleanup includes 200 million gallons of groundwater #ColoradoRiver

August 4, 2013

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The cleanup of a uranium mill-tailings pile along the Colorado River in Utah has removed 200 million gallons of contaminated groundwater as well, officials said. In removing about one-third of the 16 million-ton pile, the Moab, Utah, uranium mill tailings removal project also extracted the contaminated groundwater. The groundwater contained more than 785,000 pounds of ammonia and 3,900 pounds of uranium.

The project in 2003 installed a collection system aimed at removing water from the pile using eight extraction wells. The extracted groundwater is pumped to a lined four-acre pond on top of the tailings pile and sent to forced-air evaporators. The extraction system “efficiently and cost-effectively protects the river, which is a drinking-water source for millions of downstream users,” Donald Metzler, federal project director, said. “We intercepted it before it got to the river.”

The uranium is stored in the bottom of the evaporation pond, where it will remain unless he can find a market for it, Metzler said. If he can’t, it eventually will be buried in the disposal cell, Metzler said.

More than 38 percent of the tailings pile, which was left over from the Cold War, has been taken by rail to a disposal site below the Book Cliffs near Crescent Junction, 30 miles north of the river.

Removal of the entire pile and the contaminated groundwater is expected to be complete in 12 years.

High concentrations of ammonia can harm endangered fish in the Colorado River.

Project officials estimate that removal of the contaminated water from the 130-acre site has cost less than 10 cents per gallon of water removed.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site: Baby steps towards decommissioning

June 23, 2013

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

The pause is officially being lifted.

Monica Sheets, of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, told the Lincoln Park/Cotter Community Advisory Group on Thursday that the lifting of the pause does not mean the work will resume immediately, but that the department will start getting plans and documents consistent with the roadmap for decommissioning the Cotter site.

The original letter setting the pause, issued in March 2012, said the CAG would be reformed and the roadmap would be formulated during the time off of operations.

“I was under the impression that since those two things were done, we could lift the pause,” Sheets said.

Sheets said she will send a letter to Cotter informing them that the pause was lifted and what the process will be moving forward.

“I would just hope that that letter would be very specific,” said CAG member and Colorado Citizens Against ToxicWaste co-president Sharyn Cunningham.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Moab tailings clean up tallies 6 million tons #ColoradoRiver

June 19, 2013

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The cleanup of the mill-tailings pile in Moab, Utah, is on schedule, having hit the 6-million ton mark this week. That leaves 10 million tons still to be hauled 30 miles north to Crescent Junction from the Cold War-era tailings pile on the opposite side of the Colorado River from Moab.

“We just keep clicking away, slowly but surely,” said Don Metzler, director of the cleanup for the U.S. Department of Energy. Metzler had predicted the cleanup would hit the 6-million-ton milestone on Monday.

The cleanup, which began in 2009, is expected to be complete by 2025. The tailings are the remainder of the uranium milling process and contain low levels of radiation. They are shipped by rail from Moab in lined containers and deposited in a disposal cell designed to blend in with the Book Cliffs behind them.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Colorado State Representative Don Coram plans to shutter and restore four uranium mines

June 12, 2013

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

The action follows several years of legal pressure by activists on the state and federal government to shut down the old uranium mines that dot the landscape of San Miguel and Montrose counties.A 2008 state law required all uranium mines to meet a higher level of regulatory scrutiny. State mining regulators are now demanding that all mine operators either submit a detailed environmental-protection plan or shut down their mines and reclaim the land.“Economically, it seemed to be more feasible to me to do a reclamation plan. It was strictly a matter of economics,” said Coram, a Montrose Republican whose district includes Montezuma County. Coram’s company, Gold Eagle Mining Inc., bought the mines in 1998. Three are close to the Dolores River at Slick Rock. The fourth overlooks the Paradox Valley in Montrose County. They have been out of operation almost constantly since the early 1980s. The state has given him until May 2014 to finish reclamation of the sites.

But even as they enter the cleanup stage, the mines remain as controversial as ever. A mining watchdog group called Information Network for Responsible Mining, or INFORM, has been hounding Coram and other mine operators, and the group submitted a harsh objection to Coram’s request earlier this year for an extension of his permit to leave the mines idle.“We will not mince words in criticizing the condition of the Slick Rock mines: They are dangerous to public health, to the Dolores River, to wildlife, and to the ecosystem they actively pollute. These mines represent egregious examples of neglect and mismanagement and have been allowed, for many years, to erode their toxic and radioactive contaminants directly into the Dolores,” INFORM’s objection stated.Coram sharply disputes the charges…

Tony Waldron of the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety said Coram’s mines are not polluting the Dolores River…

Radiometric readings near the mines show nothing above the natural background levels of radiation.However, stormwater does run off some of the mining waste piles, Waldron said. As part of the reclamation work, Gold Eagle will have to flatten the piles to reduce the risk of tainted water spilling off the site.Other reclamation work includes closing portals, replanting vegetation and removing old buildings.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Colorado Mining Agency Orders Clean-Up of Four West Slope Uranium Mines

June 9, 2013

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Click here to read the letter from the Colorado Mining Agency to Gold Eagle Mining, Inc.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

A mining company with a long history on noncompliance with reclamation requirements has been ordered to clean up four semi-abandoned uranium mines in southwest Colorado.

An attempt by Gold Eagle Mining Inc, to delay closure of the mines for another five years was successfully challenged by a watchdog group. The mines, have been idle for three decades, despite a state law that requires uranium mines to be reclaimed and closed a maximum of 10 years after mining ceases.

Three of the mines are located in Slick Rock, directly adjacent to the Dolores River. A fourth mine is located on the slopes above the picturesque Paradox Valley. Multiple documents relating to the mines, including copies of inspection reports and warning letters from the state, are posted here.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site update: The road map for decommissioning is moving along

June 9, 2013

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From the Cañon City Daily Record:

The Cotter/Lincoln Park Community Advisory Group monthly meeting was May 16 at the Fremont County Administration Building. CAG members were told about the agency’s idea of ending “The Pause” at the Cotter Superfund Site. Members present were in agreement with this decision.

Four other major aspects regarding the cleanup process also were talked about but not fully detailed in newspaper coverage. The CAG Outreach Committee would like the community to be aware of everything the CAG is doing.

The first major topic discussed implementation of a Road Map between Cotter, CDPHE, EPA and the CAG. This will expedite all information shared and decisions made in a timely manner and allow input into the various documents received by all parties, including the general public. This will allow everyone to know what is happening in a timely manner and to see exactly where everything is at relative to the Superfund Site.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill coverage here and here.


Fremont County: Tallahassee Area residents are now 1,000 strong in opposition to Black Range’s uranium operation

June 8, 2013

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From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

When residents in the Tallahassee Creek drainage northeast of Cotopaxi learned about potential uranium mining in the area, they organized to oppose it. More than 1,000 property owners now make up the Tallahassee Area Community group, including more than 500 year-round and seasonal residents, said Cathe Meyrick, TAC president.

As previously reported in The Mountain Mail, Black Range Minerals Colorado plans to use a borehole mining process to extract uranium ore at the Hansen deposit, located within the South T Bar Ranch development along Tallahassee Creek. If the mining operation proceeds, 44 local property owners will become the first people in the world to live within 500 feet of active uranium mining, according to the TAC website.

Background

The history of uranium mining in western Fremont County dates to the 1954 discovery of uranium ore deposits.
Following the discovery, relatively small mining operations created 16 open pit mines in the Tallahassee Creek area. All of the mines were eventually abandoned but not restored to original conditions because of the absence of environmental and mining regulations.

In the 1970s, Cyprus Mines Corp. acquired the Taylor Ranch mineral and water rights. In 1981, after drilling thousands of exploratory wells, Cyprus received permits to mine uranium ore at the Hansen deposit and operate a nearby uranium mill. The project never advanced beyond the permitting stage because uranium prices collapsed in the wake of the Three Mile Island incident.

With the ensuing cancellation of nuclear power plant construction projects, demand for uranium remained low for decades, as did uranium prices.

While uranium prices remained too low to support local mining operations, Fremont County commissioners knew about the presence of uranium ore and failed to designate the area as a Mineral Resource Area. In 1974, HB 74-1041 amended the Colorado Land Use Act, encouraging counties to make such designations in order to prevent incompatible land uses, thereby preserving the ability to develop mineral resources.

Lee Alter, chairman of the TAC Government Affairs Committee, said the 1976 Comprehensive Plan for Fremont County recommended that county commissioners establish a more definitive zoning plan. Alter also cited a 1980 Fremont County Land Use Plan that makes similar recommendations in order to “avoid incompatible land uses.” But the designation never happened, and the county approved the subdivision of ranch land into large rural residential parcels, benefiting local developers and contractors. Alter said the 1990 Fremont County Master Plan designated the preferred nonagricultural land use in the area as residential.

The current version of the Fremont County Master Plan, adopted in 2002 and available on the county website, states, “The primary nonagricultural land use (in the Mountain District of Fremont County) will be residential” (page 97). The master plan also states, “Long-term industrial operations will not be encouraged in the (Mountain) District. … Industrial development should be discouraged along … Fremont County Road 2 (Tallahasee Road)” (page 98), which provides the only access to the area.

Given these master plan statements and a general lack of disclosure by local developers and real estate agents, Meyrick said residents who bought land and built homes in the area had no idea their investments could be threatened by uranium mining.

However, increasing use of nuclear fuel to generate electricity in recent years, particularly in Asia, has investment firms like JPMorgan forecasting uranium prices of $80 a pound by 2014.

Projections like these prompted Black Range Minerals’ interest in mining the Hansen deposit, and the company acquired the privately held mineral rights to 13,500 acres along Tallahassee Creek. Alter said local residents began seeing lights and hearing machinery on Taylor Ranch in 2007 and learned that Black Range was conducting unpermitted drilling for test wells. He said Black Range eventually obtained a permit but not until after drilling 70 test wells. By then, Meyrick said, it was too late to obtain baseline water samples, making it impossible for residents to prove whether or not contaminants in their well water resulted from Black Range exploratory drilling.

The lack of oversight and accountability demonstrated by the unpermitted wells prompted local residents to organize, Meyrick said. Land-use issues Local residents cite several issues they believe should prevent Black Range from mining the Tallahassee-area uranium, beginning with incompatible land uses.

Alter said the market value of undeveloped ranchland in the early 1980s, including land with known uranium resources, was less than $200 per acre. Unimproved, subdivided ranch parcels sold since the mid ’80s for $1,000-4,000 per acre and more, Alter said. “Many of the residences and small hobby ranches that have been constructed over the past 25 years are valued at $500,000 or more.”

Alter also pointed to the recently constructed Benedictine Fellowship of St. Laurence Retreat. Permitted by the county in 2008, the retreat sits on the banks of Tallahassee Creek approximately 2 miles downstream from the Hansen deposit. Alter said the current assessed valuation from local residential parcels is approximately $40 million, resulting in annual property-tax revenue to the county of more than $250,000.

Given the degree of residential development in the Tallahassee Creek area and the value of that development to the local economy, Alter said he believes uranium mining “would clearly be incompatible with the current rural residential and recreational land use.” Alter also said, “The county tax base and the local economy would suffer” as a result of uranium mining. “In addition, the stigma associated with this ‘dirty’ industrial activity would significantly impact tourism and recreation – a major economic driver of this scenic county.”

But more importantly than the economics, Alter said, human-health and environmental risks associated with uranium mining make it incompatible with current residential land use. Citing Fremont County land-use authority – established by the state Legislature and confirmed by the 2009 Colorado Supreme Court decision – he called on county commissioners to “disallow uranium mining and ore processing in Tallahassee.”

Water issues

Members of TAC also cite water as a source of concern stemming from proposed mining activities. Residents of the Tallahassee Creek area rely entirely upon aquifers for drinking and household water. Tests show the uranium content in some local wells has increased since Black Range began exploratory drilling, Meyrick said, and water from some wells exceeds drinking water standards by large margins.

Water availability in the area highlights another facet of the water issue. Black Range ended up purchasing water from Cañon City for exploratory drilling after the state engineer’s office denied the company’s substitute water supply plan (SWSP) in 2012. The ruling states, “Due primarily to the lack of replacement water to accomplish the applicant’s proposal, the plan will not … prevent injury to other water rights.”

Alter noted that the mining processes proposed by Black Range – underground borehole mining and ablation ore-concentration technologies – would require much more water than exploratory drilling.

One point of interest cited in the state’s denial of the SWSP involves North Spring Ditch water rights:

“The North Spring Ditch water rights were changed in 1980, rendering any irrigation use since that date unusable for calculating historic consumptive use for a subsequent change of use.” Court documents show that the 1980 change of use involved the transfer of irrigation water rights from Taylor Ranch to Cyprus Mine, which changed the use of that water to mining. Alter said Cyprus Mines sold those water rights back to the Taylors in 1993, and in 2012 the Taylors filed a case in Division 2 Water Court, to “confirm” their rights.

Alter said TAC members believe the Taylors filed the case to determine how much water they can sell to Black Range Minerals for proposed mining operations, prompting TAC to enter the case as an objector.

Given: (1) the significance of historical consumptive use in determining the amount of water Black Range could acquire and
(2) the SWSP ruling rendering “irrigation use since (1980) unusable for calculating historic consumptive use,” Alter said he believes Black Range has insufficient water for mining for underground borehole mining.

He cited estimates that the mining process could require as much as 50,000 gallons of water per hour.

Technology questions

The third area of concern voiced by TAC members encompasses the relatively new mining processes that Black Range proposes to use. Underground borehole mining uses a high-pressure water jet to break apart ore and bring it to the surface in a slurry.

Alter expressed concern about the elevated levels of oxygen present in pressurized water. The increased oxygen levels, he contends, will create chemical reactions that increase the likelihood of uranium and heavy metals contaminating well water and other natural resources. “This water and the recovered water in the slurry,” Alter said, “will contain oxidized, solubilized uranium, other radioactive constituents and heavy metals that otherwise would remain underground and insoluble.”

Alter said he also objects to the ablation process that Black Range proposes to use to concentrate mined ore. The process employs two jets of ore slurry fired directly at one another from opposing sides of the ablation machine. The impact when the slurry jets meet would dislodge uranium ore from the sandstone to which it is attached. Black Range contends that this process is a component of mining, but TAC members believe it is a uranium processing activity that requires additional permitting.

Members of TAC also question whether or not the remaining water and sandstone could be returned to the subsurface, as proposed by Black Range, without contaminating the aquifers that supply local wells.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Colorado River Basin: Moab tailings cleanup tally = 6 million tons so far #ColoradoRiver

June 2, 2013

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The cleanup of 16 million tons of uranium mill tailings on the Colorado River near Moab is approaching the 6-million-ton mark. Officials are pegging that milestone to occur about June 17, said Don Metzler, who manages the project for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Work on the cleanup of the Cold War-era pile on the west bank of the Colorado River north of Moab resumed this spring after a three-month curtailment tied to the lack of federal funding, during which 27 people were laid off. All returned to their jobs, Metzler said.

Project managers used the downtime to improve the containers that are filled at the pile and taken by rail 30 miles north to Crescent Junction, where the tailings are being deposited in a cell at the base of the Bookcliffs. Employees who remained on the job installed permanent rubberized liners in the containers, a job that required 65 steps per container, Metzler said. The linings cost $1.5 million, but they’ll easily last for the life of the project, Metzler said, eliminating expenditures of $400,000 a year for temporary liners that fell short of expectations. Tailings would frequently stick to the containers and would still be in the containers on the return trip from Crescent Junction and “I’d have to pay to ship it the second time,” Metzler said. Now the project has “zero carryback,” Metzler said. “It’s actually going to save a lot of money over the life of the project. This one was just so perfect in every regard.”

Tailing shipments began in 2009 and the cleanup is scheduled to be complete by 2025. The disposal cell is designed to blend in with the surrounding sandstone. “We think that when it’s all done it’s going to blend in so well that you’re not going to notice anything,” Metzler said.

More Moab uranium tailings coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill update: Cotter officials want to resume decommissioning the site

May 2, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill officials want to get back to work at the now-defunct mill site and have asked the state health department to allow it. The mill site and a portion of the neighboring Lincoln Park community have been an EPA Superfund site since 1988 due to uranium and molybdenum contamination in groundwater and soils. Mill Manager John Hamrick said most work at the mill has been paused by the state health department to allow for decommissioning planning. “In recent meetings with the state and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Cotter has been directed not to conduct any activities that could be considered clean-up,” Hamrick wrote in a letter to the state Monday.

Hamrick said Cotter was able to remove ore from a storage pad at the mill and ship it to the White Mesa Mill in Blanding, Utah. Now he would like the staff to excavate the ore pad area to remove uranium contamination and place fill material over the dried-out primary impoundment to reduce radon emissions. “Short-term (radon) control measures currently in place are adequate. However, the long-term presence of these materials is not in keeping with standards,” Hamrick wrote.

Hamrick said he believes the pad clean-up falls under “any steps necessary to control contamination or provide worker and public health protection.” But he pointed out that Cotter is in the midst of “regulatory uncertainty” as work is paused.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.


The proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill will be the first new plant in US in 30 years

April 26, 2013

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

With a major regulatory hurdle out of its way — again — Energy Fuels Resources Corp. is now looking to the uranium market for the signal to move ahead with construction of a mill. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reissued the radioactive-materials license Thursday after officials culled though six days’ worth of testimony, much of it under oath, taken in Nucla late last year.

The license comes, however, as uranium prices have tumbled to lows not seen since the 2011 Fukushima disaster, acknowledged Curtis Moore, director of communications and legal affairs for Energy Fuels. The $150 million project will go forward “when market conditions and our production requirements warrant it,” Moore said. The company remains bullish on the long-term prospects of the mill, Moore said, noting that the same number of reactors, if not more, are being planned now as before Fukushima.

The decision sparked a rebuke from the Sheep Mountain Alliance, which filed suit originally to have the license revoked, contending among other things that the state agency failed to conduct appropriate public hearings and that the weight of evidence showed the mill as an environmental threat. “We are extremely disappointed that the state opted to ignore the scientific and technical evidence against the mill,” Director Hilary Cooper said in an email. “And further we are shocked that the state, through this decision, is strongly encouraging Energy Fuels to build a radioactive waste dump on the Dolores River.”

By green-lighting the mill at a time when uranium prices are low, state officials “are operating well outside the mission of public health and safety,” Cooper said.

The mill, which would be built near Naturita, “is not on the Dolores River,” Montrose County Commissioner David White said. “It’s seven miles from the river and sitting on thousands and thousands of feet of collapsed salt dome and rock” that no leak from the mill would be able to permeate and travel through to the river. Montrose County supported the mill and issued a conditional-use permit for the project. Residents of the Nucla-Naturita-Norwood area are “excited, to say the least,” said White, whose commissioner district includes the three communities. “They’ve needed a good shot of optimism for a long time.”

In the decision, the Health Department noted at one point that radiation, while dangerous, is “what sustains life on Earth and is probably responsible for the evolution of life on the planet.”

Despite boom-and-bust economic cycles, facilities such as uranium mills tend to hold some level of employment, the department noted. It concluded, “The failure of the project is a risk that is borne primarily by Energy Fuels Resources Corp. and the potential benefits of the project appear to outweigh the costs across all segments of the larger community.”

If built, the mill would be the first uranium mill to be constructed in the United States in three decades. The last mill, White Mesa in Blanding, Utah, is owned by Energy Fuels, which obtained it in a merger with Denison Mines Corp. last year.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Energy Fuels Inc. is fulfilling contracts for uranium at well above the current spot price, but it’s waiting with the rest of the industry to see that price nearly double before investing in new projects. “Right now, we’re trying to hunker down a little bit and watch our pennies,” Curtis Moore, director of communications and legal affairs for Energy Fuels, said Wednesday.

Energy Fuels is fulfilling contracts with utilities for about $56 a pound, well over the current spot price of $40.90 a pound, according to U3O8.com. “We’re pretty well shielded from spot prices” with the company’s contracts, Moore told the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce energy briefing.

While the company is pursuing construction of the Pinyon Ridge uranium mill near Naturita, the price of uranium will likely have to clear the $70-per-pound threshold before construction begins, Moore said. That’s also the marker for reopening the eight mines the company owns on the Colorado Plateau, he said. That could take some time. “We see spot prices in the high 40s by the end of the year,” Moore said.

Once demand for uranium heats up, Energy Fuels will need the Pinyon Ridge mill when the company’s White Mesa mill in Blanding, Utah, can no longer keep up with demand, he said.

A decision is due this week from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Energy Fuels’ application for a radioactive materials-handling permit for Pinyon Ridge. A Denver district judge had invalidated the permit and ordered the Department of Public Health and Environment to reconsider it after seeking public comment and a recommendation from an administrative law judge. Energy Fuels is anticipating additional legal opposition to the Pinyon Ridge mill, Moore said.

It will cost about $150 million to construct the mill, he said.

Energy Fuels, which now bills itself as “America’s leading producer of conventional uranium,” now supplies about 1 million pounds of uranium oxide per year to utilities, or about a quarter of the 4 million pounds of domestic uranium used in the nation. In all, the United States uses about 50 million pounds of uranium per year to generate 20 percent of its electricity.

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.


Citizens Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill Citizen Advisory Group gets update on de-commissioning roadmap

April 22, 2013

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

The road map integrates the paths of the various authorities that cover different parts of the site, said Jennifer Opila, radioactive materials unit leader with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The documents cover the requirements for 1988 Consent Decree/Remedial Action Plan (CD/RAP), Cotter’s operating license and the Comprehensive Environment Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund).

The document originally was published in July 2012, prior to the “pause” that is in effect at the site. CDPHE and the Environmental Protection Agency accepted public comments on the document at that time and released the current version at the end of March.

“This is the road map in its final stage at this time,” Opila said. “For now, we are not planning on taking formal comments on this version of the road map.”

However, she said the document is fluid and subject to change as the process moves forward, so the agencies will be accepting informal comments over time.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund de-commissioning could take 10-15 years

April 19, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Members of a Community Advisory Group took their first look at a road map defining the course of action for decommissioning of the Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill Thursday. The now defunct mill and a portion of the neighboring Lincoln Park community have been a Superfund site since 1988 due to uranium and molybdenum contamination in groundwater and soils.

Jennifer Opila, a state health department radioactive materials unit leader, told the group that the road map will likely be updated and changed as the decommissioning goes forward. Basically it outlines what cleanup has been done and what plans are already in place. “We will need to update the plans to make sure they meet the needs as we go forward and the community will be involved,” Opila said. “Some information has been developed but in almost every case, we think more info needs to be gathered as we develop a remedial investigation.”

The very next step is uncertain, she said. “We are in new territory with a new team for both the state and the EPA so a lot of things we still are trying to figure out,” Opila said. “We might start with Operable Unit 1 (the Lincoln Park community) or what makes sense — maybe it is the mill site itself or all the units at the same time.” As the cleanup plan progresses, “We will start to compare potential different remedies to see if each meets all the nine criteria and is protective of human health and environment,” said Peggy Linn, EPA community involvement coordinator. “I hate to say it but we might look at the cost a little bit. We will discuss the findings all along the way with the group,” Linn said.

Once a proposed remedy or cleanup plan is selected, the public will again have a chance to comment. A remedial design will be followed by the remedial action plan during which, “We start actually building it,” Linn said. Even after the cleanup is complete, health authorities will continue five-year reviews to, “Check to see that everything is working,” Linn said. Decommissioning could take 10 to 15 years.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site update: De-commissioning plan winding its way to the EPA

April 4, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

A road map defining the course of action for cleanup and decommissioning of the Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill has been finalized. The plan has been prepared by state and federal health authorities after public input. It will be discussed during the Community Advisory Group meeting from 2 to 5 p.m. April 18 at the Fremont County administration building, Sixth and Macon streets, Room 207.

The mill and a portion of the neighboring Lincoln Park community have been a Superfund site since 1988 because uranium and molybdenum contamination seeped into groundwater and soils.

After state and federal health officials conduct a review of documentation, the site characterization will be the first step in the decommissioning process, which could take 10 to 15 years to complete. Public comment will be accepted at each stage of the process.

The site characterization will detail any problem areas and also will include a final public health assessment for Lincoln Park.

Final studies will be amassed in a remedial investigation report that will outline prior cleanup and current cleanup work.

From the remedial investigation report, a proposed cleanup remedy will be outlined and health officials also will screen possible alternative actions. Among decisions that will be made along the way will be whether to seal the primary lined impoundment — which already contains tailings and demolished buildings — or move all the waste to an offsite repository.

A final remedy will be selected followed by an EPA Superfund Record of Decision.

The final cleanup then will take place.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Cotter Corp, Inc. announces plan to mitigate uranium contaminated groundwater at the Schwartzwalder mine

March 24, 2013

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Cotter Corp. is preparing to brew a multimillion-gallon uranium cocktail in a mine shaft west of Denver — an innovation aimed at ending a threat to city water supplies.

If all goes well, mixing molasses and alcohol into a stream of filtered water pumped from the mine and discharged down Ralston Creek, and then re-injecting that mix into Cotter’s 2,000-foot-deep Schwartzwalder mine, will immobilize uranium tainting the creek. Bacteria inside the mine will devour the molasses and dissolved uranium, creating solid uranium particles that will settle at the base of the mine, Cotter vice president John Hamrick said. “We believe we can get the water to such a state that it would be OK to let it come out,” Hamrick said in an interview. “We’re using our best efforts to do this as quickly as we can.” Bacteria “will eat the uranium to live, and part of what they excrete, or the byproduct of that, is a solid particle that will fall down to the bottom of the mine.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved Cotter’s project and state regulators were reviewing it.

Such “bioremediation” would save Cotter tens of millions of dollars as an alternative to perpetually pumping out and treating mine water laced with uranium — which reached concentrations as high as 24,000 parts per billion inside the mine shaft, well above the 30 ppb federal drinking water standard…

“The potential is there for this process to work,” EPA environmental scientist Craig Boomgaard said. “Another form of it is being done at Asarco’s smelter in Denver. Is it solution? I can’t say. But in certain cases it is demonstrated to be effective.”[...]

State regulators’ order to pump out and treat uranium-laced water from the mine “has been in place for quite a while and the mine pool drawdown has not yet commenced,” the statement said. “We are eager to see the company move forward.”

More Schwartzwalder mine coverage here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill: Judge Robert Hyatt rules against Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste

March 16, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

A Denver District Court judge ruled Tuesday that the state health department did not abuse its discretion when setting a financial security for the clean up of the Cotter Corp. uranium mill here.

The suit, filed in 2010 on behalf of the Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste, disputed the amount of the total financial security set by state health officials alleging that it was set at $20.2 million when estimated costs for cleanup and decommissioning exceed $43.7 million.

The suit was seeking an order to require Cotter to post $54.3 million in financial warranty costs for the entire facility and direct the state health department to recalculate estimates of the total costs.

However, Judge Robert Hyatt ruled that he is, “Convinced that state health officials and Cotter engaged in a thorough analysis of the financial requirements for decommissioning of the mill and the decision to approve the final numbers was not arbitrary or capricious, an abuse of the agency’s discretion, unsupported by the evidence, or contrary to the law.” He entered a judgment in favor of Steve Tarlton and his employers.

Hyatt wrote in his 27page ruling that the “exhaustive process” led to his review of more than 3,000 pages of documents.

“We’re pleased the judge reached the conclusion that the department acted entirely properly,” said John Hamrick, Cotter Mill manager.

“It appears the judge has accepted the health department’s representation the state will work to fix all the problems we’ve identified,” said Sharyn Cunningham, co-chair of the citizen group. “He’s gonna let the process move forward and not going to interfere.”

Cunningham said some good things have come from the suit.

“The EPA is taking a more serious role, we have a new community advisory group, there have been health department personnel changes and the Governor’s office has pledged to maintain oversight on how the cleanup progresses. We are going to watch to make sure we see the plans brought to the community for input,” Cunningham said.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.


Colorado River Basin: Recent study by the Bureau of Reclamation highlights future supply problems #coriver

March 4, 2013

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Here’s a guest column running in The Denver Post, written by Allen Best, that gives an overview of the current state of the Colorado River. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Tow icebergs from Alaska? Pilfer from a tributary of the Yellowstone River in Wyoming? Or, even sneak water from the Snake, boring a 6-mile tunnel from a reservoir near Jackson Hole to the Green River? While it’s sure to make Idaho’s spud farmers cranky, it would help Tucson, Los Angeles and that parched paradigm of calculated risk, Las Vegas.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and everybody else with a megaphone has carefully branded these ideas as improbable or worse. Only slightly more credible is the idea of a pipeline from the Mississippi River. It could originate near Memphis, traverse 1,040 miles and, if reaching Castle Rock, rise 6,000 feet in elevation. Pumping would require a steady 800 megawatts of electricity, or a little more than what the Comanche 3 power plant in Pueblo produces.

In theory, this 600,000-acre feet of muddy Mississippi would replace diversions from the Colorado River headwaters between Grand Lake and Aspen. Those diversions range between 450,000 and 600,000 acre-feet annually. That would leave the creeks and rivers to the whims of gravity and geography, at least until arriving at Las Vegas and other places with growing thirst.
Cheap water? Not exactly: It would cost $2,400 per acre-foot for this Memphis-flavored sludge, assuming the idea isn’t grounded by protests from barge and riverboat operators. (Sometimes they, too, say they need more water.)

More Colorado River Basin 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.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site update: Community Advisory Group has first meeting, 15-20 year decommissioning planned

March 2, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

A Community Advisory Group met for the first time Thursday, kicking off what will be a 15- to 20year process to decommission the Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill south of town.

The Cotter Uranium Mill opened in 1958, became a part of a Superfund cleanup site in 1984 and ceased processing uranium for yellowcake in 2006. Cotter officials plan to close the mill forever and have already torn down most of the buildings on site.

At the meeting Thursday, the 14-member advisory group was introduced to entirely new teams of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state health department officials who will help guide the clean up of the site.
“The community advisory group input is always useful to the EPA,” said Martin Hestmark of the EPA. “We are going to listen to you,” said Mario Robles, a project manager for the EPA.

Among members of the new group are Jackie Mewes, a Canon City resident who worked 26 years at the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons plant during production and closure. “There is a broken infrastructure here because I see that things are not followed up on for sometimes two to three years. The process and regulations need to be up to date and the EPA needs to provide facilitation,” Mewes said.

Joe McMahon will serve as group facilitator on behalf of the EPA. He told the group members, “You all have other hats but in these meetings you are representing the community.”

“Am I missing something or why don’t we have a member from Cotter?” asked group member Marvin Eller. “They can’t be all bad.” McMahon told Eller that the group probably will get input from Cotter officials but that likely will come through the state health department and not through an actual representative sitting on the board. The group will advise state and federal health officials on proposals but it will be up to those agencies to make final decisions on the cleanup process. Chris Urbina, health department executive director, told the group that a road map on how the cleanup will proceed should be ready within a month, giving the group time to organize. At that point, a year-long pause in work will come to an end and cleaning up the mill site will begin, he said.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

A new Community Advisory Group is ready to get to work and should give direction to cleanup efforts at the Cotter Uranium Mill.

After a nearly yearlong pause to form the group and establish a road map for the complicated decommissioning process, work can begin. The 15member group will meet with state and federal officials at 6 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 128 Main St.

The group is made up of Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste members, City Councilwoman Pat Freda, Fremont County Commissioner Tim Payne, former Fremont County Commissioner Mike Stiehl and several other interested community members.

The group’s members will decide protocols for moving forward and will hear an update on the Cotter Mill site from state health department officials

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

The Cotter Uranium Mill site is mostly a naked landscape these days. For the first time since it opened in 1958, no native Colorado ores are on the site.

“It is a historic milestone; the last pile of ore was moved last week,” said John Hamrick, mill manager. “We tore down the whole mill without any injuries and the only buildings left are the office, change house, maintenance shop and analytical lab.”

All the other mill buildings have been chopped, placed around the edges of the primary impoundment — at least 10 feet from a plastic liner to prevent punctures — and buried in dirt, Hamrick said. Even the boilers have been disposed of after they were filled with a cement slurry.

The mill continues to employ 29 workers, who are busy with environmental monitoring work and the massive report writing that must be done. They measure 100-plus water wells, surface water and air monitors. Hamrick said when the primary and secondary impoundment are capped for good, they will be completely dry repositories that are supposed to last 1,000 years. “We will have to make sure the cover material is impervious enough that if the plastic liner ever goes away, any release would be very slow,” Hamrick said…

believes the tailings and chopped-up buildings should stay where they are and not moved off site as part of decommissioning.

“There is no credible pathway where contamination can get out of the site into the community.

And out of 45 mills in the country, Cotter is one of the very few that has the plastic liner under the impoundment ponds,” Hamrick said.

“Before we have our license terminated there cannot be any remedial activities left and all the remedies that will be implemented have to be shown to be protective of human health and environment,” Hamrick said.

“Before we have our license terminated there cannot be any remedial activities left and all the remedies that will be implemented have to be shown to be protective of human health and environment,” Hamrick said.

From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

According to an analysis submitted to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in November, removing tailings from the Cotter Corp., Uranium Mill site south of Cañon City would be prohibitive due to both cost and danger to workers, the public and the environment. Cotter submitted the analysis to CDPHE at the department’s request, said Cotter Vice President of Milling John Hamrick. It is part of the process of updating plans to decommission to the site. According to the analysis, there is an estimated 10,061,000 cubic yards of material in the company’s Main Impoundment, weighing about 15,292,720 tons…

Cotter used the example of the Moab, Utah, Uranium Mill Tailings Remediation Project to make its estimates. “That’s the only yardstick we have,” Hamrick said.

Using that standard, they estimate it would take 5.4 years to move the materials from the Cotter facility and would require 455 trucks or one 114-car freight train every day, five days a week to complete the project. The document estimates the cost of moving the tailings no more than 30 miles would be at least $895 million. The cost estimate was made understanding that no site has been considered or researched…

Gary Baughman, director of the Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division of CDPHE, said leaving the impoundments in place and sealing the ponds for permanent storage are provisions contained within Cotter’s radioactive materials license.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Cleanup of Moab tailings pile to resume March 7 #coriver

February 27, 2013

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Work will resume next week on the cleanup of millions of tons of uranium mill tailings from Moab, Utah, after the project was stalled for the winter. In all, 27 employees of the contractor to the U.S. Energy Department will return to work Monday, and operations are to resume March 7, after employees receive refresher training and a review of procedures. Returning employees had chosen to be laid off for the winter and all are coming back to their old jobs, the Energy Department said.

Employees who worked through the winter installed permanent liners in the containers used to transport the tailings from Moab north 30 miles to Crescent Junction by rail. The liners are intended to prevent tailings from sticking to the sides of the containers and their use will ultimately increase efficiency, said Don Metzler, who directs the project for the Energy Department. Previously, employees had placed single-use liners in the containers.

“The sustained below-freezing temperatures this winter made the container-lining project an even more difficult task than already anticipated,” Metzler said. “But, as usual, the workforce didn’t let the cold
weather keep them from getting the job done.” In all, 40 employees worked through the winter.

The cleanup will result in the transfer of 16 million tons of mill tailings from a pile near Moab to Crescent Junction. The project is to be complete by 2025.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Cañon City: Cotter Corp, Inc. gets Colorado’s blessing to decommission their mill site at Lincoln Park

February 3, 2013

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

Cotter applied for termination of its operating license in January 2012 after announcing it did not intend to resume uranium milling operations at the site. Therefore, the license was amended to delete references to operations and to shift existing requirements from operations to decommissioning and reclamation.

“Amending Cotter’s license coordinates regulatory activities and the facility decommissioning and closure process,” said Gary Baughman, Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division director. “The state, EPA and Cotter will now focus on the planning and work that needs to be done to successfully terminate the license, close out the Consent Decree from 1988 and remove the site from the National Priorities List.”

Because Cotter is no longer authorized to operate the mill, the license was amended to delete references to operations and to shift existing requirements from operations to decommissioning and reclamation.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill coverage here and here.


Cañon City: Cotter Corp, Inc. gets Colorado’s blessing to decommission their mill site at Lincoln Park

January 30, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

otter Corp. has the green light to decommission its uranium mill. “The Colorado Department of Public Health has issued an amended radioactive materials license to Cotter to reflect current activities,” said Jeannie Natterman, public information specialist. “It is a housekeeping measure since they are not processing ore anymore. “Now it is a decommissioning and reclamation license,” she said.

Cotter officials will continue to address radon releases from the impoundments, daily perimeter inspections as well as groundwater testing. In addition, Cotter workers are finishing the demolition of old buildings, which are being placed into the primary impoundment, Natterman said. “Amending Cotter’s license coordinates regulatory activities with the decommissioning and closure process,” explained Gary Baughman, hazardous materials division director.

State, federal and Cotter officials now will focus on the planning and work that needs to be done to successfully terminate the license and remove the site from the federal Superfund list. The mill and a portion of the neighboring Lincoln Park community have been a Superfund site since 1988. A steering committee also is revamping the Community Advisory Group, whose 12 to 15 members will review cleanup studies and proposed methods of cleanup to the regulatory agencies.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund coverage here and here.


The $631 billion Defense Authorization Act includes Senator Udall’s amendment for funding for a legacy uranium mine report

December 7, 2012

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Here’s the release from Senator Udall’s office:

What do GPS, flat-screen televisions and the Internet have in common? Before each became commonly available consumer goods, they were developed by the military. Alternative fuels are on the cusp of similar cutting-edge development.

Last week, the U.S. Senate voted 62-37 in favor of my amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, authorizing the Defense Department to continue its efforts to develop and use alternative fuels. I worked across the aisle to secure this bipartisan victory. Passage of this amendment, when signed into law, will ensure that our military has the resources it needs to develop and use advanced alternative fuels that bring down costs, improve mission capabilities and reduce the strategic vulnerabilities associated with a reliance on foreign fossil fuels.

The Defense Department’s commitment to energy innovation is smart and strategic, especially when we consider how a heavy reliance on foreign oil increases the annual Pentagon budget. Our military consumes more than 300,000 barrels every day, so price spikes have an enormous effect on the DOD budget and mission. When the price of oil increases by a dollar per barrel, the Pentagon’s annual fuel budget skyrockets by more than $130 million.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta highlighted the critical link between clean energy innovation and energy security in a recent speech: “As one of the largest landowners and energy consumers in the world, our drive is to be more efficient and environmentally sustainable. We have to be able to have the potential to transform the nation’s approach to the challenges we are facing in the environment and energy security.”

I could not agree more.

Over the past decade, all branches of the military have expanded their investments in energy innovation. They have made significant efforts to reduce energy consumption and increase the use of efficient energy technologies. The DOD has also worked to develop alternative energy sources such as biofuels, portable solar panels and advanced batteries. Simply put, the military is leading the way toward reducing our reliance on foreign oil – and if past success is any indicator, we can reach that goal. But we can’t turn back before reaching the summit.

In Colorado, we understand the importance of a balanced energy approach. Our national security, economy and environment are all significantly affected by our energy policies, which is why I support a comprehensive approach.

As we consider the National Defense Authorization Act and look forward to 2013, I plan to continue to advocate for a smart and strategic energy policy that keeps all options on the table and makes our nation stronger and safer. As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee, I am uniquely positioned to ensure that common sense – and Western pragmatism – remain a part of our defense and energy policies.

More coverage from Dick Kamp writing for the Montrose Daily Press:

The $631 billion Defense Authorization Act that passed the U.S. Senate unanimously on Tuesday included an amendment by Colorado’s Mark Udall requiring the secretary of energy to prepare a report that details the extent to which “legacy” uranium mines impact the environment and health.

Legacy uranium mines are defined as those that provided ore for the U.S. weapons program.

The report will describe and analyze the location of legacy mines on federal, state, tribal and private land; detail when mines may pose “a potential and significant radiation health hazard to the public” or other threat, and describe when “they may have caused or may cause degradation of water quality … (or) environmental degradation.” It will prioritize and provide cost estimates for cleanup and reclamation of legacy mines.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Piñon Ridge uranium mill hearing recap: Energy Fuels updates their expert witness list, public comment today

November 12, 2012

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From email from the Sheep Mountain Alliance (Hillary White):

SMA experts Ann Maest and Connie Travers from Stratus Consulting and Dr. Thomas Powers, a socioeconomic expert, took the stand Friday. Instead of getting into the details of their solid and rather technical testimony, raising significant issues with the analysis done by both EF and the State, I’ll highlight the scramble to respond. After months of preparation and discovery by all parties to establish the grounds for this hearing, EF opted to only bring Frank Filas, their on and off environmental project manager as their expert. Now, based on the first few days of testimony, EF and the State have updated their expert list. They apparently see the need to address a growing number of unanswered questions.

Following Monday’s public comment session starting at 8:30am, the hearing will continue to Tuesday…

The purpose of this hearing is to establish a record – for Energy Fuels, a record of the completeness and adequacy of the application, and for SMA and opposing parties a record of an incomplete and scientifically and technically unsound application.

The more specific you can make you comments the better. Comment time is unlimited, but please remember that there may be many people who would like to say something and that Judge Dana has been listening to testimony eight hours a day for four days.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Piñon Ridge uranium mill hearing recap

November 10, 2012

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From email from the Sheep Mountain Alliance (Hillary White):

After opening statements by all the parties kicked off the proceedings on Wed., Frank Filas, Environmental Project Manager for Energy Fuels took the stand and remained there through most of today. Mr. Filas’ testimony generally covered the entire length of the application submitted by Energy Fuels and set up the opportunity for SMA’s experts to point several deficiencies during the next few days. Matt Sandler for Rocky Mountain Wild conducted his cross examination today focused on wildlife impacts and NEPA and ESA adherence.

After Mr. Filas the focus turned to air quality impacts. Dr. Craig Little, a health physicist and radio ecologist who did the air dispersion modeling for Energy Fuels took the stand. It was a rather technical discussion and seemed to leave more questions than answers. Main questions surrounded the type of modeling used and if it could adequately address long distance impact determinations.

Next, Nancy Chick who works for the State in the Air Pollution Control Division (APCD) was called. As an aside, the APCD has been processing Energy Fuels air quality permit, a necessary part of the license for several years. The department has sent data and modeling back to Energy Fuels several times and analysis is ongoing but somewhat on hold according to the department. Ms. Chick testified to the data she has considered to date…

During the first 2 days there have been many strong comments helping SMA establish that record. We know the residents of the West End deserve good jobs and a healthy economy, but if they want a uranium mill to provide that for them we much know the cost of that mill not only to their communities but to the surrounding ones as well. Without the real costs and analysis of real impacts no one can make an informed decision.

More coverage from Gus Jarvis writing for The Telluride Watch. From the article:

Two days before the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment began a new public hearing process over Energy Fuels, Inc.’s application for a radioactive materials license to build the proposed Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill, a group of residents who live near the Cotter Uranium Mill/superfund site in Cañon City sent a letter to Judge Richard Dana over concerns about the state’s ability to provide adequate over a new uranium mill.

The letter from the Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste group, a nonprofit organization, was sent to Dana on Monday. Dana is presiding over the hearing, which began in Nucla Wednesday evening.

The members of the group, who live near the Superfund site in Cañon City, stated in their letter that their concerns about the new Piñon Ridge mill stem from years of experience in dealing with CDPHE regulators on the Cotter Mill cleanup, which has been managed by the state since the late 1980s.

“Our biggest concern is that our state does not have the staff or the resources devoted to regulating a site like this, and that is where a lot of problems will come from,” the group’s co-chair Sharyn Cunningham said in a telephone interview Monday. “If the mill is built, and once they find contamination – and they will – our concern is whether or not the people living nearby will be protected by the state agencies.

“I do not believe they will be protected.”

More coverage from Heather Sackett writing for The Telluride Daily Planet. From the article:

About 25 audience members filtered into the wood-paneled room for the last hour of the hearing, which had been set aside for public comment. Placerville resident Dan Chancellor said his father’s home near Grand Junction had been built on a pile of mine tailings. At age 58, his father died of a type of lung cancer associated with radioactive materials, he said.

“Will you fail again to protect me and my family?” Chancellor asked. “There is no guarantee about jobs.”

But Ayngel Overson, a lifelong resident of Nucla, echoed a point of view held by many in the economically depressed West End. She said her grandfather was a uranium miner, and that the mill opening represents jobs in the rural area. She choked up as she described a community in decline and how graduating classes at Nucla High School have dwindled to around a dozen. She addressed her comments to those opposing the mill.

“For five years we have been waiting for jobs,” Overson told the crowd. “We can’t make it anymore … Right now, this is all they’ve got. Uranium doesn’t scare us. It’s something we’ve learned to live with. You are stopping people from surviving.”

But the aim of the four-day hearing, which continues through Monday, is not to argue the merits or dangers of the proposed mill. The purpose of the long-anticipated hearing, held at the Loyal Order of the Moose Lodge in Nucla, is for Toronto-based Energy Fuels, Inc. to supplement its application for a radioactive materials license and to give those with party status the opportunity to cross-examine the company’s representatives.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


CDPHE: Hearings for the proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill on Wednesday

November 5, 2012

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From The Telluride Daily Planet (Collin McRann):

The hearings are set to begin Wednesday morning and could run through Nov. 13. They will be held each day at the Moose Lodge in Nucla from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with public comment set to start at 4 p.m. The hearings are the result of a lawsuit filed against the state agency that issued the licence, and represent another chapter in the divisive issue of uranium development in the region…

Parties will be presenting verbal arguments for and against the mill’s license to Richard Dana, who is the appointed hearing officer on the issue. Dana has been chosen by the state to act as an independent party between the different interests involved with the Piñon Ridge uranium mill project. The hearing format will consist of arguments and cross-examination from lawyers representing different parties of interest, statements from industry specialists and other experts as well as a section for members of the public to make their points…

Following the hearings, Dana will submit his recommendations and findings on whether or not the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment should issue the license. But the CDPHE will make the final decision on the license next spring with a final statement due by April 27.

More Piñon Ridge uranium mill coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.


CMU weekly seminar recap: ‘We’re going to be stressing major reservoirs’ — Eric Kuhn #CORiver

October 31, 2012

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From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The unfounded optimism that underlaid the structure of the 1922 Colorado River Compact might soon take a toll on Colorado and the other sparely populated mountain states that send water south and west to more arid, and more populous states downstream, said the general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District.

The upper basin states of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming are obligated under the 1922 agreement governing the management of the river to deliver 75 million acres feet of water at Lee’s Ferry in Arizona every 10 years, or 7.5 million acre feet every year, on a rolling average. There is a distinction and it could be significant because of the lower basin states of Arizona, California and Nevada, Eric Kuhn said Monday at the Colorado Mesa University “Natural Resources of the West: Water and Drought” weekly seminar.

The upper-basin states are at most risk because their uses of water would have to be curtailed to meet requirements of downstream states, Kuhn said. In the future, “We’re going to be stressing major reservoirs” as they are emptied to meet downstream needs, he said.

Worse, the compact makes no provision for a simple lack of water, Kuhn said, leaving the upper basin on the hook to deliver, no matter whether there was enough runoff to meet the requirement. That’s because the framers of the original compact based the allocation of water on what had been a high-flow series of years, Kuhn said. That led to the optimistic plan to reconsider the compact in 1962, when the states would better know how to divide up the surplus water they anticipated would be better understood over the next four decades. That meeting never took place as it slowly became clear that the Colorado River historically carried less, not more, water than had been assumed.

A study by the U.S. Bureau Of Reclamation to be released next month will make it clear that even under the 20th century understanding of hydrology, “The demands on the Colorado River exceed its supplies,” Kuhn said. The fact that the lower-basin states are using less water and upper-basin states using more will have political implications, he said.

In the meantime, however, changing climate, receding waters in the Colorado and other changes could lead officials to re-evaluate some assumptions about the way the river should be managed, Kuhn said, noting that a 1944 agreement on the river introduced the phrase “extraordinary drought” without defining it. It might be that such a circumstance is more dire than even today’s conditions, Kuhn suggested. “If the future is going down (as in the level of the river) then is that a new drought?” he asked, “Or is that a new normal?”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


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