Friday, February 20, 2009

Moab tailings to be moved from Colorado River

The 16 million tons of radioactive tailings sitting in the Colorado River floodplain at Moab Utah will be moved by rail to a permanent site 30 miles away beginning this spring. [right, view southwest over tailings and Colorado River. Credit, Moab UMTRA]

The tailings came from a nearby Cold War-era uranium mill that processed the ore from local deposits during the 1950s. Initially, plans were to cap the tailings in place because of the high costs of moving them away from the river. But when I was State Geologist of Utah in the 1990s we reviewed the studies and recognized that no one had noted that the tailings pile lay on the outside bend of the Colorado River where natural processes could eventually erode away not only the cap but the tailings themselves, possibly sending them into a water supply for much of the West. That and other concerns (such as liquefaction during an earthquake) forced the decision to relocate the tailings.

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