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Clean Up of Moab Uranium Tailings Resumes in March

moab tailings clean up department of energy

After a three-month hiatus, the Department of Energy will resume shipping uranium tailings by rail from Moab to a disposal site near Crescent Junction.

On Tuesday, Jeff Biagini, the project manager, addressed the citizen watchdog committee for the tailings cleanup. 

“Basically on Monday next week we’ll bring all the employees together, in Moab, all roughly 110, 112 of them, and have a kickoff meeting.”

During the exceptionally cold winter, a scaled down crew installed new liners in the containers used to ship the tailings, while Moab political leaders lobbied to keep the cleanup going year around.

“We will start tailings shipping on Thursday, the 7th. So we will load the first train on Thursday, that train, it’ll be moved to Crescent Junction, and that train will be unloaded on the 11th. And then we’ll be fully operational at that point, four days a week, Monday through Thursday.”

Biagini said he expects the cleanup to proceed full speed now, despite the budget cuts happening in Washington.

“Currently the project has a little piece of work at Crescent Junction, and I’m going to say it’s about two and a half million dollars, to put another phase of the final cover on. Basically what will happen If sequestration happens, and our funding gets cut, let’s just say 6 percent, we will push that work out, most likely into ’14. So what the DOE is trying to do and what obviously I’m trying to do is really keep our shipping schedule intact.”

So far, just over a third of  16 million tons of tailings, which are alongside the Colorado River, have been removed.

Originally from Wyoming, Jon Kovash has practiced journalism throughout the intermountain west. He was editor of the student paper at Denver’s Metropolitan College and an early editor at the Aspen Daily News. He served as KOTO/Telluride’s news director for fifteen years, during which time he developed and produced Thin Air, an award-winning regional radio news magazine that ran on 20 community stations in the Four Corners states. In Utah his reports have been featured on KUER/SLC and KZMU/Moab. Kovash is a senior correspondent for Mountain Gazette and plays alto sax in “Moab’s largest garage band."