One of the rationales frequently trotted out in support of a proposed uranium mill in western Montrose County is that it won’t impact outdoor recreation in the area, contrary to the contention of opponents who say an industry resurgence would have a chilling effect on tourism.
After all, proponents argued at county hearing last summer and fall, look at nearby Telluride and Moab, Utah – both places with extensive mining histories that recovered to become meccas of alpine skiing and mountain biking.
True, bikers flock to the slick rock around Moab and happily pedal past tailings piles heaped along the Colorado River without giving their content much thought. Still, the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency were concerned enough to launch the massive and very expensive Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project.
At a cost of up to $1 billion over the course of the next eight to 10 years (much of it in the form of stimulus dollars), the DOE will oversee the shipment of trainload after trainload of uranium tailings from the old Atlas Mill in a floodplain along the banks of the Colorado River to an EnergySolutions storage site 30 miles north along Interstate 70 at Crescent Junction.
The project just hit a milestone with a 136-container, 4,700-ton train arriving last week at the wide spot in the road where many Coloradans turn south off of I-70 toward Moab, Arches National Park and Canyonlands.
EnergySolutions, based in Salt Lake City, is the same company handling the storage of depleted uranium from Cold War-era nuclear weapons manufacturing that’s being shipped in by train from South Carolina. Some politicians and state regulators now want those shipments tested for radioactivity while state officials refine their storage rules. Seems like a good plan – perhaps one that should have been implemented prior to the first trainload rolling in last month.