Uranium processing bill makes it out of Senate, heads back to House

The state Senate Wednesday passed a tough new uranium processing bill that will require companies to clean up past toxic pollution before being allowed to expand operations.

House Bill 1348 (pdf), the Uranium Processing Accountability Act, met little resistance in the Senate, where it passed 24-9 after sailing through House 62-2 earlier this month.

The bill, which also requires companies to notify homeowners with drinking wells near contaminated groundwater and provides for more public input in the state regulatory process, now heads back to the House to work out amendments adopted in Senate. A concurrence vote could happen later this week

“Actions have consequences and uranium companies need to clean up their mess,” cosponsor Ken Kester (R-Las Animas) said in a release.

Kester represents Cañon City in Fremont County, home to the Cotter Corporation’s uranium mill and an EPA Superfund Clean-up site. Cotter has expressed interest in expanding its operations despite a toxic legacy dating back to the Cold War era.

Cotter, owned by General Atomics, also owns uranium mines in western Colorado and is supportive of efforts by the Canadian company Energy Fuels to build the Piñon Ridge mill in Montrose County. That proposed facility has been approved by the county commissioners and is being reviewed by the state and legally challenged by conservation groups.

It’s all part of a statewide and national push for a “nuclear renaissance” to build new power plants and produce more yellowcake ore and processed uranium fuel rods domestically. Some politicians, including Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, believe nuclear power has to be a major part of the energy mix as an alternative to fossil fuels.

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