Our nine-year-long, bipartisan fight to clean up the radioactive tailings site near Moab has made great progress. But now, actions by the Department of Energy are stalling that progress.
Since work began in 2009, five million tons --of the 16 million tons--of radioactive mill tailings next to the Colorado River--have been safely removed. This is the former Atlas mill where uranium ore was processed for the government's Cold War atomic bomb program. It is the last and the largest of 21 similar sites in the West to be remediated. Radioactive waste from the pile is contaminating the river, migrating towards Moab's water supply and threatening the drinking water of 25 million downstream users.
I was very disappointed when the Administration recently awarded a five-year contract for removal of only three million tons of tailings. At that rate, work would not be completed for another 17 years -- violating the legal completion deadline that I established of October 2019.
This week, I wrote to Energy Secretary Chu, raising questions about his approach. The decision to only work nine months of the year is not an efficient way to manage taxpayer dollars and it raises concerns for Moab residents and visitors that an exposed tailings pile poses a health hazard during the three-month downtime.
While there are many environmental cleanup sites around the country, an important characteristic of the Moab project is that there is an end in sight. This editorial in the Deseret News supports my position that public health and safety, as well careful expenditure of tax dollars, require DOE to make the Moab cleanup a priority.
As always, I'm eager to hear your thoughts. Please take a moment to respond to the brief survey below.
2nd District of Utah