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Uranium Tailings to get MOAB-bilized

It's final: the Department of Energy (DOE) has recommended the uranium mill tailings of the Moab [Utah] UMTRA Project be relocated. Though the department announced this recommendation as part of a draft back in April, DOE made it official by publishing its Final Environmental Impact Statement.

The report calls for the relocation of 11.9 million tons of contaminated materials by rail and is, by the way, in complete accordance with what POGO has been recommending since the late 90s.

The tailings (which are harmful byproducts of a now defunct uranium processing operation) currently lie in an unlined impoundment that is a mere 750 feet away from the Colorado River—a source of drinking water for some 25 million people in Arizona and California. Among other problems, the site emits radon gas and soil surrounding the impoundment now has contaminant levels above EPA standards.

It's sad that it took so long to publish Environmental Impact Statement because analysis of the Moab problem has been years in the making. Back in 1999, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission report estimated the cost of relocation to be between $72 million and $103 million. Now, DOE's estimated costs have ballooned to anywhere from $329 million to $464 million.

Is the increased cost a result of a more thorough analysis or government foot-dragging? At least instead of looking forward to another draft statement, we can look forward to real progress.