News from the energy boom-before-last

March 10, 2009

Excited about the prospects of nuclear power as an alternative to burning fossil fuels?

Comes this story from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

Officials are shooting for an April 20 starting date for the long-awaited cleanup of the Moab, Utah, mill-tailings pile.

U.S. Energy Department officials last week opened a 3,800-foot section of rail track they will use as a staging area for shipments of mill tailings from the pile to a disposal site to the north, near Crescent Junction.

A gantry crane capable of lifting 50 tons will pluck tailings-laden containers from trucks and place them on railroad cars on a ledge above the pile, which sits near the entrance to Arches National Park.

Why is this relevant to anything?

This tailings pile has been targeted for cleanup for at least 30 years.  The story doesn’t say precisely, calling it “cold war” — it is partly a remnant of the uranium boom of the 1950s.  It may date back to the 1940s.

And, according to the story:

The Energy Department has a 2028 target date for completion of work moving the pile. The cost is estimated to run as high as $698 million.

2028? Ten years of usefulness for the mine, another 60 years to clean it up. Some boom.  Some bust.

You load 16 million tons [of radioactive and poisonous tailings], and what do you get?  A site cleaner in Moab from uranium milled a half-century ago, and a warning to those who push nuclear power for the future damn-the-cost.  There are costs.

Step carefully.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Utah Policy Daily.

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