Environment & Public Lands
5:14 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

Utah Uranium Mill Wants More Time to Find Buyer

The owners of a Uranium processing plant near Lake Powell want more time to find a new buyer for the plant after a planned sale fell through recently. The Utah Division of Radiation Control is considering the request, while an environmental group says the plant should be decommissioned.
Credit Walter Anderson / Flickr Creative Commons

A Canadian company has asked Utah regulators to give them more time to find a buyer for an idle uranium mill near Lake Powell. One environmental group wants the mill to be decommissioned instead. 

Toronto-based Uranium One wants state regulators to give it six more months to find a buyer for a mill in the Utah desert near Lake Powell. The Utah Division of Radiation Control initially gave the Shootaring Canyon processing plant a two year extension on its license. But a pending sale collapsed last month, and now Uranium One says it needs more time.

“We’re evaluating that request now, and we’ll have our response later this month,” says Rusty Lundberg, who leads the state’s radiation oversight office.

“For example, if we are not allowing them to pursue the extension, we would have to allow them the opportunity to put together the information they need for either a license renewal application or the decommissioning plan.”

Lundberg says no one’s officially objected to the extension so far.

Meanwhile, environmental groups are urging the state to dismantle the plant for good and clean up the uranium waste and radioactive ore that has been piled there for three decades. The Shootaring Canyon plant was open for just four months in 1982 before being idled.

Sarah Fields, program director for the Moab-based environmental group Uranium Watch, doubts there will be a new uranium boom anytime soon when the mill can be profitable.

“Clearly the mill should be closed down and it should be reclaimed,” she says. “I mean, you have uranium mill tailings. You have stockpiled ore. You have a lot of contaminated material on the site that all needs to be cleaned up. And it’s been sitting there since 1982. That’s kind of a long time.”

Fields points out that low market prices make the future uncertain for any uranium processing.

The nation’s only operating mill is located at White Mesa near Blanding, and that mill is set to be temporarily idled in August.