Energy policy — nuclear: First new uranium mill in the U.S. in 25 years gets the go ahead from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

A picture named doloresrivercanyon.jpg

From The Telluride Daily Planet (Katie Klingsporn):

The progress of the mill has been followed with fervid interest here since the early stages of its application, and Wednesday’s news evoked a mix of elation — from supporters who see in it the promise of jobs — and grim disappointment — from opponents who believe a uranium mill will bring devastation to the environment and health of the region.

But in the offices of Energy Fuels Inc., the Canadian company that proposes to build the mill, the mood was one of joy. “We’re extremely pleased and we feel like the decision substantiates the case we’ve worked so hard to make for the last couple of years,” said Gary Steele, senior vice president of corporate marketing at Energy Fuels. “We look forward to moving our project ahead.” Steele said the company still needs to secure investments and tie up a few loose ends. But if all goes well, Energy Fuels hopes to have the mill up and running in the first half of 2012, he said.

The license, which was granted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, permits Energy Fuels to construct a uranium/vanadium mill roughly 12 miles west of Naturita in Paradox Valley — a lonely and wind-scoured valley where redrock walls rise to the sky and the Dolores River flows. The mill, which would sit on a site that is roughly 17 acres, could process up to 500 tons of materials per day. As planned, the facility would run 24 hours a day, almost every day of the year, with up to 85 employees, Energy Fuels has said…

On Wednesday, Hilary White, SMA’s executive director, said the state ignored crucial information and overlooked holes in the applicant’s application. “We’re of course extremely disappointed,” she said. “We feel this was a rushed decision, and we feel that the state chose to ignore hundreds of pages of comments submitted by scientific and technical experts expressing concerns about the impacts…” Sheep Mountain funded a position on its staff to research the mill and fight the application. White said Energy Fuels lacks adequate plans to address an emergency and its plan to contain radioactive waste doesn’t meet state standards. And while the decision comes with conditions, White called them insufficient. A report commissioned by SMA also argued that the mill will actually do further damage to the region’s already hobbled economy…

Historically, the west ends of Montrose and San Miguel counties boomed with mining activity. Ore from the area went toward the Manhattan Project, and the culture of mining is deeply imbedded in the communities. Naturita’s Tammy Sutherland, who watched her family make a living off of the mining companies during a childhood in the West End, said the news felt like victory. “We’re more than thrilled,” she said. “It’s something this country needs, this area needs … We’re all pretty excited.”

From the Montrose Daily Press (Katharhynn Heidelberg):

In 2009, Montrose County commissioners approved a special-use permit that allows the mill to be sited in an area zoned for general agriculture.

More Pinon Ridge Mill coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.

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