The Salt Lake Tribune


Friday, January 29, 1999

By Jim Woolf

A resolution urging federal officials to move the radioactive Atlas uranium mill tailings to an "environmentally safe location" was approved this week by the Legislature's Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee.

Rep. Keele Johnson, R-Blanding, is sponsoring House Concurrent Resolution 1. It says the 10.5 million tons of tailings piled in the flood plain of the Colorado River near Moab are polluting the river and jeopardizing several species of endangered native fish.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is expected to issue an environmental impact statement soon authorizing Denver-based Atlas Corp. to cap the tailings in place. NRC experts contend the environmental risks are too small to justify the cost of moving the tailings. The cost of capping the tailings in place is estimated at about $20 million, while moving them would cost about $150 million.

Johnson's resolution urges that responsibility for the Atlas tailings be transferred to the U.S. Department of Energy, which has the money and legal authority to move the pile. He then wants the material moved to a disposal site several miles from the river.