Colo. reissues key permit for controversial uranium mill

Posted: Apr 29, 2013

Written by

Manuel Quinones, Greenwire
Paradox Valley

Colorado regulators have granted Toronto-based Energy Fuels Inc. a new license to build the country's first conventional uranium mill in three decades.

Yesterday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's radiation program said the company had met all the requirements for a radioactive materials license and, therefore, the state was under legal obligation to issue one.

Last year, Denver District Judge John McMullen scrapped the project's previous license, accusing state regulators of not allowing for enough public comment. Department chief Chris Urbina is defending its reissuance.

"From the beginning, we have listened carefully to the public and worked with Energy Fuels to minimize risks to public health and the environment," he said, touting "strict environmental regulations" that "far exceed those in place when the last such mill was constructed more than 25 years ago."

Environmental and community advocates have been trying for years to stop the 500-ton-per-day mill planned for Montrose County in Colorado's Paradox Valley. Not only are they worried about pollution from the facility but also the encouragement of more uranium mining throughout the region (Greenwire, Jan. 15).

"We are extremely disappointed that the state opted to ignore the scientific and technical evidence against the mill," opposition group Sheep Mountain Alliance said in a statement. "And further we are shocked that the state, through this decision, is strongly encouraging Energy Fuels to build a radioactive waste dump on the Dolores River."

As critics mull an appeal, regulators say they have enhanced planned groundwater monitoring and will have at least one staff member monitoring the proposed mill. They also point to a settlement with Telluride and San Miguel County providing for dust and radioactive materials protection.

"With the approval of the license, our work is not done," Urbina said. "We will continue to work with the community members and officials to keep them informed of progress."

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