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Powertech VP Richard Blubaugh's experience with water contamination from uranium milling - The Atlas tailings pile saga

Updated May 17, 2008



Richard Blubaugh formerly worked for Atlas Corporation, a uranium milling company that declared bankruptcy in 1998 and walked away from a 12 million ton pile of radioactive mill tailings located 750 feet from the Colorado River near Moab, Utah.  The tailings pile is bordered on the north by Arches National Park.  Mr. Blubaugh promoted a plan calling for the company to simply cover the tailings pile with sand and rock, even though a 1998 report by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory concluded that uranium discharges into the Colorado River would “persist indefinitely”. 


Atlas was required to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement to assess the plan's potential impacts, but the company filed for bankruptcy before the EIS could be completed.  Upon filing for bankruptcy, Atlas was released from all future liability with respect to the uranium mill facilities and tailings pile.


Under the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act, the U.S Dept. of Energy is responsible for cleaning up the Moab site. On October 25, 2001, legal title to the site was transferred to the DOE.  In September 2005, the DOE issued its decision to move the tailings pile to a disposal site at Crescent Junction, Utah, and clean up and reclaim the millsite property. 


Disposal of the tailings pile and clean up of the site is expected to take 20 years and cost taxpayers over $600 million.  According to a recent email from the DOE contractor hired to do the work, $60 million has been spent through fiscal yeat 2007.  FY 2008 costs are expected to be $23 million.





Richard Blubaugh, former Atlas Corporation Vice President of Environmental and Government Affairs, and current VP of Health, Safety & Environmental Resources for Powertech (USA) Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Powertech Uranium Corp.



Aerial photo of Atlas tailings pile adjacent to Colorado River near Moab, Utah (Photo: U.S. Dept of Energy)



Taxpayers foot $600 million bill for clean-up of uranium company's mess


TOM BEARDEN, NewsHour Correspondent: This is the site of one of those old mills, just two miles north of Moab on the Colorado River. The plant left behind this 130-acre pile of radioactive waste products after it shut down in 1984. Donald Metzler is in charge of the Department of Energy's clean-up project.


What's the ultimate plan here?


DONALD METZLER, Department of Energy: It is to safely move all these tailings. We have 16 million tons of tailings. We want to safely move them up to Crescent Junction, put them in an engineered hole, and then put an engineered cover on it. Once the tailings are in that disposal cell, nobody will have to worry about them for eternity.


TOM BEARDEN: The process is expected to take 20 years, involve hundreds of scientists and workers, and cost taxpayers more than $600 million. And the Atlas Mill isn't the only one that's left behind a toxic legacy.


Excerpt from "Demand for Energy Fuels Rush for Uranium in Utah"  June 13, 2007 - The Online NewsHour/PBS





Tailings: Truck or rail? - Judy Fahys
Salt Lake Tribune - May 16, 2008


Trucks, not trains, will haul away Moab tailings pile - Associated Press

Seattle Post-Intelligencer - March 1, 2008 


Moab will have to live with radioactive waste until 2025 - Matt Canham

Salt Lake Tribune - February 7, 2008 


Email from Wendee Ryan - Public Affairs Manager, S&K Aerospace, Inc. concerning clean up costs at the Atlas millsite

December 21, 2007 


Fact Sheet - Surface Water and Ground Water at the Moab UMTRA Project Site

U.S. Department of Energy - June 2007 (pdf)


Moab UMTRA Technical Assistance Contract

S&K Aerospace, Inc. - 2007 


Tailings Times - Moab UMTRA Project - Volume 1, Issue 1

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management, Grand Junction, Colorado - March 2006 (pdf) 


Moab, Utah, UMTRA Project



Moab UMTRA Project

S.M. Stoller Corporation (undated)  


Summary of Final Environmental Impact Statement - Remediation of the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings, Grand and San Juan Counties, Utah

U.S Department of Energy - July 2005 (pdf)


Moab Mill Reclamation Trust; Notice of Order and an Opportunity for a Hearing

Federal Register - January 3, 2000  


Does your water glow in the dark?  Uranium said to contaminate source for 20 million - Bresnahan

WorldNetDaily - February 5, 1999


Uranium's Deadly Legacy - Steele

E/The Environmental Magazine - May/June 1998


Form: DEF 14A  Filing Date:5/19/1998


Limited Groundwater Investigation of The Atlas Corporation Moab Mill, Moab, Utah

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service/Oak Ridge National Laboratory - January 9, 1998 (pdf - 13.5 MB) 



News Release from Atlas Corporation - January 31, 1996


Parental care for uranium tailings only goes so far - Mcbride

High Country News - October 3, 1994