The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Radiation Program today announced Energy Fuels Resources Corp. has met all the regulatory requirements for a radioactive materials license for the Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill in western Montrose County, Colo. State law requires the department to approve applications when such requirements are met.
The license was required before Energy Fuels could construct its planned 500-tons-per day uranium/vanadium mill approximately 12 miles west of Naturita, Colo., in the Paradox Valley. The mill will process uranium ore from mines in the region to produce uranium oxide, which requires additional processing outside Colorado to become fuel for nuclear reactors. The mill also will recover vanadium, a metal used in steel alloys and high-tech batteries.
The license imposes a number of conditions on Energy Fuels involving construction of the mill; the receipt, possession, use and transfer of radioactive materials; and procedures to minimize risks to property and public health and safety, and to prevent loss or theft of radioactive material. Notably, the license requires an enhanced groundwater monitoring plan, subject to annual review.
A separate settlement agreement between Telluride and San Miguel County with Energy Fuels sets up additional protections related to the transportation of radioactive materials, blowing dust and water quality monitoring. In addition to the approximately $13 million financial surety established by the state, this agreement increases Energy Fuels’ total surety to an amount not less than $15 million.
Dr. Chris Urbina, executive director and chief medical officer of the department, said, “With the approval of the license, our work is not done. We will continue to work with the community members and officials to keep them informed of progress.”
During construction and operation of the Piñon Ridge facility, the department’s oversight will continue, including regular inspections and an annual review of the financial assurance. The department expects to have at least one staff member whose primary assignment will include monitoring and inspections of the facility.
Ron Henderson, chairman of the Montrose Board of County Commissioners said, “An exhaustive process has been followed and validated with the approval of this license.”
Montrose Commissioner David White said, “This validates the science behind the application, design and potential construction of the mill. It is a state-of-the-art facility and will benefit the citizens of Montrose County, the state of Colorado and the United States for decades to come.”
The license application was submitted by Energy Fuels on Nov. 18, 2009, and has undergone a thorough technical and regulatory review. Prior to its approval of the license, the department and the applicant conducted eight public meetings in 2010 in Nucla, Naturita, Paradox, Montrose, Telluride and Ophir. And in November 2012, the department held a six-day hearing in Nucla to allow cross-examination of witnesses and to solicit additional public comment. All of the information was thoroughly reviewed by the state’s Radiation Program prior to the decision to grant the license.
The administrative record includes comprehensive reports and comments by engineers, scientists, environmental and business groups, government officials from western Colorado counties and towns, and regulators. Anyone interested can view the department’s Decision Analysis and Environmental Impact Analysis, which includes a copy of the license and the department’s responses to public comments.
Dr. Urbina said, “From the beginning, we have listened carefully to the public and worked with Energy Fuels to minimize risks to public health and the environment. Today’s engineering standards – and strict environmental regulations – far exceed those in place when the last such mill was constructed more than 25 years ago. We are confident these standards and regulations will ensure the safe construction and operation of the facility.”