Energy Fuels, the owner of the White Mesa uranium mill, dismisses claims made by a Grand Canyon Trust film that argues that the mill puts groundwater at risk.
“It’s straight out of the activist trade book,” said spokesman Curtis Moore. “I’d say it is mostly bunk.”
Moore said there is “zero evidence” that tailing ponds are leaking into the groundwater. The company has more than 70 monitoring wells on and off the mill property.
“We take protection of groundwater very seriously, and we have not received any violations relating to the tailing ponds or groundwater,” Moore said. “It is extremely monitored, and if a problem was found, we would address it.”
Regarding a monitoring well shown in the film that has increased acidity and heavy metals, Moore attributed it to “natural background variations.”
“We have wells between that one, and the tailings that show no problems,” he said.
On whether single-lined waste storage sites would be updated to double liners, Moore said there were no plans to do so because “there is not a problem.”
Moore also said the film overstated its acceptance of alternative feed sources of uranium waste.
“It is very low-level uranium, and we are authorized to accept it,” he said. “It is a type of recycling that does not involve mining. If we did not take it to recover the uranium, it would go to a hazardous waste dump.”
Moore emphasized the critical role the White Mesa Mill has for supplying a domestic nuclear energy supply.
“It is the only conventional operating mill in the U.S.,” he said. “We process it at White Mesa instead of importing it from abroad.”
In 2015, the U.S. produced 3.5 million pounds of uranium, but consumed 55 million pounds, Moore said. In 2014, 40 percent of the U.S. nuclear fuel supply came from Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.
When operating at full capacity, the mill employs 150 people.