U.S. won’t fine com­pany for spilling ra­dioac­tive sludge in Utah

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Mead Gru­ver

CHEYENNE, WYO.» The agency that reg­u­lates the U.S. nu­clear in­dus­try will not fine a Cana­dian ura­nium min­ing com­pany for twice spilling low-level ra­dioac­tive sludge out­side a Utah waste dis­posal fa­cil­ity, giv­ing the com­pany credit for ef­forts to pre­vent the prob­lem from re­cur­ring.

Saska­toon, Canada-based Cameco faced a $35,000 fine from the Nu­clear Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion. Com­mis­sion of­fi­cials told Cameco they won’t seek a fine in part be­cause the com­pany plans in the fu­ture to store the bar­ium sul­fate sludge in bags within the trucks.

“How­ever, sig­nif­i­cant vi­o­la­tions in the fu­ture could re­sult in a civil penalty,” NRC Deputy Re­gional Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Mor­ris wrote the com­pany June 29.

Ship­ments of bar­ium sul­fate sludge from the Smith Ranch in-situ ura­nium mine and pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity in north­east Wy­oming will re­sume af­ter the NRC has signed off on Cameco’s cor­rec­tive mea­sures, com­pany spokesman Gord Struthers added.

The leaks hap­pened in 2015 and 2016. Both times, low-level ra­dioac­tive waste leaked from trucks from a Wy­oming ura­nium pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity.

Work­ers no­ticed the leaks af­ter the trucks ar­rived out­side En­ergy Fu­els Re­sources’ White Mesa Mill waste dis­posal fa­cil­ity near Bland­ing, Utah. Sub­se­quent test­ing found no el­e­vated ra­di­a­tion along the roughly 600-mile ship­ment route through Wy­oming, Colorado and Utah.

The sludge that spilled is a nor­mal byprod­uct of in­situ ura­nium min­ing.

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