The possible renewal of a license for the nation’s only conventional uranium mill drew about 100 people to a public meeting in Blanding, Utah, Thursday night.
The state is considering renewing the White Mesa mill’s radioactive-materials license and granting several other permits, including one to process radioactive and toxic wastes. The mill sits six miles south of Blanding, and many town leaders and residents praised its economic benefits. San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman called it a gift and urged regulators to “reject this false narrative” by opponents that the mill poses a danger. San Juan School District Associate Superintendent Ron Nielson said this year the mill paid the district more than $200,000 in property taxes. A number of current and former workers said the facility is well-run and provides badly needed jobs. However, many members of the White Mesa community, part of the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation located five miles south and downstream of the mill, disagreed. Ephraim Dutchie of the Ute tribe asked what would happen if a truck hauling radioactive wastes to the mill should wreck. The tribe’s environmental-programs director, Scott Clow, raised water-quality concerns and said the company that owns the mill, Energy Fuels, has not provided sufficient money to fully reclaim the facility. Tribal attorney Peter Ortego agreed, saying the company could go bankrupt and leave a toxic mess.