Uravan Uranium Project

 
This is a National Priorities List (NPL), or "Superfund," hazardous waste site. While we’re the lead agency for remediation of the site, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund program provides technical support and input on all remediation-related activities to ensure the objectives of the Superfund program are met.
 
 
Site summary
Location
  • Colorado 141, Uravan.
  • The site is in the western portion of Montrose County, about 13 miles northwest of Nucla and 81 miles from Whitewater, in Mesa County. 
  • The town of Uravan no longer exists. 
  • Montrose is 115 miles away and Grand Junction is 90 miles to the northeast. 
  • The site is on the bank of the San Miguel River, which drains into the Colorado River.
 
History
  • The site began as a radium recovery plant in 1915 and was expanded to include vanadium recovery in 1935. 
  • The plant operated from the 1940s to 1984 as a uranium processing facility. Umetco Minerals Corporation, a subsidiary of Union Carbide Corporation, has operated the facility since 1984.
  • The town of Uravan was established in 1935 to house workers and their families at the mill and mine facilities. 
  • The town has since been evacuated and demolished. The site was placed on the list of Superfund sites on June 6, 1986.
 
Environmental concerns
Chemicals
A complex mixture of chemicals exists at the site. The contaminants include:
  • Radioactive products, including raffinates (liquid wastes from the uranium processing operations).
  • Raffinate crystals (primarily ammonium sulfate compounds).
  • Mill tailings containing uranium and radium. 
  • Other chemicals, including heavy metals (lead, arsenic, cadmium, vanadium), thorium and residual salts.
 
Exposure
  • At the time reclamation began, the air at the site contained elevated levels of radon gas from the tailings piles. 
  • These materials have since been relocated and placed in covered containment cells. 
  • Soil surrounding the mill site and groundwater contained radionuclides and heavy metals. 
  • Because no one lives in the town of Uravan and the groundwater isn't being utilized, the human health risks are considerably limited.
 
Site remediation
Colorado completed a plan to clean up the site in 1986. The cleanup plan was designed to control radon production and the migration of heavy metals, thorium  and residual salts from the site. 
  • Remediation included:
    • Securing nearly 10 million cubic yards of radioactive tailings in a disposal area and capping/revegetating the area.
    • Constructing a lined disposal system for the radioactive crystals.
    • Placing 1.5 million cubic yards of waste located adjacent to the San Miguel River in a secure disposal area located away from the river.
    • Placing contaminated soil in an approved on-site repository.
    • Reclaiming and revegetating the land on the site.
    • Collection and treatment of contaminated groundwater.
  • In March 2000, EPA performed a five-year review of the site, as required by law. The review concluded that remedial actions are being conducted in accordance with the consent decree and remedial action plan, and that the selected remedies remain effective in protecting human health and the environment.
 
Status:
  • EPA completed a five-year review in 2010.
  • Cleanup has been completed; the tailings cells have been closed and capped.
  • Revegetation is ongoing.
  • Post-closure efforts to delist the site from the National Priorities List and transfer the site to the Department of Energy for long-term stewardship are ongoing.
  • The Radioactive Materials license we issued is being revised to reflect post-closure status.
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