The Moab UMTRA Project team celebrated the shipment of the 9 millionth ton of uranium mill tailings from the former Atlas Mill site to a long-term disposal cell near Crescent Junction. [Courtesy photo]

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has reached a milestone of moving 9 million tons of uranium mill tailings from the Moab site to the long-term disposal cell near Crescent Junction, under the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) Project.

This latest milestone, achieved on Feb. 20, means that 56 percent of the estimated total 16 million tons have been shipped.

“We are now on the downhill side of the tailings removal process, and we continue to make steady progress in relocating the tailings away from the Colorado River,” Moab Federal Cleanup Director Russell McCallister said.

Site employees have worked more than 500 days without a work-related lost-time injury or illness.

In fiscal year 2017, Remedial Action Contractor Portage, Inc., exceeded its annual goal of shipping 450,000 tons of mill tailings by relocating 466,600 tons. The project ships a trainload of tailings twice a week. Each shipment contains almost 4,700 tons of material.

Mill tailings are a sand-like material that remains from processing uranium ore. The tailings are

transported by rail in sealed metal containers to Crescent Junction. The tailings are placed in a DOE-constructed, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission-approved disposal cell near Crescent Junction and capped with a 9-foot-thick, multi-layered cover composed of native soils and rock.