Written by Paul Day
LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4)- A Lakewood based company has just been granted a license by the state of Colorado to build a uranium processing mill on a 300 acre site in western Montrose County.

It’s a big deal – the first such facility in the U.S in 25 years.

“We know we’re dealing with a very sensitive issue when it comes to the environment,” said Stephen Antony, President and CEO of Energy Fuels Incorpor

The mill will be called Pinon Ridge.

The terrain is remote high midway between the towns of Bedrock and Naturita

Winning approval for the radioactive materials permit meant the company had to answer endless questions the radiological impacts to the water, air and wildlife.

After a 14-month-long process, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment concluded the mill could be built and operated “protective of both human health and the environment.”

Environmentalists contend their concerns were ignored.

“We’re deeply disappointed by this decision,” said Hilary White, Director of Sheep Mountain Alliance in Telluride.

In a written statement to CBS4, White said her organization submitted hundreds of pages of comments from scientific experts who raised serious concerns about the project.

“We fear this mill will pollute our air and clean water and undermine the region’s long-term prosperity,” she added.

Once constructed, Pinon Ridge will produce 500 tons per day of concentrated uranium and other metals.

“This mill is designed as a modern chemical plant would be,” said Steve Tarlton, Program Manager of the Radiation Control Division at CDPHE which issued the permit.

According to Tarlton, the uranium ore is leached with sulfuric acid in a tightly controlled process featuring the latest safeguards.

“It’s not to say something can’t go wrong,” he added.

In approving the new license, CDPHE imposed a long list of conditions on Energy Fuels.

Among the requirements, the company must conduct two emergency response exercises to test the readiness of local responders and company resources.

Word of the permit approval was hailed by Montrose County Commissioners.

“This is a giant step forward towards cleaner air for our country and economic development for the west end of our County,” said Ron Henderson Commission Chairman.

Energy Fuels estimates more than 300 jobs will created directly and indirectly as a result of the mill.

The concentrated uranium produced at Pinon Ridge will be shipped out of state.

Antony said the material will be converted into fuel rods to meet the growing demand of nuclear power plants around the world.


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