Uranium Mill Tailings

Status and Future Costs of Cleanup Gao ID: T-RCED-96-85 February 28, 1996

Energy Department (DOE) efforts to clean up contamination arising from decades of processing uranium ore as part of the nation's nuclear weapons and energy programs have grown in both size and cost since the project began in 1979. If the surface cleanup is completed in 1998, it will have cost $2.3 billion and will have taken nearly eight years longer and cost $621 million more than DOE expected. This 37-percent growth in costs has arisen from the discovery that more properties were contaminated than anticipated, the need to clean up more contamination than expected at some sites, and unexpected changes in the cleanup strategies in response to state and local concerns. Several issues could affect the government's future cleanup costs. One issue is what the final costs for cleaning up groundwater will be. Another issue is the extent and the cost of DOE's role in the future disposal of tailings in the Grand Junction, Colorado, area. Finally, the one-time charge assessed to owners and operators for the long-term custody of sites that were still active when the Uranium Mill Tailings Act was passed has not been updated and does not reflect DOE's current estimates of surveillance and maintenance costs at these sites.

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