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Colorado asks General Atomics to clean up uranium mess

Company held by Linden and Neal Blue of Del Mar

General Atomics, the San Diego manufacturer of the Predator attack drone, has recently come under fire in Colorado, where its wholly owned company the Cotter Corporation operates a uranium mill. The facility produces yellowcake, a concentrated powder suitable for nuclear fuel and weapons. The mill has operated on and off since 1958, with the most recent operations concluding in 2006. Since then, the company claims to have spent $10 million to $15 million on cleanup efforts, but in 2008, Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment issued a notice of violation to Cotter, claiming the company had contaminated local groundwater.

General Atomics is privately held by Linden and Neal Blue of Del Mar. The brothers are originally from Colorado. After graduating from Yale, they tried their hand at banana farming in Nicaragua, commercial real estate development in Denver, ranching throughout the Midwest, local politics (Linden was elected and served a term on Denver’s city council), and eventually oil and gas mining. In 1986, they acquired control of San Diego–based General Atomics, a company originally created as a division of General Dynamics in 1955 for the purpose of researching peaceful uses of atomic power. In 1991 the brothers acquired and merged into their operation a floundering drone company, taking its product as the basis for the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle. Linden said at the time that his interest in developing the Predator was largely linked to a desire to help friends in Nicaragua battle Sandinista communist forces.

In addition to the Cotter Corporation, General Atomics is affiliated with at least four other companies — based in Texas, Australia, and Germany — that mine, mill, or otherwise engage in the uranium business. The Texas-based company owns the largest-known uranium deposit in the United States, Mt. Taylor mine in New Mexico.

At the Cotter mill, in Cañon City, ore is crushed and ground, then subjected to leaching chemicals. The extracted uranium, the yellowcake, is usually brown or black — its name derives from the color and texture produced by early milling methods. Uranium typically makes up about 1 percent of the ore. What’s left after milling are the leaching chemicals and the radioactive tailings, which Cotter kept for decades in a tailings pond on its 2600-acre site, covered with water to contain radioactive dust.

Years before General Atomics bought the Cotter Corporation, seepage from the tailings pond contaminated the groundwater of a semirural neighborhood about a mile and a half from the mill. In 1984, the mill and the plume of contaminated groundwater were designated a Superfund site. The company built a new tailings pond with a lining to prevent leakage.

However, in 2007, a new leak was detected, and in July 2008, the state of Colorado told Cotter to fix the problem. A radioactive plume was under the nearby Shadow Hills Golf Course and was spreading toward Cañon City and the Arkansas River.

In the 26 years since the Cotter mill and the plume were designated a Superfund site, Cotter still hasn’t cleaned up the contamination. When Cotter officials announced plans in 2009 to reopen the mill in order to process ore from the New Mexico mine, Cañon City’s state representatives took action. In February they introduced House Bill 1348, which requires uranium mills and mines wishing to expand operations in the state to remediate violations before proceeding. The bill also requires operators to submit an annual status report to owners of wells within one mile of groundwater contamination, and it strengthens bonding requirements to make sure that operators can clean up contamination.

Clean up your old mess before you make a new one — sounds fair enough, right? Not in the eyes of the industry. In response to the proposed legislation, Cotter said it would force the company to abandon its plans to reopen the Cañon City mill.

That Cotter thinks compliance would be so costly speaks volumes, especially given the current political climate surrounding nuclear power. President Obama is a fan of what he calls “clean nuclear” technology, saying in this year’s State of the Union address that we need to build “a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country.”

He’s put taxpayers’ money where his mouth is too. Despite a history of cost overruns in American nuclear plant construction, Obama guaranteed Georgia Power an $8 billion loan to construct two new reactors at an existing facility in Burke, Georgia.

SoCal Edison, majority stakeholder in the San Onofre nuclear plant at the northern end of San Diego County, has announced no plans to expand or extend the life of its facility, currently slated to go offline in 2022. But several other projects are in the works around the country, and Obama’s 2011 budget calls for doubling the amount of nuclear loan guarantees to $36 billion.

Worldwide there are 53 new plants under construction, 142 approved and waiting for construction to begin, and 327 more in the planning stages. The U.S. is a significant uranium exporter. Average uranium prices have risen from $7.92 per pound in 2001 to around $40.75 today. Despite the coming increase in demand for nuclear fuel, Cotter said that the cost to clean up the damage the company has caused could render its operation infeasible.

In late April, Colorado’s legislature passed HB 1348, and last week the bill was signed into law. Asked whether the mill will reopen to process the New Mexico ore, Cotter vice president John Hamrick “declined Tuesday to comment on whether that project is indeed dead,” the Denver Post reported on June 9, 2010.

But Colorado activist Sharyn Cunningham believes the contamination can be cleaned up and the mill reopened. According to an April 29, 2010 story in the Pueblo Chieftain, “Cunningham said she’s confident that Cotter’s parent company, General Atomics, has the means to conduct the necessary cleanup.”

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General Atomics, the San Diego manufacturer of the Predator attack drone, has recently come under fire in Colorado, where its wholly owned company the Cotter Corporation operates a uranium mill. The facility produces yellowcake, a concentrated powder suitable for nuclear fuel and weapons. The mill has operated on and off since 1958, with the most recent operations concluding in 2006. Since then, the company claims to have spent $10 million to $15 million on cleanup efforts, but in 2008, Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment issued a notice of violation to Cotter, claiming the company had contaminated local groundwater.

General Atomics is privately held by Linden and Neal Blue of Del Mar. The brothers are originally from Colorado. After graduating from Yale, they tried their hand at banana farming in Nicaragua, commercial real estate development in Denver, ranching throughout the Midwest, local politics (Linden was elected and served a term on Denver’s city council), and eventually oil and gas mining. In 1986, they acquired control of San Diego–based General Atomics, a company originally created as a division of General Dynamics in 1955 for the purpose of researching peaceful uses of atomic power. In 1991 the brothers acquired and merged into their operation a floundering drone company, taking its product as the basis for the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle. Linden said at the time that his interest in developing the Predator was largely linked to a desire to help friends in Nicaragua battle Sandinista communist forces.

In addition to the Cotter Corporation, General Atomics is affiliated with at least four other companies — based in Texas, Australia, and Germany — that mine, mill, or otherwise engage in the uranium business. The Texas-based company owns the largest-known uranium deposit in the United States, Mt. Taylor mine in New Mexico.

At the Cotter mill, in Cañon City, ore is crushed and ground, then subjected to leaching chemicals. The extracted uranium, the yellowcake, is usually brown or black — its name derives from the color and texture produced by early milling methods. Uranium typically makes up about 1 percent of the ore. What’s left after milling are the leaching chemicals and the radioactive tailings, which Cotter kept for decades in a tailings pond on its 2600-acre site, covered with water to contain radioactive dust.

Years before General Atomics bought the Cotter Corporation, seepage from the tailings pond contaminated the groundwater of a semirural neighborhood about a mile and a half from the mill. In 1984, the mill and the plume of contaminated groundwater were designated a Superfund site. The company built a new tailings pond with a lining to prevent leakage.

However, in 2007, a new leak was detected, and in July 2008, the state of Colorado told Cotter to fix the problem. A radioactive plume was under the nearby Shadow Hills Golf Course and was spreading toward Cañon City and the Arkansas River.

In the 26 years since the Cotter mill and the plume were designated a Superfund site, Cotter still hasn’t cleaned up the contamination. When Cotter officials announced plans in 2009 to reopen the mill in order to process ore from the New Mexico mine, Cañon City’s state representatives took action. In February they introduced House Bill 1348, which requires uranium mills and mines wishing to expand operations in the state to remediate violations before proceeding. The bill also requires operators to submit an annual status report to owners of wells within one mile of groundwater contamination, and it strengthens bonding requirements to make sure that operators can clean up contamination.

Clean up your old mess before you make a new one — sounds fair enough, right? Not in the eyes of the industry. In response to the proposed legislation, Cotter said it would force the company to abandon its plans to reopen the Cañon City mill.

That Cotter thinks compliance would be so costly speaks volumes, especially given the current political climate surrounding nuclear power. President Obama is a fan of what he calls “clean nuclear” technology, saying in this year’s State of the Union address that we need to build “a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country.”

He’s put taxpayers’ money where his mouth is too. Despite a history of cost overruns in American nuclear plant construction, Obama guaranteed Georgia Power an $8 billion loan to construct two new reactors at an existing facility in Burke, Georgia.

SoCal Edison, majority stakeholder in the San Onofre nuclear plant at the northern end of San Diego County, has announced no plans to expand or extend the life of its facility, currently slated to go offline in 2022. But several other projects are in the works around the country, and Obama’s 2011 budget calls for doubling the amount of nuclear loan guarantees to $36 billion.

Worldwide there are 53 new plants under construction, 142 approved and waiting for construction to begin, and 327 more in the planning stages. The U.S. is a significant uranium exporter. Average uranium prices have risen from $7.92 per pound in 2001 to around $40.75 today. Despite the coming increase in demand for nuclear fuel, Cotter said that the cost to clean up the damage the company has caused could render its operation infeasible.

In late April, Colorado’s legislature passed HB 1348, and last week the bill was signed into law. Asked whether the mill will reopen to process the New Mexico ore, Cotter vice president John Hamrick “declined Tuesday to comment on whether that project is indeed dead,” the Denver Post reported on June 9, 2010.

But Colorado activist Sharyn Cunningham believes the contamination can be cleaned up and the mill reopened. According to an April 29, 2010 story in the Pueblo Chieftain, “Cunningham said she’s confident that Cotter’s parent company, General Atomics, has the means to conduct the necessary cleanup.”

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Comments
6

This is all very interesting. There's more to the Blue story. Neal Blue has been locked in a bitter controversy with the city of Telluride in Colorado. He owned, as of a couple years ago, the valley bottom on either side of the highway into Telluride, and had plans to develop the whole thing with "condos, hotels, retail, and a golf course." The residents of Telluride had other ideas, but they didn't have the funds to just buy out Blue. They were fighting a battle to acquire the property--although it was not inside the city limits--and set it aside as a preserve, and have a natural gateway to their little chi-chi city.

How about an update on that facet of Blue, too? It is related to this story in the heavy-handed approach he takes with his business deals.

June 18, 2010

The following is from the CERCLA National Priorities List for the site listed as Lincoln Park (http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/nar860.htm), and does not contain information from later than 1984:

Conditions at listing (September 1983): Ground water supplies in the Lincoln Park section of Canon City, Colorado, have been affected by the waste disposal activities of a nearby uranium mill operated by Cotter Corp. since 1958. Liquid waste containing both radionuclides and heavy metals from the mill was discharged for years into unlined tailings ponds. Cotter is in the process of transferring this material into lined impoundments. The company's monitoring data indicate a plume of contaminants, including molybdenum, uranium, and selenium, extending from the mill along Sand Creek and affecting private wells serving about 200 people in Lincoln Park. Sand Creek is an intermittent tributary of the Arkansas River.

Status (June 1984): Cotter reports that it has completed transferring the tailings.

Cotter has taken several actions challenging the proposed listing on the NPL of Lincoln Park. In August 1983, Cotter filed suit in U.S. District Court seeking injunctive and declaratory relief to prevent listing in the September proposal. The Court denied the preliminary injunction request. Cotter appealed the denial to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. A hearing on EPA's motion to dismiss Cotter's request for permanent injunction and declaratory relief from the U.S. District Court was held on March 6, 1984. EPA's motion was granted in April 1984.

On Dec. 7, 1983, Cotter filed a formal petition in the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals to review the September proposed listing of Lincoln Park. No dates for argument have been scheduled.

Cotter's Radioactive Materials License, issued by Colorado under delegation from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is subject to renewal in the summer of 1984.

For more information about the hazardous substances identified in this narrative summary, including general information regarding the effects of exposure to these substances on human health, please see the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) ToxFAQs. ATSDR ToxFAQs can be found on the Internet at http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaq.html or by telephone at 1-888-42-ATSDR or 1-888-422-8737.


I'm saving my comments on Cotter's legal actions RE CERCLA for later. There is a rather large boatload of them.

See the following for more information on CERCLA AKA Superfund:

http://www.epa.gov/superfund/policy/cercla.htm

June 20, 2010

A2Z Great to see you here again on the Reader!

I have missed your great comments!

May 12, 2013

You might want to take a glance at the posting date.

May 12, 2013

There are other sources of nuclear power!

I have recently been introduced to Thorium….. Thanks to similar radioactive properties to the uranium used to power the world’s nuclear reactors – and its by product, plutonium, used in nuclear weapons – thorium can also be used to power a controlled nuclear reaction that heats water, producing steam to power turbines that produce large quantities of electricity.

PLUS POINT: From an environmental perspective, the good news about thorium is that it’s far less radioactively damaging than uranium: its naturally occurring form, monazite, is said to be reasonably safe for human exposure, while the waste products from its use in a nuclear reactor decay remain dangerous for only a fraction as long – decades instead of thousands of years, by some accounts.

So Uranium and Plutonium can take thousands of years to decay safely, but Thorium does it in just a few decades?

Read on............. http://just-me-in-t.blogspot.com/2010/06/nuclear-terror-nightmares-are-made-of.html

June 23, 2010

From the Web: Thorium site for realistic info: http://kevinmeyerson.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/thorium-nuclear-information-resources/#comment-731

+

In SHORT:

Thorium is Borium...

Solar (of all flavors): ... Is faster to install, ... Costs less to install ... Is ready for 24/7 power ... Requires no decommissioning costs ... And has no Nuclear RISK...

Thorium is yet another Black Hole that has taken billions in R & D and is nowhere near ready for prime time, unlike Solar (of all flavors)...

May 12, 2013

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