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Plans move forward for the first U.S. uranium plant in 30 years

By Gerald Parkinson |

Energy Fuels Inc. (Lakewood, Colo.; www.energyfuels.com) has been granted a radioactive materials license by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for the first uranium mill to be built in the U.S. in 30 years. Energy Fuels says the approval of the license is “the most significant hurdle” to be passed before it builds the Piñon Ridge Mill near Naturita, Colo. The company plans to start construction in 2011 and initiate production in 2012. The 500-ton/d plant will convert ore from two nearby uranium mines (currently in care and maintenance) into about 850,000 lb/yr of yellowcake (U3O8) and 3.7 million lb/yr of vanadium pentoxide (V2O5). The plant will be a zero-discharge facility, says senior vice president Gary Steele. For example, ore will be milled in a semi-autogenous grinding (SAG) mill, rather than a ball or rod mill, for better emissions control. Also, the tailings ponds will be triple-lined. The liners will consist of two 60-mil sheets of high-density polyethylene (HDPE), backed by a geocomposite clay liner — clay sandwiched between two layers of HDPE. Otherwise, the process will be conventional. Uranium and vanadium will be leached from the ore by concentrated sulfuric acid. Uranium…
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