Trucks arriving at the White Mesa mill on August 19, 2015 and again on March 29, 2016 were found to be leaking radioactive material. The trucks were carrying barium sulfate sludge from the mine to White Mesa.
On August 30, the NRC ordered Cameco and Power Resources to suspend shipments and approved a corrective action plan.
The NRC investigation found that the Cameco – Smith Ranch Facility in Wyoming had failed to properly load and identify the contents of the truck.
In the March, 2016 incident, workers at the mill entrance noticed that a truck was leaking a “small amount” of white material. Upon inspection, it was discovered that the material was radioactive.
Crews at the mill moved the material to a disposal location and cleaned the area where the spill was located. Some material had leaked from the truck (an estimated five gallons) and fallen onto the highway near the mill.
The driver of the truck said he didn’t notice the leak until he arrived at the mill entrance. He added that on the journey he had braked hard to avoid a deer near Meeker, CO. That event may have caused the load to loosen.
It is not known how much sludge may have leaked from the truck during the journey from Wyoming. A winter storm on the day that the sludge was transported washed away any evidence of road contamination.
The investigation states that “at no time during the incident was there a danger to life.”
In the past, shipments of the waste were sent to the mill about twice a year but were discontinued during the NRC investigation.
The investigation states that “Cameco Resources has suspended all waste shipments… until the issues that resulted in the incident are fully addressed.”
The White Mesa mill is the only federally licensed uranium mill in the United States. It processes uranium ore and, in recent years, has processed and stored mine waste from as far away as New York.
There was no general notification of the spill until the NRC report was released on August 30, 2016.