Flagstaff residents oppose uranium ore passing through city

Flagstaff residents oppose uranium ore passing through city
Posted at 2:11 PM, Oct 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-19 17:11:10-04

Flagstaff residents and officials are expressing concern about uranium ore shipments that could pass through the northern Arizona city to get to a mill in Utah.

The Flagstaff City Council last week asked staffers to draft a resolution opposing the move despite having no authority to regulate the transportation of the material, the Arizona Daily Sun newspaper reported.

It comes after residents submitted a petition and expressed opposition during a council meeting. Many of their comments focused on the potential risks the material could have on their health.

Diane Stearns, a researcher at Northern Arizona University, said the health risks in transporting the material within a city are minimal.

While other cities have passed resolutions against hauling uranium, Flagstaff City Attorney Sterling Solomon said they do not have legal authority to stop it. If the city tried to pass an ordinance on the matter, he said it would cause issues with federal agencies.

Caleb Blaschke, assistant to the city manager, said the U.S. Department of Transportation regulates the transportation of hazardous materials but cities have successfully requested such shipments to be restricted to certain times.

Energy Fuels Resources has not yet begun mining or hauling the uranium ore from Canyon Mine near the Grand Canyon. Once operations begin, a federal agency has given it two options to get the material to White Mesa Mill near Blanding, Utah. One route would use Interstate 40 and U.S. Highway 89 through Flagstaff.

Curtis Moore, a company spokesman, said the material is less dangerous than "other substances commonly hauled on our public roads, including gasoline, diesel, chlorine, acid, and other chemicals.

"The public can be assured that our ore trucks will be operated safely and responsibly, and except for the required labeling, they will be essentially indistinguishable from other commercial trucks operating on the road every day," Moore said.