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About 5 million tons of uranium-tainted waste has been removed so far from the banks of the Colorado River near Moab.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the milestone Monday, almost three years after work began to relocate the 16 million-ton pile to a landfill about 30 miles north at Crescent Junction.

One shipment of containers travels from the cleanup site — at the old Atlas Corp. uranium mill site — to the landfill every four days. The work aims to protect the river and more than 25 million downstream users from the uranium and ammonia contamination that has been leaking from the pile.

"Being more than 30 percent complete is a tremendous accomplishment," says Don Metzler, who oversees the project for DOE. "To reach this milestone and do it safely is the best of both worlds."

EnergySolutions Inc. has been the lead contractor on the work since the $1 billion project began.

The Salt Lake City company is challenging the DOE's decision to grant the next phase of the work to an Idaho company.

Once the waste gets to the landfill it is covered with9 feet of soil and rock. A second portion of the disposal cell was completed two months ago.

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