The Sillam#e Metallurgy Plant in Estonia was managed by the USSR Ministry of Medium-Scale Engineering and was built in 1946 to produce uranium metal from local shales. After these were found to be unsatisfactory, uranium ores were imported. Part of the plant was converted in the 1980s to produce rare earth oxides and niobium and tantalum from imported ores and concentrates. Uranium production on the site ceased in 1990. Environmental liabilities at Sillam#e include a large pond, located on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, containing tailings from the metals processing and oil shale ash from power production. The pond's dike must be stabilised, and dust emissions, uranium and nitrate leaching must be addressed to bring the site into compliance with environmental regulations. Wastes from current processing are still being discharged to the pond, and this must cease by the end of 2002. Remediation is estimated to cost USD 22.5 million.
The present volume collects information on the current situation at Sillam#e and potential solutions to its problems, based on similar experience elsewhere. A great deal of oil shale ash is present at the site and solutions to this problem may well be applicable to other sites in surrounding areas. The plant itself was closed to ethnic Estonians during the USSR's management, being populated predominantly by ethnic Russians. The technical problems are thus also addressed in broad context, meaning that the volume will also be useful to urban planners, economists and others.
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