America's Radioactive Civil War
A long list of victims have suffered due to
advances in the nuclear industry.
The most obvious human losses have resulted from the deployment
of nuclear weapons, but unfortunately, many people have also
suffered for reasons other than bombs. Every step of
the nuclear fuel cycle: mining, processing, transporting, utilization
nuclear reactors, testing, reprocessing, and waste disposal pose
The publics perception of both nuclear fuel and nuclear weapons
usually focus on the outcome (the atomic bomb or electricity) of each
technology. The purpose of this website is to explore the
nuclear issue from its root. Both nuclear fuel and weapons require
large amounts of uranium, therefore the first step to either technology
is uranium mining.
The most densely concentrated
and easily extracted uranium in the United States exists in the
Colorado Plateau. The Colorado Plateau is a 120,000 square mile
region encompassing parts of Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico.
This area also contains the 25,000 square mile Navajo Nation, as
well as many other Indian reservations. The Natives were forced
into this region because the barren land had little value to European
settlers in the 1800's. With the onset of the nuclear age (late 1940's), the
wasteland became a land of treasure because the US
government created a demand for uranium which lead people to dig up all
the ore they could find. Issues of Indian sovereignty have
resonated science Europeans set foot in the America's; the nuclear
industries demand for uranium is the current battlefield of this
five century long conflict. When analyzing the controversies between
the Native Nations, and the uranium mining industry in the four corners
region (Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico), many consequences of nuclear power arise.
These impacts are
imperative to examine today because the demand for uranium
is on the rise again, due to the
growing demand for nuclear energy. Nuclear energy may seem
like a plausible solution to global warming when one analyzes the
outcome (lots of energy and little carbon emissions), but the inputs to
the system must be considered as well. This project is titled
"America's Radioactive Civil War" because Native Americans are
dying due to the inputs required to bring power into millions of homes
across America. A majority of Americans enjoy the benefits of the
outputs of nuclear energy, but are uneducated on how their energy is
produced. A radioactive war is currently under way in
America, this war is between the nuclear industry and the people
bearing the consequences. Our energy system is interconnected and
practically every American on the grid gets some electricity from
nuclear energy. Currently, nuclear energy is the
second largest provider of electricity in America behind coal.
Many people argue that nuclear energy is the power of the future
because it emits less carbon that coal. This is true, but
before America moves to a nuclear based energy production system,
people must become aware of the consequences their energy
consumption produces. When viewing the outputs of nuclear energy this
production system can seem rational, but when one considers the inputs
required to produce nuclear energy, the cost of nuclear power quickly
outweigh the benefits.
Conflicts of environmental justice, between
indigenous communities and energy resource extraction are
apparent all over the globe. I have focused this web page on
nuclear energy because it is extremely dangerous, and uranium
mines are currently reopening due to a demand for nuclear power.
The Navajo Nation provides a great case study because of the high
density of mines; there are 1100 abandoned mines on the
following pages aim at
addressing the consequences experienced by local inhabitants in the
American Southwest due to uranium mining over the past 60 years, as
well as how affected citizens have confronted these concerns, because
if we don't learn from the mistakes of our immediate history, tragety
may once again repeat itself.
Crane digging an open pit uranium mine.
Map of the Navajo Nation, with key towns and uranium mining areas marked in black.
"As long as there are no
answers to cancer, we
should’t have uranium
mining on the
-Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr.