Environment | National

Cleanup of uranium mines on Navajo Nation poses huge cost

The federal government knows of at least 683 uranium sites on the Navajo Nation but there isn't enough money to clean them up.

Out of the hundreds, federal agencies have identified just 34 structures and 12 residential yards for cleanup, The New York Times reports. Some $60 million has been spent so far.

“The government can’t afford it; that’s a big reason why it hasn’t stepped in and done more,” Bob Darr, a spokesman for the Department of Energy, told the paper. “The contamination problem is vast.”

Uranium itself led to significant health risks for tribal members who worked at the mines. But new generations are being exposed to extremely radioactive sites due to the lack of cleanup.

Rancher Larry Gordy found one abandoned mine in Arizona where high radioactive levels could cause tumors and other health problems. But the site remains unprotected.

“If this level of radioactivity were found in a middle-class suburb, the response would be immediate and aggressive,” Doug Brugge, a public health professor at Tufts University medical school, told the Times. “The site is remote, but there are obviously people spending time on it. Don’t they deserve some concern?”

Get the Story:
Uranium Mines Dot Navajo Land, Neglected and Still Perilous (The New York Times 4/1)

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