It’s amazing that both Democrats and Republicans are so excited to begin the Second Cold War. We still have not paid the bills for the first Cold War. Those bills are past due. And the costs were paid in human lives. Never think that the casualties of the Cold War were only on the battlefields of Korea and Vietnam. There were thousands of casualties, perhaps tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of casualties in the United States. Mostly in the American Southwest.
Many people don’t know where the uranium came from which was used to manufacture the thousands of nuclear weapons the United States built during the Cold War. Or, more accurately, the uranium that was used to make plutonium, which is the genuine article in nuclear weapons. Uranium itself must by refined from uranium ores known as Carnotite and Uraninite (formerly Pitchblende.) Carnotite is the source of the famous “Yellow Cake” refined uranium ore we all know from the lead-up propaganda to the Iraq War. In the United States, these uranium ores were found mostly in the Southwest, specifically Northern Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. And it was this region which saw a “Uranium Boom” in the late 1940s-early 1950s which pretty much put towns like Moab, Utah, on the map.
The uranium which the government needed to build nuclear weapons didn’t just manifest one day in the lab at Los Alamos. The ore had to be discovered, mined, milled, refined, and then you had uranium. But it took a lot of ore to create uranium and even the tailings left over from the process remained radioactive with half-lives of decades to centuries. Which means, yes, today abandoned uranium mines and mill sites remain highly radioactive as we speak. And the government knows this and, in fact, knew it all along.
Have you ever heard of “The Office of Legacy Management”? Neither had I until in my wayfaring, I was traveling in Northern Arizona on the Navajo Nation along Highway 160 from Kayenta and coming into Tuba City. On the left hand side of the road, I saw a massive flat pile of crushed gravel surrounded by chain link fence. It looked like the tomb of a giant. In a sense, it was. And a malevolent one at that. On the fence was a sign marking the spot as under the auspices of Department of Energy Office of Legacy Management. I suspected this had to be the site of something horrific and I was right. This was the location of the old Tuba City uranium mill which the federal government had to be pretty much forced into coming to remediate.
I researched all of this. The mill was fed by nearby uranium mines. There were several uranium mines in the Cameron, Arizona, region. Astonishingly, the federal government refuses to acknowledge those mines exist and, therefore, the abandoned mines remain “hot” to this day, wholly unremediated. The feds remediated mines all over the Southwest; many of which are on the Navajo Nation. There were even uranium mines in Monument Valley, that iconic area known for several Westerns having been filmed there. But there was a price to be paid for all this so-called winning of the Cold War. Navajo miners, mill workers, and their families paid the price. And the Navajo people continue to pay this price today.
You have to understand that these miners and mill workers were afforded little personal protective equipment while mining and milling the ore. They were not told of the dangers. They were not given proper decontamination facilities. Consider these facts: Many dwellings on the Navajo Nation are hogans without running water. Water is hauled in by barrels. Therefore, water is scarce. It’s high desert; we all know this. A uranium miner or mill worker has the radioactive rock dust all over his clothing. He inhales it. He comes home, removes his clothing, and bathes himself as best as can be without a shower. What, therefore, happens here? First, the wife washing the clothes is exposed to radiation. Second, any radioactive dust tracked into the hogan remained there. We will never know the true cost to the miners, mill workers, and their families who were the immediate victims of uranium mining. Look, they died, okay? They got cancer and died. Let’s not try and evade the facts.
Today, here sits these abandoned uranium mines in Cameron. Understand these are exposed piles of radioactive uranium ore. People say, “It’s low grade ore left behind and not that radioactive.” Not so! It came to pass around the late 1950s-early 1960s the federal government said they had enough uranium ore to build enough bombs to destroy the planet fifteen times over, so, thanks, we don’t need any more. Even mines producing high grade ore were simply abandoned and the mining companies walked away. The exposed beds of high grade ore were simply left there. Not even warning signs were installed. No fences, no signs, nothing. This is the case in Cameron. Which, by the way, sits on the banks of the Little Colorado River. Which empties into the Colorado River. Which, downriver, becomes the drinking water for Nevada, Southern Arizona, and Southern California.
This is the case with the old Atlas Uranium Mill in Moab, Utah, which sat abandoned for years with tailings piles right on the banks of the Colorado River. The feds are working feverishly right now to remediate that site. But look how long radioactive material was entering what becomes drinking water downriver. What is the true cost of that in terms of cancers and genetic damage? We know radiation is a mutagen and a cancer causing agent. But the government sat there like a bump on a log knowing this for decades and doing nothing. But of course. They conducted atmospheric nuclear weapons tests from 1945 to 1962 and throughout the Southwest, people died from cancer due to fallout. One reason the tests were finally banned was the levels of Strontium-90, a mutagenic and cancer causing element of fallout, was found to be dangerously high in the teeth of American children in 1959. Gosh, imagine that! The fallout that killed Japanese people after Hiroshima and Nagasaki was deadly for Americans, too. Which the government knew but detonated the weapons at the Nevada Test Site anyway. Click To Tweet
Let’s get one thing straight. The federal government knew damn well Navajo miners and mill workers would die from mining uranium ore. They’d been there to the mines and mills! They saw what was going on! The Atomic Energy Commission (who disappeared into the DOE later) went out to these mines, witnessed the entire thing, and said and did nothing. They knew this would kill miners and mill workers and their families and, later, the abandoned sites would present a serious health risk to the surrounding communities for any length of time from decades to centuries. They knew this, yes, but preferred to say nothing. Because some of this uranium would go into the bombs they would detonate at the Nevada Test Site. And they knew the fallout from those bombs would kill Americans, too. But they did not care. In fact, the AEC referred to the people downwind from NTS as, quote, “…a low use segment of the population…”. Just reflect on this for a minute.
Look here. We can’t just sweep this under the rug. We need to understand that this is still going on. These abandoned mines are still there. My sources tell me the allegedly remediated Tuba City mill site is leaching into groundwater. I would not doubt that. The abandoned mines at Cameron remain there. This region is subject to high winds. With every wind, radioactive dust is picked up and blown right into peoples homes. That is why these sites need to be remediated. But there’s more.
We need to understand that the federal government knowingly killed people during the Cold War. These victims were casualties of the Cold War. But where are the VA benefits for them? Oh, yes, in nearly every hospital in Northern Arizona there are notices that say: “Are you a Downwinder? You may be entitled to compensation and medical care.” (Downwinders are people that were in the fallout zones from nuclear weapons tests at NTS.) That’s nice. If you’re still alive. Many died of cancer awaiting the government to do something. Which was probably the plan all along. Stall for time, let them die, then compensate with fewer claimants to claim it. The government didn’t just wage a Cold War against the Soviet Union. They basically waged it against us. They used the American people as guinea pigs because, guess what? The AEC was very interested to see what would happen with people affected by fallout. Which is why they made it a point to track it and see where it went.
Cameron, Arizona, stands as a monument to the murderous program of the United States government to obtain uranium ore no matter how many Navajos died to mine it and mill it for them. There is no such thing as “that was the past” when it comes to radioactive material. How can you have a “past” with a material that can stay deadly for centuries? The tailings piles of these abandoned uranium mines are only into their childhood as far as their radioactivity goes. The government wants to ignore it and hope people forget about it. I won’t forget about it. I’ve seen these “legacies” and knew what I was looking at: The horrible deaths of human beings.
We cannot think this was the past and we’re better educated now. If that was so, would the Keystone XL Pipeline have been allowed? No, we don’t learn. We keep letting the government write the checks but they never pay the bills. We’re not better educated. We’re better at removing our heads from the truth and thinking these things will resolve themselves. Well, they won’t. Maybe it is too late. Maybe the rise in autism and cancer is due to genetic damage from all the radioactive ore and fallout. We may never know the truth. But we must bear witness to the truth we do know. And that truth is this: We need to go out there to Cameron and we need to damn well clean up that mess. And that is only the beginning. #BipartisanRacket
“There are no secrets that time does not reveal.” ~ Jean Racine
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