Although this release of radiation, thought to be the largest in US history, occurred less than four months after the Three Mile Island partial nuclear meltdown, the Church Rock spill received little media attention. In contrast, the Three Mile Island accident made the headlines. And when the residents of Church Rock asked their governor to declare their community a disaster area so they could get recovery assistance, he refused.
What was the difference between the Church Rock spill and the Three Mile Island partial meltdown?
Another sacrifice area is the Great Sioux Nation, a region in the western part of the country comprising parts of 5 states, where thousands of open uranium mine pits continue to release radiation and heavy metals into the air, land and water.
Radiation and heavy metal poisonings are a hidden environmental catastrophe that is ongoing and must be addressed. But rather than studying the health effects and cleaning up the environment, private corporations are pushing once again to lift the ban on uranium mining.
The reservations are also known as prisoner of war camps. In fact, the reservation in Pine Ridge, SD is registered as POW Camp 344.
"The government had two interests. First, it needed a steady supply of domestic uranium, and it felt that warning the workers of the hazards would result in the loss of the workforce. Secondly, it wanted an epidemiological testing program to study the long-term health effects of radiation."
"Risk of lung cancer among male Navajo uranium miners was 28 times higher than in Navajo men who never mined, and two-thirds of all new lung cancer cases in Navajo men between 1969 and 1993 was attributable to a single exposure ~ underground uranium mining. Through 1990, death rates among Navajo uranium miners were 3.3 times greater than the US average for lung cancer and 2.5 times greater for pneumoconioses and silicosis."
"We believe that it is not possible to simultaneously apologize, set highly stringent criteria and place the burden of proof on the victims, as did the 1990 RECA."
"Mining not only exposes uranium to the atmosphere, where it becomes reactive, but releases other radioactive elements such as thorium and radium and toxic heavy metals including arsenic, selenium, mercury and cadmium. Exposure to these radioactive elements can cause lung cancer, skin cancer, bone cancer, leukemia, kidney damage and birth defects."
"A private abandoned, open-pit uranium mine about 200 meters from an elementary school in Ludlow, SD, emits 1170 microRems per hour, more than 4 times as much as is being emitted from the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. "
"Studies by the USFS show that one mine alone has 1,400 millirems per hour (mR/hr) of exposed radiation, a level of radiation that is 120,000 times higher than normal background of 100 millirems per year (mR/yr)!" Cancer rates in Pine Ridge, SD, are the highest in the nation.
It poisons grain grown in these areasthat is fed to cattlethat provide milk and beeffor the rest of the nation.
"In an area of the USA that has been called 'the Bread Basket of the World,' more than 40 years of mining have released radioactive polluted dust and water runoff from the hundreds of abandoned open pit uranium mines, processing sites, underground nuclear power stations and waste dumps. Our grain supplies and our livestock production in this area have used the water and have been exposed to the remainders of this mining. We may be seeing global affects, not just localized affects, to the years of uranium mining."
"Radioactive dust and particles are released into the air at the coal fired power plants and often set off the warning systems at nuclear power plants."
People in the Navajo and Great Sioux Nations have been fighting for decades for the US government to perform studies on the extent of contamination and to clean up both current contamination and prevent future contamination. As wards of the federal government, the United States is responsible for the health and safety of native Indians.
"that all people have the inalienable right to clean air, clean water and the preservation of sacred lands and that immediate action must be taken to fund the ongoing need for remediation of radioactive contamination in our air, water, and homelands to ensure our survival and that the named parties will support the People's Uranium Radiation Activity Data Collection Network."
And there are mines in the areas of national parks such as Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. These mines likely contaminate water and air in those areas visited by thousands of tourists.
"As well as the direct health effects from contamination of the water, the immense water consumption in mining regions is environmentally and economically damaging ~ and in turn detrimental for human health. The extraction of water leads to a reduction of the groundwater table and thereby to desertification; plants and animals die, the traditional subsistence of the inhabitants is eliminated, the existence of whole cultures are threatened."
Yellowman speaks of the practice of uranium mining as a form of structural violence. Structural violence occurs when a social structure or institution harms people by preventing them from meeting their basic needs.