Letter: Comments on the uranium industry
Robyn Parker’s column on the uranium industry connected her hometown of Canon City to the large web of Southwestern communities that experienced and are still living with the negative effects of mining, milling and living around radioactive materials.
In contrast to the “lesson” the former Cotter employee gave at the County Commissioners hearing concerning radionuclides (uranium — half life 4.468 billion years), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Academy of Scientists (in the Beir VII report), Dr. Karl Morgan (the father of Health Physics), Dr. John Gofman, M.D. (Professor Emeritus at U.C. Berkeley and former Director of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory), and Dr. Helen Caldecott, M.D. (international expert on nuclear issues) all state that “there are no safe doses of radiation. Decades of research show clearly that any dose of radiation increases an individual’s risk for cancers and that children are more sensitive.” They also tell us that if a “threshold dose is defined for uranium workers, that does not mean the dose is safe.”
The EPA goes on to explain that the way we know radiation causes cancer is by observation and identifying the patterns of incidence. Patterns of illnesses have been observed as early as 1910 in people working with radioactive materials such as uranium miners, radiologic medical personnel, and nuclear weapons workers. The RECA compensations clearly connect uranium workers illnesses and deaths to radioactive materials and the patterns of incidence of these illnesses.
As we look at the uranium industry in our Colorado Plateau region, we see, in addition to health issues, that we’ve been impacted by the patterns of air, water and environmental degradation, patterns of economic booms and predominantly busts, and the patterns of regulatory failure (Cotter Mill in Canon City a 36-year superfund site, 1,500 unremediated uranium mines) and the patterns of social and economic stigmas.
Robyn’s Canon City story is not anecdotal; it’s a link to a radioactive web of negative, cumulative impacts — think Uravan, Monticello, Moab, Grants, Church Rock, the Navajo Nation, Rocky Flats and yes, us.
Recently, our BOCC has approved an oil and gas radioactive waste dump in Whitewater and the reopening of a historic uranium mine. Our hope is that they would take a realistic and pragmatic look at the downsides of radioactive industries and the businesses and jobs they could destroy, and seek out the possibilities of a healthier future for our Mesa County community.
Grand Junction, Colo.
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The family of Rosie Ferrin has worked to clean up and make safe again the old schoolhouse in downtown New Castle. Ferrin died this summer and had owned the building that included classrooms turned into apartments for years.