During the past years, nuclear power has started a debate regarding its potential benefits in the economy and as an alternative source of energy. Pro-nuclear arguments maintain that nuclear energy has less carbon intensity compared to fossil fuels which is detrimental to the environment. However, as details of true carbon analysis of nuclear energy remains unclear, the fundamental critical aspect of using nuclear energy remains to be a debate. This paper presents an analysis on uranium mining and milling in Crownpoint, New Mexico.
In the vast Navajo Reservation, towards Crownpoint, approximately 3,000 people lives along the Continental Drive 100 miles northwest of Albuquerque. in the high desert of northwestern New Mexico, many Navajo communities live in isolated and scattered places. The area is surrounded by the color yellow dust of what characterized Crownpoint as a community. Uranium oxide which is highly used as a nuclear energy has been regarded as Crownpoints most abundant resource (Begay, 2008). Through the late 1940s through the mid 1980s, uranium is gathered from the place.
Several mining companies already blasted and hauled truck loads of uranium in the place, and dried the mineral in piles in different areas across the American West. The Navajo tribe occupies areas over western New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. The center of the uranium mining is located in those areas and hundreds to thousands of Navajos has worked for the mines (KRQUE News Channel 13, 2008). Today, many abandoned mine places remain. The global production of uranium followed after several years of supplying nuclear weapon programs. Uranium is perceived as a finite resource.
During the past years, the availability of uranium is limited, but when further exploration led to further discovery of resources, miners took the advantage of gathering the finite resources (KRQUE News Channel 13, 2008). However, the Crownpoint, New Mexico community has seen the consequences of uranium mining especially to the health problem emerging today. The degraded land is a result of mines closing in the area, however, as efforts to rehabilitate the area entails uranium gathering again, people are concerned for their safety (Shebala, 2008).
Exposure to radiation brought by uranium mining and milling is compensated by the government. Uranium miners before the mining areas were closed are in their 70s and 80s, and are continuously seeking help from local community health officers to get diagnosed and treated for radiation exposure. During the 1950 to 1990, 500 uranium workers have died from lung cancer (Shebala, 2008). The persisting health problems brought by radiation exposure to uranium have affected the community until today. When the people inhales uranium dust and particles, the mineral stays in their lungs and release high doses of radiation.
Uranium may be potential economically-beneficial resources which will help many people have jobs, and helps economy and other sectors in the society (Begay, 2008). However, with the increased and continuous negative effects of uranium mining proves harmful to the people living in the community, people remains to be against uranium mining. Attempts to renew the mining area Currently, there is a new effort to revive the uranium mining areas. The company Hydro Resources Incorporated, a sub company of the Uranium Resources Incorporated of Dallas, plans to use the mining area with a new system (KRQUE News Channel 13, 2008).
The people remain to be divided on the issue of building a new mining company in the area. The new mining company will take over Crownpoint and nearby Church Rock. The company promised a new method to take care of the persistent groundwater problems in the community. The company promises the communities better and safer system by adopting a mining system called situ leach mining. The process involves mixing water, dissolved oxygen and sodium bicarbonate which will be then included in the underground uranium beds.
The proposed new system will dissolve in the process and it can then be removed, dried and processed (KRQUE News Channel 13, 2008). However, issues and concern were raised in this proposal. The water in the new system will come from the Westwater Canyon Aquifer of Crownpoint, the main source of drinking water for the people in Crownpoint and other surrounding areas. The company planning to work in the site promises a uranium nuclear power industry which will create more job opportunities for the people and maintain safe drinking water.
The communities expressed their great concern if the company will start another mining industry. For one, they were concern if the process of underground mining will affect the quality of their drinking water supply. If the process will pollute the drinking water system, they can be infected with serious diseases and health hazards. The Navajo people will become more vulnerable to kidney and other related disease due to poor water quality if the process will be adopted. Crownpoint has already complained about the contamination of uranium in their water supply.
Navajo president Mr. Mitchell Capitan in the Crownpoint chapter strongly protests about this plan in the area. He argues that about 15,000 people from surrounding communities travel to their place to gather drinking water because their own water supply is poor. If the only quality water supply is contaminated, this will pose a serious series of problems (KRQUE News Channel 13, 2008). The uranium nuclear energy problem The uranium industry in Crownpoint has long been debated as an issue which relates to degradation of the environment and health problems.
Uranium mining has significant economic resources, seen by companies as an opportunity to sustain global needs of the mineral. The uranium companies are strongly advocating that uranium mining will increase economic benefits and create jobs for the community. They also insist that uranium mining is not harming the environment. However, limited data and research does not guarantee this. Companies also failed in addressing key issues in the health of the community, making the community more concerned of their safety.
Uranium mining may be beneficial to some extent in the economics of the community, but the issue is not dependent on the money and profit alone. Long-term problems must be addressed, including environmental costs in the energy and water consumption of the people. Crucial environmental aspects in uranium mining must be considered to understand the cycle of the options for the community. Activities in uranium mining and milling must be able to attend to the health care needs, concerns and issues to protect the welfare of the Crownpoint community.
KRQUE News 13 (2008). Uranium poised for N. M comeback. KRQUE. Retrieved on April 20, 2008, from http://www. krqe. com/Global/SearchResults. asp? vendor=wss&qu=uranium. Begay, Christine (2008). New Mexico is to Uranium as Saudi Arabia is to Oil. Viacom International Inc. Retrieved on April 20, 2008, from http://think. mtv. com/044FDFFFF0098990200170098D7E0/. Shebala, Marley (2008). MTV looks at opposing views of uranium. Navajo Times. Retrieved on April 20,2008,from http://www. navajotimes. com/entertainment/031308uranium. php.