There are more than 4,200 abandoned uranium mines in the U.S., 500 of which are located on or near the Navajo Nation. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, the U.S. House this week unanimously passed an amendment to help fund the cleanup of the sites.
The measure allocates $1 million from a Department of Energy program designed to remediate uranium mines from Cold War nuclear weapons manufacturing. It’s designed to speed up inventory and assessment before a full cleanup of the sites can begin, and must first be approved by the U.S. Senate.
"Across northern Arizona uranium mining has a toxic legacy and many of my constituents continue to fight the cancers and diseases that were caused by radiation exposure decades ago," said Arizona Democrat Tom O’Halleran, who the authored of the amendment, in a speech on the House floor Thursday.
O’Halleran says many of the mine sites on the Navajo Nation are near water sources, schools and livestock grazing areas, and pose a threat to local communities.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began a Superfund cleanup of the mines in the 1990s, but to date only a small fraction have been completed. The process is expected to continue for decades and exceed $1 billion.