A new uranium mine has been proposed for an area near Nunn, Colorado. Nunn is in a rural area of the northern Front Range, which is home to some of my relatives, and is best known for its water tower. The demand for uranium is increasing as the nuclear industry in the United States is gearing up to expand greatly after a thirty year hiatus in new reactor permits. Area politicians are particularly concerned about contamination via ground water from the mining process which involves leaching uranium.
Colorado has a long history of uranium mining and was the source of the uranium used in the first atomic bombs, but that mining in and around Nucla and Naturita for the most part, in Western Slope canyons, was far from major population centers.
Most of the mining area near Nucla and Naturita has been reclaimed as a golf course, after a long clean up effort was completed. Surprisingly, golf courses are desirable reclamation uses. This is because the main harm from trace nuclear waste remaining after a major cleanup effort is exposures from missed hot spots. Exposure is proportional to time exposed, and while many people frequently go to a golf course, few people spend long periods of time in the same place on a golf course. In contrast, camp sites, ball fields, office buildings and residential uses, to identify a few, often have regular users who spend a dozen to forty or more hours in a week in a particular spot.
The federal government has been extraordinarily recalcitrant in compensating workers at those operations for the occupational illnesses they suffered in the early days of the nuclear industry in hearings that have continued through 2007. Many workers will die before receiving any compensation at all, despite the fact that they have a statutory right to compensation for illnesses arising from work at nuclear facilities.