Uranium is the primary fuel for nuclear power plants, as well as being a component in nuclear bombs. A recent “Straight Dope” column (“Is nuclear power safe?” March 31) stated that coal mining produces far more deaths than uranium mining. In one way this is true, since most uranium miners die at home from small cell carcinoma, leukemia, and other diseases rather than at the mine.
It is well documented that thousands of Navajo miners were sickened by uranium mining on their reservation in Arizona. Many thousands more uranium miners were sickened in southern Utah and other mining states. The federal government passed a law in 1990 awarding compensation to uranium miners as a result.
Moreover, cleanup of more than 500 abandoned uranium mines is expected to be a multi-billion-dollar task across the West. But we must do it, as abandoned uranium mines have potential to contaminate the water supply of millions of people (e.g. Atlas Mine in Moab, Utah, poisoning the Colorado River). This cleanup cost will be borne by you and me—the taxpayers.