Uranium Ghosts

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The town of Uravan, in southwestern Colorado, was wiped off the face of the earth. It was once a thriving company town where miners dug up ore used to make the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in World War II. Mining continued after the war, but concerns about radioactivity grew as significant numbers of uranium miners from Colorado and other states developed lung cancer. Those sick workers, and others exposed to radiation during the Cold War, have received more than $1 billion in compensation. Officials decided Uravan was so toxic that it had to be permanently erased. The job took nearly 20 years and more than $100 million. But now, just a few miles away, there’s a plan to open the country’s first uranium mill in decades. Peter Hessler wrote about Uravan and the debate over a new mill in the Sept. 13, 2010 issue of The New Yorker magazine. A few weeks before the article appeared, Hessler dropped in on a gathering of former residents.

[Photo: EPA]