Dr. Doug Brugge at Elks: Impact of uranium mining in Colorado, 12/6

Dr. Doug Brugge at Elks: Impact of uranium mining in Colorado, 12/6

[click “Play” to listen to Dr. Brugge’s conversation with Susan]


Brugge-doug A Three Mile Island in Colorado?

Probably nothing that Hollywood – or lethal.

Well, maybe not.

The infamous accident  took place March 28, 1979, a partial core meltdown in a unit of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania. Three Mile Island crystallized anti-nuclear safety concerns and resulted in new regulations for the nuclear industry. According to Dr. Douglas M. Brugge, the nuclear release at Three Mile Island may explain why there is “public and policy interest in the high-technology, highly visible end of the nuclear cycle.”

At the same time, he continues: “The environmental and health consequences of the early steps in the cycle – mining, milling, and processing of uranium ore – may be less appreciated.”

Which is why the Advocacy Coalition of Telluride, in partnership with the Town of Telluride, the Pinhead Institute and the Telluride School District have invited Dr. Brugge to town. Dr. Brugge is one of the world’s experts on the toxicity and health effects of uranium exposure from mining, milling, and processing,” those “early steps.”

Dr. Brugge is speaking Monday, December 6, 6:00 p.m. at The Palm. His topic: “Dirty Secrets: The Health Effects of Uranium Mining, New Research Findings.” Earlier that same day, the professor is talking with local and regional science students.

What me worry? No one is mining in my backyard.

True, but a Canadian company, Energy Fuels, is fixing to put up a mill just down the road a piece in Paradox Valley. And if the wind blows (as usual) in our direction? Radioactive snow anyone? That melts to become our drinking water.

Cindy McFadden, a civilian-turned-activist, is a key player on the Advocacy Coalition team. While trolling the Internet for information about the impacts of uranium mining, the name “Doug Brugge” kept coming up.

“I was most struck by the fact that Dr. Brugge grew up on the Navajo reservation. As a result, this Harvard PhD (in cellular/developmental biology), a man who holds an MS in industrial hygiene, also from Harvard, ended up studying the health effects of uranium mining on the Navajos. And the results of his investigations: not pretty,” explained McFadden. “I have a couple of contacts down in Ship Rock who are now studying the health effects of mining uranium on the families of the miners. Uranium could well be the link in  their health-related issues, because it is a fact miners bring all this radioactive and toxic material home on their clothes, constantly exposing their families. But as of yet, as far as I know, there is no conclusive scientific evidence.”

In 2002, the price of uranium was $10 a pound, but it jumped to $90 a pound in 2007. Natural disasters around the globe, including the flooding of uranium mines in Australia and Canada, contributed to the initial upsurge. Demand from China, India, and Russia became additional drivers. And today there is widespread speculation about the resurgence of nuclear power in America.  Our home state of Colorado has about 1,200 historic uranium mines, which produced over 63 million pounds of uranium between 1948 and 1978. In the past, mining and milling sites contaminated air, soil, ground and surface waters with toxic and radioactive chemicals. There is no program to clean up and/or contain the legacy of these thousands of mines.

And now Colorado is facing another boom.

Footnote: Richard Linnett recently received a Telluride Mountainfilm Commitment Grant to help him complete a documentary about the Paradox Valley uranium saga. On the film’s website, Linnett says: “The nuclear resurgence isn’t just in Colorado and Utah, and even some conservationists are getting behind the idea that nuclear is green power… The main story is about the personal stakes people have in this particular issue, and it’s about the larger issue, too; about uranium: Is it safe, is it green, is it profitable, and is it right – for the nation and the regions where it is being developed.”

And now let’s hear it from Dr. Brugge. To preview his talk, click the “play” button.

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