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President Nez Wants Uranium Sites Cleaned

President Nez Wants Uranium Sites Cleaned
September 14
04:15 2022

President Nez Wants Uranium Sites Cleaned

By John Christian Hopkins

Navajo President Jonathan Nez

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Council Delegate Rickie Nez met with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael S. Regan and Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe, to advocate for the cleanup and remediation of radioactive waste from hundreds of abandoned uranium mine sites location on the Navajo Nation.

“Our Navajo people have experienced so much heartache and devastation caused by the federal government’s uranium mining activities, but progress is being made in the cleanup efforts throughout partnerships with Administrator Regan and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” President Nez said. “There is much work yet to be done and that’s why it’s important that we continue to meet with our federal partners. We appreciate the Biden-Harris Administration for their commitment to working together with the Navajo Nation on many important issues.”

Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency Executive Director Valinda Shirley, and Navajo Nation Washington Office Executive Director Lashawna Tso were also part of the discussion.

On the Navajo Nation, there are approximately 524 abandoned uranium mine sites and only 219 have available funds for clean-up and remediation efforts, leaving a total of 305 unaddressed sites.

Approximately 30 million tons of uranium ore were extracted from Navajo lands by the federal government from 1944 to 1986 to support nuclear activities including the Manhattan Project, World War II, and the Cold War.

Exposure to uranium mining and abandoned mine sites has led to devastating environmental and health impacts and losses of life for many Navajo people since.

In September 2021, Nez welcomed Regan to Cameron, Ariz., located on the Navajo Nation, to meet with local officials and to visit an abandoned uranium mine site that is located only a few feet away from occupied homes.

In April, Nez also welcomed the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to the Redwater Pond Road Community, located within the Church Rock Chapter on the Navajo Nation, to hear firsthand accounts from local Navajo residents about the devastating impacts caused by uranium mining.

Some progress is being made, according to Regan.

Regan highlighted some of the progress being made and announced that the federal EPA is working to create field offices located in the capital of the Navajo Nation and Flagstaff, Ariz. dedicated to working with the Navajo Nation EPA. The Federal EPA also reported that they are working with the U.S. Department of Energy and the Navajo Nation to conduct assessments and are prioritizing the 300 plus unfunded abandoned uranium mine sites.

Council Delegate Rickie Nez, who serves as the chair of the Resources and Development Committee, called on the federal EPA to cleanup uranium sites on the Navajo Nation as quickly as possible to lessen the risks and protect future generations from health impacts.

“By working together with the Biden-Harris Administration over the last couple of years, we have built a lot of momentum on many issues including the cleanup of uranium waste,” the president said. “Progress is in the works and we will begin to see more mines addressed in our communities.”

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