The book Uranium Frenzy details the halcyon days of uranium mining and caution-be-damned testing of nuclear weapons in Nevada that negatively impacted Utahans. Which groups of people were negatively affected by the uranium boom and testing in Utah? Who or what entity was responsible for the harm that befell these people? Did they seek or find justice for their injuries?

The Navajo were negatively impacted by the uranium boom because they lived in close proximity to mines and test sites. They suffered from a number of radioactive-related illnesses, including cancer. They sought and found justice for their injuries in the courts. As for what entity was responsible for their harm, it appears there is a lot of blame to go around. The federal government bears some responsibility for failing to intervene during the uranium boom. Without proper oversight, mining companies made a lot of dangerous mistakes, such as dumping radioactive materials into rivers or burying them without a permit. In addition, state officials didn’t do enough to protect the people living on or near reservations from radioactivity risks.

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The people negatively affected by the uranium boom included the miners. In her book Uranium Frenzy, Raye Ringholz writes that miners were exposed to extremely high levels of radon concentrations. In the mines, the radon concentrations could be nearly 1,000 times more than what was deemed safe. Due to the radiation in the uranium mines, miners suffered all sorts of deadly diseases, such as cancer.

As for who was responsible for the harm, Ringholz provides a rather intricate account of why miners continued to work in these toxic conditions. One person Ringholz focuses on is Ralph Batie, the chief of Health and Safety for the Colorado Raw Materials Division of the Atomic Energy Commission. Batie tried to procure information about the mines and implement better safety standards. According to Ringholz, Batie faced “bureaucratic buck-passing or a lack of cooperation.” The federal government in Washington and the mine owners didn’t want anything to interfere with uranium production, including news that the mines could hurt the miners.

The miners themselves dismissed the health concerns. Ringholz says that miners were typically “inured to dangers underground.” For them, “hazardous conditions were a part of the mining game.” They accepted the risks in exchange for a decent-paying job.

To talk about another group of people adversely impacted by the uranium boom, consider how Ringholz describes the specific consequences for Indigenous tribes like the Navajo.

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