From sick uranium mine and mill workers in southeastern Utah and cancer-stricken communities downwind from nuclear weapon testing sites, to the Army’s testing and incineration of deadly chemical weapons and MagCorp’s status in the 1990s as the #1 polluter in the U.S., to EnergySolution’s recurring attempts to dump radioactive waste in the west desert, Utah has a long and troubled history with radioactive, nuclear, other toxic waste.
The impacts of this history can still be seen in the cemeteries and ongoing health issues in communities who have been exposed to this waste. And, although Utah has never produced or used nuclear power, we are continually burdened by the nuclear fuel stream, including the mining, milling, enrichment, and dumping of this highly poisonous waste.
Effect on the environment
If an accident, such as a leak or a crash while transporting the material, occurs in a waste storage container or facility, the waste can contaminate water sources, soil, and even air, which can poison the nearby neighborhoods and ecosystems.
Effect on health
Exposure to radioactivity can lead to serious health concerns, most notably cancer, lung damage, kidney impairments, and birth defects. Workers on-site have a higher risk of exposure but nearby communities are also at risk for exposure through downwind effects and contamination of water sources. Even after decades of decay, just a few minutes of unshielded exposure to some forms of radioactive waste could deliver a lethal dose of radiation.
What does HEAL do?
We work to prevent the generation, transportation, and disposal of radioactive waste in and through Utah. HEAL’s origins lie in opposing weapons incineration and testing, so even when toxic waste isn’t making headlines, it’s always on our radar.
We value research on the health, environmental, and economic costs that radioactive waste has on our communities and we build long-term campaigns on evidence-based arguments. To stop the importation of radioactive waste to Utah, we work with the local communities who would be directly impacted by this waste to hear their concerns, educate them about the risks, and work together to help protect their neighborhoods. We watchdog the waste companies to make sure they are completely transparent and engage with regulators and legislators to find solutions outside of Utah and, when necessary, we rally our grassroots supporters to call on the governor to put a halt to waste threats.
- HEAL Utah 2018 nuclear issues
- World Health Organization: Ionizing Radiation Health Effects and Protective Measures
- National Geographic: Toxic Waste Facts
- Utah Humanities Council, HEAL Utah, KRCL’s RadioActive Downwinder Interviews
- HEAL Utah Podcast Episode #9: Rob DeBirk & Utah’s Nuclear Legacy
- Under Secretary Rose E. Gottemoeller, “Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century”
- Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization
- Arms Control Association Protect for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization
- HEAL Utah 2009 Presentation to the Radiation Control Board on Depleted Uranium
- United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Radioactive Waste
- Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Report a Nuclear Safety or Security Concern
- Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Radiation and Health Effects
- Utah’s Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Health Effects of Radiation
- University of Utah Marriott Library Downwinders of Utah Archives