Home Campaigns Uranium 8 WAYS RADIOACTIVE POLLUTION AFFECTS THE Northern Great Plains


Uranium - 238 is a naturally occurring element that slowly disintegrates in 14 steps to a final, non-radioactive element known as Lead 206.  The decay products in the 14 steps are just as radioactive, if not more, than U-238 itself.  When these decay products are disturbed in any way, they begin their unstoppable, expanding radioactive processes. Yet, uranium mining companies and governments continue to plan for new ways to mine uranium.


1. According to the National Cancer Institute, during the above ground detonations of atomic bombs in Nevada from 1951-1963, the radioactive fallout was spread throughout the United Sates and Canada. (See the Above Ground Detonation map below) One of the radioactive contaminants, Iodine-131, was unintentionally inhaled and/or ingested by the children of that era in North America, who now have high rates of thyroid cancer and thyroid disease.

2. Abandoned Uranium Mines and Prospects According to information from the Environmental Protection Agency, 2,885 open pit uranium mines and prospects were dug in MT, WY, ND  and SD in the 1950s & 60s. (See Abandoned Mines map at www.defendblackhills.org)  An additional 387 were also dug in Northern Colorado The radioactive dust, and water runoff from those abandoned mines and prospects has been spreading throughout the region for the past 50 years causing high levels of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

3. Abandoned Uranium Exploratory Wells More than 10,000 uranium exploratory well holes, some large enough for a man to fall into, are located in SD, ND, and WY. These holes, 600 - 800 feet deep, were not capped, filled, or even marked. Cross contamination of aquifers with radioactive materials was discovered in studies in 1982.

4. Abandoned ICBM Missile Silos and Radar Stations from the Cold War Era In the 1950s and 60s, hundreds of missile silos and radar stations were built and operated in the Northern Great Plains. The US Air Force used small nuclear power plants in some of these remote stations to power the equipment.  The US Air Force is still responsible for monitoring the sites although there is no way to control the underground radioactive pollution that is contaminating the aquifers in the region.

5. Coal and Uranium The geology of the Northern Great Plains Region shows that the area contains wide expanses of uranium which is often mixed in coal. The coal laced with uranium, which is mined in North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming, is sometimes burned locally, or shipped to power plants in the Eastern and Western parts of the United States. During the strip mining of the coal, radioactive dust and particles are released into the air and carried by the wind through the Northern Great Plains and to the South and Eastern parts of North America.

6. Radon Gas Radon gas is a tasteless, odorless, radioactive gas emitted naturally as one of the decay products of Uranium. In areas where uranium has been disturbed, whether in digging a foundation for a house, or in the natural movements of the Earth, radon gas may be emitted in the air, or through contaminated water. Lung cancer can begin when radon gas is breathed by human beings.

7. Current and Planned Uranium Mining In Situ Leach mining for uranium is being planned in the southwestern Black Hills by Powertech Uranium Mining Co., a Canadian corporation.  Another Uranium company has also been approaching ranchers to secure leases in southwestern SD for future uranium mining.  The Crow Butte ISL mine near Crawford, NB, has been operating since the 1990s. It has already been proven that this type of mining only destroys aquifers with radioactive contamination.

8. Radioactive Oil Waste in Western North Dakota The current oil boom in western North Dakota in the Bakken Range is leaving radioactive oil waste being dumped all over the Region.  Water runoff from these wastes is causing radioactive pollution of the land, the creeks, and the Missouri River.

What can you do? Pick one to dedicate your work to, then make a plan on what can be done to stop the radioactive pollution from this source.  Raise funds for attorneys, research, or other activities. Do it

Above Ground Detonations of Atomic Bombs in the Southwest

Mission Statement

"Defenders of the Black Hills is a group of volunteers without racial or tribal boundaries whose mission is to preserve, protect, and restore the environment of the 1851 and 1868 Treaty Territories, Treaties made between the United States and the Great Sioux Nation."



Speaking about radioactive fallout, the late President John F. Kennedy said,

"Even then, the number of children and grandchildren with cancer in their bones, with leukemia in their blood, or with poison in their lungs might seem statistically small to some, in comparison with natural health hazards. But this is not a natural health hazard and it is not a statistical issue. The loss of even one human life, or the malformation of even one baby who may be born long after we are gone, should be of concern to us all. Our children and grandchildren are not merely statistics toward which we can be indifferent."

July 26, 1963 upon signing the ban on above ground nuclear tests



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