Sunday, July 11, 2010

New Mexico: First atomic bomb and Church Rock uranium spill: July 16th

In the New Mexico homelands of Navajos and Pueblos, July 16 marks a day of secrecy and the legacy of death

Photos: Trinity detonation of first atomic bomb, 35 miles southeast of Socorro, NM. Photo 2: Church Rock Memorial Walk by Maria Varela/SRIC Photo 3: Church Rock spill contamination.

By Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety
NEW MEXCIO: July 16th is a historic day in New Mexico because it was the day in 1945 when the first atomic bomb was detonated at the Trinity Site and it was the day in 1979 when the Church Rock Uranium Mill Tailings Spill took place. To commemorate these events, prayer walks, candlelight vigils and community education events will be held.
First, to remember the communities affected by the Church Rock Uranium Mill Tailings Spill 31 years ago, the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment will hold events in the Red Water Pond Road Community. From 7 to 9 am there will be a Prayer Walk on Highway 566 in remembrance of the communities affected by the spill. There will be a Commemoration Proclamation and Reaffirmation of the Navajo Nation's Uranium Mining Ban that was set forth in the Dine' Natural Resources Protection Act of 2005. A luncheon will begin at noon.
On the morning of July 16th, an earthen tailings dam at the United Nuclear Corporation Church Rock Uranium Mill failed, spilling large amounts of liquid radioactive waste into the Puerco River in New Mexico, which eventually flowed downstream into Arizona. The Church Rock spill is second only to the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown for the amount of radiation released from an accident. The spill contributed to the long-term contamination already present in the watershed from the release of untreated or poorly treated uranium mine water into the Puerco River. The commemorative event serves as a reminder that the Dine' communities throughout the area still carry the burden of the uranium legacy to this day.

Church Rock: For more information, contact Teddy Nez at 505 879-2910.

Second, the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium and Las Mujeres Hablan will hold a statewide gathering in Tularosa in support and remembrance of those who were exposed to the radiation released from the detonation of the first atomic bomb at the Trinity Test Site, near Socorro.
On Friday, July 16, the Consortium will hold a candlelight vigil from 8 to 10 pm for those who have lost loved ones to cancer or are cancer survivors.
On Saturday, July 17, the Consortium and Las Mujeres Hablan will hold an all day community gathering at the Tularosa Community Center, beginning at 9 am. Participants will have the opportunity to share their memories of the Trinity Test. They will learn also about the amendments to the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, proposed by Senator Udall, which would cover those exposed to radiation from the Trinity Test.
Tularosa is located 35 miles southeast of Socorro and north of Alamogordo, N.M.
For more information, please contact Tina Cordova at 505 897-6838.

The Church Rock Uranium Mill Spill occurred in New Mexico, USA, in 1979 when United Nuclear Corporation's Church Rock uranium mill tailings disposal pond breached its dam. Over 1,000 tons of radioactive mill waste and millions of gallons of mine effluent flowed into the Puerco River. Local residents used river water for irrigation and livestock and were not immediately aware of the toxic danger. In terms of the amount of radiation released the accident was comparable in magnitude to the Three Mile Island accident of the same year and has been reported as the largest radioactive accident in U.S. History.
On July 16, 1979, United Nuclear Corporation's Church Rock uranium mill tailings disposal pond breached its dam and 1100 tons of radioactive mill waste and approximately 93 million gallons of mine effluent flowed into the Puerco River. The contaminated water from the Church Rock spill travelled 80 miles downstream, reaching as far as Navajo, Arizona. Shortly after the breach below the dam radiation levels of river water were 7000 times that of the allowable level of drinking water. The flood backed up sewers, affected nearby aquifers and left stagnating pools on the riverside. Read more:

WIKIPEDIA excerpts: Trinity was the code-name of the first nuclear-weapons test of an atomic bomb. This test was conducted by the United States Army on July 16, 1945, at a location about 35 miles (56 km) southeast of Socorro, New Mexico, on the White Sands Proving Ground, of the U.S. Army.Trinity was a test of an implosion-design plutonium device. The weapon's codename was "The Gadget". Using the same conceptual design, the Fat Man device was detonated over Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9, 1945. The Trinity detonation produced an explosive power equivalent to the explosion of about 20 kilotons of TNT explosive. This date is usually considered to be the beginning of the Atomic Age.
While U.S. and British attempts to investigate the feasibility of nuclear weapons began as early as 1939, practical development began in earnest in 1942 when these efforts were transferred to the authority of the U.S. Army and became the "Manhattan Project". The weapons-development portion of this project was located at the Los Alamos Laboratory in northern New Mexico, though much other development and production work was carried out near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, (the separation of uranium-235); near Hanford, Washington, (the production and separation of plutonium-239); and in and near Chicago, Illinois, (at the University of Chicago and at the Argonne National Laboratories).
Read more:

VIDEO:  Navajo Leona Morgan interview at US Social Forum: Navajos Oppose New Uranium Mining in New Mexico. Recorded by Earthcycles:

COLUMN: Lakota Debra White Plume: Radioactive Sacrifice Area in South Dakota

VIDEO:  Tewa Women United at Detroit Social Forum: Legacy of Death at Los Alamos National Labs in New Mexico. Recorded by Earthcycles:

Alamogordo News: Did Trinity cause cancers?


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