'Deradiating' the Former Uranium Capital

Beverly Merz
JAMA. 1987;258(5):583-584. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400050017003.
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THE URANIUM ATOM that once hovered over a mountaintop has disappeared from the seal of the city of Grand Junction, Colo. In its place is a setting sun.

The substitution is telling. The city that once proclaimed itself "The Uranium Capital of America" is in the process of divorcing itself from the radioactive element—literally as well as symbolically. The last vestiges of uranium are being shoveled from the community.

The removal is part of the federal Department of Energy's (DOE) Remedial Action Program. It was established in 1972 to clean up areas of the country in which radiation exposure in excess of normal background levels could be attributed to wastes from DOE-operated uranium processing plants.

Grand Junction was the first area to qualify. A good portion of the city is built on radioactive tailings—by-products of a uranium-processing industry. The tailings emit small amounts of radon—one of the radioactive decay products


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