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Credit: Mauricio Rodríguez Pons, special to ProPublica

New Mexico's “Death Map”: Uranium and Nuclear Energy in the US

What a small town’s experience with a former uranium mill in New Mexico can teach us about a failed federal regulatory system.

In partnership with Los Angeles TimesKOB 4 and PBS NewsHour.

In northwestern New Mexico, a small community grapples with what it believes to be the deadly effects of 22.2 million tons of uranium waste. A relic of the Cold War, the waste is left over from milling ore to supply power plants and nuclear bombs. The number of community members falling sick and dying prompted residents to build a “death map.” Colorful arrows point to households with serious illness: turquoise for thyroid problems, dark blue for breast cancer, yellow where cancer claimed a life.

While the multibillion-dollar mining company responsible for cleaning up the site is years behind schedule, it is seeking approval to hand liability over to the Department of Energy and walk away. In past lawsuits, the company has denied that residents would not have become sick if not for the mine-related contamination.

In this virtual program, a panel of experts will dive into ProPublica’s investigation of the country's roughly 50 former uranium mills and the more than 250 million tons of radioactive waste they generated. Our reporting found mills across the West where companies were granted repeated exemptions to groundwater cleanup standards, their waste piles polluting aquifers even as climate change hammers the West and makes water an ever scarcer resource.

What does our reporting tell us about federal regulations around uranium mining, milling and the associated cleanup? How can we better prepare for the potential resurgence of the uranium market and the revival of nuclear energy? How are residents near these sites impacted?

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Panelists to be announced.

This event has ended.