The Sequoyah corporation fuels release and the Church Rock spill: unpublicized nuclear releases in American Indian communities

Author Name: 
Brugge, D., deLemos, J. L. Bui, C
Publication Date: 
Saturday, September 1, 2007
Private File Attachment: 
The Brugge et. Al. article is a study about the effects on the land from the milling, mining and refining of Uranium. Brugge asserts that while the effects of refined radioactive material are well known based on the Three Mile Island tragedy, the effects of what causes nuclear feasible material accidents on the land especially in Oklahoma’s Sequoyah corporation land and the mining operation of Church Rock in New Mexico, Navajo lands needed more exploration. The mining of Uranium is dangerous and results in the deaths of thousands of miners worldwide and many of those are Native American workers, because the majority of Uranium mining is done in the American southwest, in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico in or nearby reservation lands. Also it is done in Oklahoma and that is the subject of half of this article. In a search of MEDLINE (August 31, 2006) there were no citations for Sequoyah Fuels Corporation or Church Rock. This is in contrast to Three Mile Island (125 MEDLINE citations). So Brugge and his team decided to dig further. Brugge et. Al. reviewed written documentation, largely from the gray literature, about Sequoyah Fuels Corporation and Church Rock. They then supplemented the literature review with experiential knowledge that Daniel Brugge gained during 12 years working with the Navajo uranium mining communities and about 5 years working with communities near Sequoyah Fuels Corporation. A release in the context of a mining accident is defined in the article as a rupture in a cylinder that causes a leak of gas that is contaminated and goes out in the air and causes the risk of breathing in hazardous materials like UF6 (Uranium hexafluoride a compound used in the Uranium enrichment cycle.) The article acts as a reconstruction of these tragic events and describes the human toll assessed by the release. The article lists 47 people hospitalized and 100 people in the community effected total. It tells the story of one man in the Seqoyah release who was driven to three hospitals denied by each as they did not have the means to save him until the third but by the time he had arrived he was deceased. The key thing to recognize is that Uranium by itself is not very radioactive; the article proves that the damage done in these events was by chemical corrosion. Because of that, the media was unmoved. The full detail of what happened during the Church Rock spill in New Mexico is also well detailed in this article and may be of great interest. Brugge et. Al. concludes that the research done on these spills was worth it because of its unearthing of some very uncomfortable truths buried in time. Brugge et. Al. finish with this thesis statement “By looking at the first few stages of the nuclear cycle—mining, milling, and processing of uranium ore—it is possible to make a case that this low-tech part of the cycle that requires working-class labor entails some significant exposures and health impacts, but it is precisely this part of the cycle that is least well known and least thoroughly examined and finally, it is worth asking whether these cases have in- formed policy in such a way that workers and communities are now better protected.” (Brugge 2007 P 6) Conclusion: This is interesting research that may have future impacts in nuclear research on Indian lands issues but it is an article at a lower development then some and probably will be more useful with detailed work in the field or a corroboration of these databases.