Damage from Uranium Mining and Nuclear Waste All nuclear weapons and most nuclear reactors ultimately require the mining of uranium ore. In the past, when mining was poorly regulated, hazardous waste from mines in the United States, Australia, and the former Soviet Union was not disposed of in a responsible fashion. Since then, huge sums have been spent on cleanup operations and underground storage. Some local indigenous peoples have resented mining operations in the American West and remain concerned about consequences to their health. The Hanford Nuclear Site lies in a deserted area of the Columbia River basin in Washington State. At one time it was the largest facility for plutonium production in the world, but these activities ceased in 1987. Photograph by Kazuma Momoi. Top: Church Rock mine in New Mexico yielded millions of tons of uranium ore until it closed in 1982. Workers are shown drilling holes in which explosives were placed to break up the rock. Photograph by Hiromitsu Toyosaki. Left: This Navajo woman lost her husband, a uranium mine worker. She is pictured in Red Rock, Arizona. Photograph by Hiromitsu Toyosaki. Damage from Nuclear Testing More than 2,000 nuclear bomb tests were performed by the United States, the former Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, China, and other nations until the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996. India, Pakistan, and North Korea did not sign the treaty and have performed ten known tests since 1996, most recently in 2017. All tests since 1962 have been performed underground. Before that date, the radiation and fallout from atmospheric tests were hazardous to all living things and caused environmental devastation. According to the November/December 1998 issue of Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 935 nuclear tests were performed in Nevada, 828 of which were underground as stated by the US Government. Sink holes caused by underground tests are visible in this photograph. Photograph courtesy of the U. S. Department of Energy. During the 1950s, people who lived where prevailing winds from atmospheric tests exposed them to fallout were sometimes known as “downwinders.” In St. George, Utah, many downwinders were exposed to fallout. This woman lost her son to leukemia in 1959 and her husband to cancer in 1983. Two of her remaining four children are suffering from brain tumors. Photograph by Hiromitsu Toyosaki. Top: The vacant lot of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site in the former Soviet Union. Photograph by Takashi Morizumi. Left: Before atmospheric testing ended in 1962, it caused injuries to indigenous people in the Pacific. This boy was exposed to a test on Bikini Island. Photograph provided by U.S. military forces.