2023 3M Truth in Science Award, Small/Medium Newsroom finalist

A Uranium Ghost Town in the Making

About the Project

America’s uranium industry collapsed four decades ago, but has not stopped damaging health and the environment.

When ProPublica learned federal agencies tasked with regulating the industry had never fully audited its successes and failures in cleaning up the nation’s 50-plus former uranium mills, we decided to do it ourselves. Our first-of-its-kind analysis, which involved reviewing thousands of pages of government and corporate documents, identified more than 250 million tons of uranium mill waste that has yet to be cleaned up or has been improperly handled. Some of the radioactive tailings have scattered into nearby communities, spilled into streams and leaked into aquifers.

Nowhere was harm more evident than the Homestake site in northwest New Mexico, where our reporting exposed a company buying out hundreds of property owners, requesting residents sign nondisparagement agreements and liability waivers, and tearing down a once-vibrant community in the name of cleanup.