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Uranium Drive-In:  Half Life of the American Dream cover photo

Uranium Drive-In: Half Life of the American Dream 2014

Highly Recommended

Distributed by First Run Features, 630 Ninth Avenue, Suite 1213, New York, NY 10036; 212-243-0600
Produced by Judith Kohin, Michelle Maughan, and Casey Nay for Reelthing/New Day Films
Directed by Susan Beraza
DVD , color, 88 min.

High School - General Adult
Energy, Ecology, Mining, Sociology, West (U.S.)

Date Entered: 11/19/2015

Reviewed by Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State University Libraries, Bowling Green, OH

Energy Fuels acquired the Piñon Ridge site in western Colorado’s Paradox Valley in 2007 intending to build a uranium processing mill. The mill was to have been supplied with ore from reopened mines near Nucla, Colorado. Licensing was obtained in 2011 and subsequently rejected in the courts following lawsuits by the Sheep Mountain Alliance of Telluride claiming the regulators ignored the mining operation’s threat to their watershed. Essentially, this film depicts the complex adversarial positions taken by the unemployed miners of Nucla and advocates who hoped to insure that populations downstream would not be threatened by possible water contamination from uranium mining.

This is a superb film that presents convincing arguments for both sides: employment and prosperity, the hope of a future for residents of Nucla, compared with the threat of a poisoned watershed to the residents of Telluride. Both sides of the argument are convincingly addressed through interviews with Nucla residents and members of the Sheep Mountain Alliance, with the real evidence being presented through archival imagery of boom and bust in Uravan, Colorado. Uravan, located less than 13 miles from Nucla was named a superfund cleanup site in 1984. Cleanup, which involved total destruction of Uravan and removal of radioactive waste, began in 1986 and was effectively completed by 2013. Access to the Uravan area is still restricted due to the presence of radioactivity. Home movies of Uravan, mostly from 1948 to the late 1950’s, show its vibrant society and healthy economy. The Uravan of the past and Nucla of the present contrast sharply. Uravan contamination, nearly 20 years in the cleanup, underlines the real threat of watershed contamination downstream.

Uranium Drive-In is highly recommended. Energy Fuels interest in Piñon Ridge varied with the economy. Uranium prices rose gradually from Chernobyl (1986) to again becoming high enough to be profitable by 2007. Fukushima (2011) put a temporary halt to uranium profitability and the mill was delayed. The Sheep Mountain Alliance first delayed licensing and then caused the licensing to be revoked in the courts. Uranium mining is the only major source of employment in Nucla. It slowly and poignantly becomes apparent to the viewer that the people of Nucla are stuck. There is no remedy that the courts and government can offer them. There is no hope of relocation, no hope of reinventing a source for an economy. No hope at all ...


  • Winner, Big Sky Film Festival, 2014