Uravan to commemorate history, atomic heritage
Courtesy Photo/Uravan.com, John Galley
Every year, people gather to celebrate the town that provided uranium and minerals for the nation’s defense arsenal. The Uranium History Celebration and Historic Picnic will be held on Saturday, Aug. 31, at the old Uravan Ball Park on Highway 141 at Mile Marker 74. The picnic will begin at 11 a.m. and go till 3 p.m.. There will be historical displays and door prizes, and food provided by Smokin’ Charlie’s BBQ will available for purchase. The event is free to attend and open to the public. There is likely to be “Yellow Cake” to be served for dessert. The celebration will be co-hosted by the Rimrockers Historical Society and Cold War Patriots.
Anyone who has an association with Uravan or the uranium industry is encouraged to attend.
Uravan was first established as a radium recovery plant, also known as the Joe Jr. Mill, shortly after 1912. The mill was later converted for the purpose of vanadium extraction. Even the town’s name attests to its goals: “Uravan” comes from a mashup of the words uranium and vanadium. The significance of Uravan’s contribution is often understated, but without uranium ore, which was mined and milled locally, America’s nuclear arsenal composition would likely be much different than it is today.
Uravan was established as a U.S. Vanadium Corporation company town in 1936, and most of the workers lived on site. Several key structures were added to expand the town, including a post office, health clinic, schools, fire station, swimming pool, tennis courts and other amenities for the residents, workers, and families to enjoy. According to Uravan.com, at one point, over 800 people lived in the immediate vicinity. Uravan sat alongside the San Miguel River, and San Miguel waters were used to mill and processed extracted ore.
The Uravan operation was eventually shut down and a $70 million dollar cleanup process began in 1986. Remediation included monumental undertakings such as disposing of radioactive tailings, filling in processing ponds, treating ground water, dismantling two mills and deconstructing all buildings, houses, and signage. Structures, mine tailings, and materials were moved into a giant pit, and then covered in cement and gravel.
Although the physical structures are gone, the spirit of those who were raised and worked at Uravan remains strong.
The event organizers are planning for several hundred attendees. In recent years, the attendance has been between 500 and 800 people. The venue is handicap accessible, and there will be shade and seating provided under large tents.
Cold War Patriots is a nationwide nonprofit organization with over 10,000 members nationwide. Their mission is to connect former nuclear and uranium workers to information and resources they may need. They will be providing information and giveaways at this year’s picnic.
Courtesy Photo/Kenneth Bonner, Rimrockers Historical Society