Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Analysis

Reader 1

Melinda Herrold-Menzies

Reader 2

Urmi Willoughby

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© 2023 Sophie Arens


The United States withheld information pertaining to the health problems associated with nuclear power, allowing uranium to be extracted, processed, and stored in the Southwest of the United States and more specifically the Navajo Nation. With this, many Diné people who had previously worked in the mines or lived within close vicinity to facilities developed various types of illnesses. This thesis argues that the development of nuclear energy in the United States is a form of radioactive, internal colonialism and that the current waste facility located in Carlsbad, New Mexico is furthering this history into the present day. This thesis examines the stages of uranium mining production, the United States' incentives for uranium extraction, the associated health risks, and significant nuclear spill events in order to present a holistic history of nuclear energy. The research includes a historical overview of how the United States government neglected to provide the proper information about the harms associated with nuclear power as a tool to perpetuate environmental racism as well as radioactive, internal colonialism. With this, the paper analyzes the role Indigenous-founded activist groups played in combating these injustices. The investigation of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, which is the only official national geologic respiratory waste facility in the United States, inspects the current prevailing dangers of nuclear energy. With this, the thesis concludes that nuclear energy as an alternative energy source to shift away from oil and gas will continue to commit acts of violence against Indigenous populations.