The promise of jobs from a proposed uranium mill has an economically devastated mining community in Colorado hopeful for the first time in decades. When environmentalists step in to stop the mill, pro-mill advocates are enraged. A debate ensues, pitting jobs against health and the environment. The question remains: is uranium worth it?
Uranium Drive-In is a story about an economically devastated rural mining community in southwestern Colorado that finds itself hopeful for the first time in decades. Their potential salvation? A return to the "glory days" of the past: uranium mining and milling. Over 100 miles from the nearest traffic light sits the town of Naturita, Colorado, population 519. Right up through the mid-1980s, it was booming from decades worth of uranium mining and milling; but today, many of its businesses are boarded up, unemployment is high and even the elementary school is for sale. Its residents are desperate. The poverty level is three times the national average. Enter Energy Fuels, Inc. and their proposal for the Pinon Ridge Uranium Mill. Many townsfolk couldn't be happier about what would be the first mill of its kind built in the U.S. in 30 years. A mill that would mean nothing less than reconnection to their proud and powerful history with uranium, the uranium used to build the first atomic bomb, the same uranium that ushered in the Nuclear Age. Naturita's old-timer "Cold War Patriots," once considered protectors of our country during wartime, now see another opportunity for patriotism, one championed by our president: finding a greener energy source, freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil and finding energy here at home. Not everyone shares these feelings. A handful of residents quietly oppose the mill. Less quietly, a regional environmental group is determined to bring the project to a standstill. Still struggling with severe health and environmental consequences of the last uranium boom and the superfund cleanups it necessitated, the majority of the community nevertheless wants to believe industry spokespersons' claims that today's methods will be "clean and green." But not everyone believes them. The film portrays the conflict between two very real, very basic human rights: the right to support yourself by having a decent, well paying job in your community, and the right to live a healthy life without the threat of environmental hazards. But it goes further, exploring a dilemma that faces the nation (and the world) with continuing worldwide power demands. We introduce our audience to a community most of America is unfamiliar with, while at the same time exploring the diversity of thought and attitudes of that community. Visually, we are presenting both the beauty of the landscape and the immense destruction to that landscape that is the consequence of our national policy decisions. It is our hope that Uranium Drive-In will offer a different perspective that will spark dialogue about where our energy comes from, who are the people who work in this industry, and how their lives are impacted.