An important part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Legacy Management’s (LM) mission is to partner with tribal communities within the Navajo Nation. LM participated in “STEM-sation Day” at Shiprock High School in New Mexico on March 14, 2018, to promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) studies and careers.
More than 580 9th through 12th grade science students participated in the event, along with 15 different tribal and federal agencies who engaged them using hands-on activities that promote STEM learning. The event was organized by the Navajo Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation (AML)/Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) Program and the Navajo Transitional Energy Company.
“This was a great opportunity for our students and organizations to meet some young people and get them interested in STEM careers, majors, and STEM projects. It was a win-win for everybody,” stated John Tohtsoni, Jr., Shiprock High School principal. He added that this is the first partnership the high school has had with Navajo AML/UMTRA, and the event location was selected because of the nearby former uranium mill tailings sites.
As part of the event, students learned about the nearby Shiprock disposal site. They were given an overview of the site’s disposal cell, which encapsulates low-level radioactive material generated from uranium milling operations between 1954 and 1968. When operating, the mill used leaching processes to separate uranium from crushed ore. The radioactive “tailings” left behind were placed in the disposal cell. Students also learned about an evaporation pond and LM activities to clean contaminated groundwater using extraction wells.
The site was remediated under the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978 Title I program. LM performs long-term surveillance and maintenance at the site, working closely with the Navajo AML/UMTRA Program under a cooperative agreement. LM’s mission is to fulfill DOE’s post-closure responsibilities and ensure the future protection of human health and the environment. For more information about LM, visit https://www.energy.gov/lm/office-legacy-management.