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In the 1950s, as the Cold War was rapidly escalating and Americans were increasingly concerned with the perceived communist threat, tens-of-thousands of prospectors flocked to the Colorado Plateau in search of uranium to meet U.S. security needs in the form of materials to build atom bombs.
A few fortunes were made overnight, both from discoveries of uranium mines and from stocks in uranium ventures; but many hopefuls simply lost their savings, and the most poignant legacy of America's last great mineral boom are three generations of Americans suffering from increased cancer rates.
Atomic Stampede, a documentary from KUED, Channel 7's award-winning Senior Producer Ken Verdoia, examines the tumultuous times of the Cold War uranium boom in the Four Corners area.
Atomic Stampede depicts a government fearing America lacked the uranium needed to build atomic weapons, and the rush of prospectors motivated by patriotism and by dreams of instant riches to the rugged landscape of the Intermountain West.
"The program traces, in a very compelling way, and often through the voices of the immediate participants, how the Intermountain West became a honeycomb of uranium mines, and came to fuel a fledgling atomic weapons program," said producer/writer/director, Verdoia.
Atomic Stampede also documents, for the first time anywhere, the rise and fall of the penny stock market that emerged in Salt Lake City in conjunction with the uranium boom.
Finally, the program chronicles the painful human saga of the men who daily entered the poorly ventilated uranium mines and exposed themselves to lethal doses of radiation. Former miners fell, and are falling, to cancer in appalling numbers, and Atomic Stampede reveals that most of these deaths could have been avoided if the warnings of scientists had been heeded.
More than 30 individuals were interviewed for Atomic Stampede, which was filmed over four different states.
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