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Breaking Green: The Navajo Nation’s Battle with Uranium Mining’s Toxic Legacy with Justin Ahasteen

Christopher Nolan’s movie Oppenheimer captured the imagination of the nation as it dramatized the super-secret Manhattan Project that was responsible for creating the first atomic bomb. But what about the legacy of radioactive waste that the US weapons Development Program left across the United States?  According to victims whose diseases were caused by exposure to US weapons development programs, the movie’s oversight of the project’s toxic legacy was an insult. Now a bill in Congress may help address some illnesses caused by nuclear weapons development. It may also recognize victims exposed to radiation who have long been overlooked, but it is, according to many, not enough and only a start when it comes to addressing devastating illnesses. 


Justin Ahasteen

On this episode of Breaking Green, we will talk with Justin Ahasteen, the Executive Director of the Navajo Nation Washington Office, about the history of radiation contamination on the Navajo Nation from uranium mining, the US government’s lack of transparency, its failure to remediate radiation hotspots, as well as hopes for some relief when it comes to the reauthorization of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.

Justin Ahasteen is executive director of the Navajo Nation Washington Office. He has been awarded the Presidential Volunteer Service Award with Silver Distinction. Justin was appointed as Executive Director by President Boo Nygren in 2023. Ahasteen has significantly impacted federal Indian policy and indigenous advocacy, focusing on infrastructure, veteran affairs, social services, health and public safety for the Navajo Nation. His academic credentials include an associate’s in applied science and public administration, a bachelor’s of arts in justice studies with a public administration minor, and he is nearing completion of a master of legal studies in indigenous law.


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Transcripts and Chapter Markers for this Episode can be found on Breaking Green’s Buzzsprout Page.

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