'Born in an Atomic Test Tube’: Landscapes of cyclonic development at Uranium City, Saskatchewan

Keeling, Arn (2010) 'Born in an Atomic Test Tube’: Landscapes of cyclonic development at Uranium City, Saskatchewan. The Canadian Geographer, 54 (2). pp. 228-252. ISSN 1541-0064

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Drawing together insights from neo-Innisian geography and environmental history, this paper explores the landscape and environmental changes engendered by ‘cyclonic’ patterns of development associated with uranium production at Uranium City, Saskatchewan. Strong postwar demand for uranium led to the establishment and rapid expansion of Uranium City on the north shore of Lake Athabasca as a ‘yellowcake town,’ dedicated to producing uranium oxide concentrate to supply federal government contracts with the United States military. In spite of optimistic assessments for the region’s industrial future, the new settlement remained inherently unstable, tied to shifting institutional arrangements and external markets, and haunted by the spectre of resource depletion. The planning and development of the townsite at Uranium City reflected both neo-colonial desires to open the north to Euro-Canadian settlement and efforts by the state to buffer the stormy effects of resource dependency. Ultimately, however, quixotic government efforts to implant an outpost of industrial modernity in the Athabasca Region failed to forestall the inevitable winds of change, which left in their wake destructive legacies of social dislocation and environmental degradation, already evident with the near-collapse of the uranium export market by the early 1960s.

Item Type: Article
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/640
Item ID: 640
Keywords: Uranium mining, Environment, Single industry towns, Aboriginal peoples, Historical geography, Staples economies
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Geography
Date: January 2010
Date Type: Publication

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