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February 15, 2022

Miss Atomic Energy Competition, circa 1955

Throughout the 1950s, during the Cold War, the United States Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) developed atomic energy projects in the U.S.

The AEC initiated a domestic uranium production program that triggered a uranium boom in western Colorado as much of the mining and processing of uranium took place on the Colorado Plateau in western Colorado and eastern Utah.

The western Colorado town of Grand Junction was at the center of uranium production. The community even hosted a “Miss Atomic Energy” competition, a contest sponsored by the Uranium Ore Producers Association and the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce.

In 1955, the second Miss Atomic Energy contest was held in downtown Grand Junction. The winner that year was Karen Keeler of Denver, who is shown here holding her crown. She is touching her winnings, which included a truckload of uranium ore, amounting to 11.2 tonnes worth $523.54. (about $5,000 in today dollars).

The caption on this image from the Museum of Western Colorado reads: (third from left) Karen Keeler of Denver is crowned Miss Atomic Energy, winning a truckload full of uranium ore. Left to right: Shirley Riggs, Eugene H. Sanders, Karen Keeler, Cathy Gordon, Jo Reva Beane, and Barbara Talarico.


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