Environmental Radioactive Impact Associated to Uranium Production
Fernando P. Carvalho
DOI : 10.3844/ajessp.2011.547.553
American Journal of Environmental Sciences
Volume 7, Issue 6
Problem statement: One century of uranium mining in Europe and North-America created a legacy of ore mining and milling sites needing rehabilitation for environmental and human safety. In the last decades developments of uranium mining displaced the core of this activity to Australia, Canada and African countries. In the coming years, uranium mining is expected to grow further, in those countries and elsewhere, due to the possible increase of nuclear power production and thus the amount of radioactive and toxic tailing materials will grow. Approach: International radiation protection guidelines and legislation have known recent developments and set the radiation dose limit applied to members of the public at 1 mSv y-1. Taking into account past and present uranium waste management and environmental remediation measures adopted already in some countries, we assessed the implications of enforcing this new dose limit in uranium milling and mining areas. Results: The radioactive impact of uranium mining and milling was illustrated through case studies. Environmental radioactivity monitoring and surveillance carried out in areas impacted by uranium mining and milling industry showed generally that dose limit for members of the public was exceeded. The compliance with this dose limit is nowadays the main goal for environmental remediation programs of legacy sites implemented in European Union countries. Taking into account the new radiation protection regulations, a change is required in mining practices from traditionally reactionary (problem solving) to proactive (integrated management) and life-cycle approach. Conclusion: A new paradigm in uranium mining should be implemented worldwide to ensure reduced environmental radioactivity impact current and future reduced radiation risk exposure of population.
© 2011 Fernando P. Carvalho. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.