Nuclear Development

Nuclear Energy Agency

1990-066X (online)
1990-0678 (print)
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A series of publications from the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency on various aspects of nuclear development. The publications in this series provide authoritative, reliable information on nuclear technologies, economics, strategies and resources to governments for use in policy analyses and decision making.

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Managing Environmental and Health Impacts of Uranium Mining

Managing Environmental and Health Impacts of Uranium Mining You do not have access to this content

Nuclear Energy Agency

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20 June 2014
9789264216044 (PDF)

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Uranium mining and milling has evolved significantly over the years. By comparing currently leading approaches with outdated practices, this report demonstrates how uranium mining can be conducted in a way that protects workers, the public and the environment. Innovative, modern mining practices combined with strictly enforced regulatory standards are geared towards avoiding past mistakes committed primarily during the early history of the industry when maximising uranium production was the principal operating consideration. Today’s leading practices in uranium mining aim at producing uranium in an efficient and safe manner that limits environmental impacts to acceptable standards. As indicated in this report, the collection of baseline environmental data, environmental monitoring and public consultation throughout the life cycle of the mine enables verification that the facility is operating as planned, provides early warning of any potentially adverse impacts on the environment and keeps stakeholders informed of developments. Leading practice also supports planning for mine closure before mine production is licensed to ensure that the mining lease area is returned to an environmentally acceptable condition. The report highlights the importance of mine workers being properly trained and well equipped, as well as that of ensuring that their work environment is well ventilated so as to curtail exposure to radiation and hazardous materials and thereby minimise health impacts.

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Table of Contents

Executive summary 9
Chapter 1. Introduction and overview 13
-Purpose 13
-Nuclear power and uranium requirements 14
-Uranium supply 15
-Past and present uranium mining practices 16
-Historical development of mining regulation and licensing 17
-Mining types and life cycle operational phases 20
-References 24
Chapter 2. A Comparision of key operational challenges 27
Worker health and safety 27
-Conventional (non-radiological) worker health and safety 27
-Current status 27
-Regulatory and societal expectations 28
-Historical trends 28
-Development of leading practices 28
-Case study: Historic uranium mining in the United States 30
-Case study: McArthur River underground mine, Canada 33
-References 35
Worker radiation protection 36
-Current status 37
-Regulatory and societal expectations 38
-Historical trends 38
-Development of leading practices 38
-Occupational radiation protection 38
-External gamma exposure 39
-Inhalation of long-lived alpha activity (LLAA) 39
-Inhalation of radon decay products (RDPs) 40
-Total occupational doses 42
-Worker radiation exposure at leading practice mining facilities 42
-Case study: Wismut mining health impacts, Germany 43
-Case study: Olympic Dam radiation protection, Australia 46
-References 49
Public health and safety 50
-Current status 50
-Regulatory and societal expectations 51
-Historical trends 51
Development of leading practices 52
Public radiation exposure pathways 52
-Emanation of radon and subsequent inhalation of RDPs 52
-Dust generation and subsequent inhalation of LLAA 53
-Direct gamma exposure 53
-Ingestion of LLAA 53
-Total public doses 54
-Case study: Schlema radon issues arising from past practices, Germany 54
-Case study: Long-term public radiation doses from radon in uranium mill tailings 57
-References 58
Water quality 59
-Current status 59
-Regulatory and societal expectations 60
-Historical trends 60
-Development of leading practices 61
-Case study: Taboshar legacy site, Tajikistan 63
-Case study: Key Lake water management, Canada 66
-References 69
In situ leach (ISL) 69
-Environmental impact assessment (EIA) 71
-Radiation protection 72
-Waste generation and disposal 73
-Case study: Straž pod Ralskem ISL, Czech Republic 74
-Case study: Beverley ISL, Australia 75
-References 77
Tailings 79
-Tailings composition 79
-Tailings containment 79
-Current status 80
-Regulatory and societal expectations 80
-Historical trends 80
-Development of leading practices 81
-Case study: Helmsdorf tailings impoundment, Germany 83
-Case study: Cluff Lake tailings management area, Canada 85
-Case study: McClean Lake tailings management facility (TMF), Canada 87
-References 90
Waste rock 91
-Current status 91
-Regulatory and societal expectations 91
-Historical trends 92
-Development of leading practices 92
-Case study: Pocos de Caldas waste rock disposal, Brazil 92
-Case study: McClean Lake mine rock segregation, Canada 94
-References 96
Chapter 3. Modern life cycle parameters 97
Public consultation 97
-Case study: Talvivaara uranium recovery plant, Finland 99
-References 102
Environmental impact assessment (EIA) 102
-Case study: Moore Ranch Supplemental Environmental Assessment, United States 103
-References 108
Socio-economic impacts/benefits 109
-Case study: Socio-economic impacts of uranium mining, Kazakhstan 111
-References 113
Environmental monitoring 113
-Case study: Athabasca Working Group, Canada 115
-References 116
Financial assurance 117
-Case study: Saskatchewan Institutional Control Program, Canada 119
-References 120
Product transport 121
-Case study: Emergency preparedness in uranium transport, Canada 123
-References 125
Emergency planning 125
-Case study: Uranium production facilities, Kazakhstan 127
-References 129
Security and safeguards 130
-Reporting of nuclear security incidents 131
-References 132
Knowledge transfer 132
-References 134
Chapter 4. Conclusion and recommendations 135
Annex 1. Abbreviations and acronyms 139

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