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France leaves radioactive legacy in uranium mine tailings

When the mines are shut down, the radioactive waste remains, and it seems that the costs for managing this radioactive legacy will have to be largely supported by the society, not the companies.

Radiological hazards from uranium mining: Problems posed by the disposal of tailings, League of Individuals for the Environment, Inc, Bruno Chareyron, 5 Jan 2011, The disposal of radioactive tailings and their control on the long term, has not receivedyet satisfying solutions, taking into consideration their activity, radiotoxicityand long half-lives. Some examples from France (where about 50 million tonsof tailings are stored) and Niger are given below.

In France 1.5 million tons of tailings have been dumped in a former open pit(Bellezane mine) but the CRIIRAD laboratory discovered that the finest fractionof the radioactive material could reach the underground galleries underneath the pit.

Furthermore, the mine water treatment plant was not efficient enough to preventthe contamination of the river and meadows downstream (Chareyron andCastanier 1994, Chareyron 2006).In Niger, more than 20 million tons of radioactive tailings are stored in the openair, near SOMAÏR and COMINAK mills, a few kilometers away from the cities ofARLIT and AKOKAN (about 70,000 inhabitants). Radon gas and radioactive dustcan be scattered away by the powerfull winds of the desert (Chareyron 2003,2005b, 2008a).Conclusion

At all the French uranium mines where it made radiological surveys, the CRIIRAD laboratory discovered situations of environmental contamination and a lack ofproper protection of the inhabitants against health risks due to ionizing radiation. When the mines are shut down, the radioactive waste remains, and it seems that the costs for managing this radioactive legacy will have to be largely supported bythe society, not the companies.If such a situation occurs in a so-called “developed country” one should fearwhat could actually happen in other parts of the world.The preliminary mission made by CRIIRAD to Niger confirmed this fear.In Gabon, the improvement of the conditions in which tailings are disposed is being paid for by the EuropeanCommunity and not by the mining company…..

League of Individuals for the Environment, Inc.: Radiological hazards from uranium mining: Problems posed by the disposal of tailings

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January 12, 2011 - Posted by | France, Uranium, wastes

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