Federal GOP legislators from Wyoming have said a rule was an unnecessary burden for the uranium industry NBC5 Jan 5, 2017 CHEYENNE, Wyo. —
Federal officials withdrew a requirement for companies to clean up groundwater at uranium mines across the U.S. and will reconsider a rule that congressional Republicans criticized as too harsh on industry.
The plan that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency put on hold Wednesday involves in-situ mining, in which water containing chemicals is used to dissolve uranium out of underground sandstone deposits. Water laden with uranium, a toxic element used for nuclear power and weapons, is then pumped to the surface. No digging or tunneling takes place.
The metal occurs in the rock naturally but the process contaminates groundwater with uranium in concentrations much higher than natural levels. Mining companies take several measures to prevent tainted water from seeping out of the immediate mining area…….
Along with setting new cleanup standards, the rule would have required companies to monitor their former in-situ mines potentially for decades. The requirement was set for implementation but now will be opened up for a six-month public comment period.
EPA officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Environmentalists and others say uranium-mining companies have yet to show they can fully clean up groundwater at a former in-situ mine. Clean groundwater should not be taken for granted, they say, especially in the arid and increasingly populated U.S. West.
“We are, of course, disappointed that this final rule didn’t make it to a final stage,” said Shannon Anderson with the Powder River Basin Resource Council. “It was designed to address a very real and pressing problem regarding water protection at uranium mines.”
The EPA rule is scheduled for further consideration in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.
In-situ uranium mining surged on record prices that preceded the 2011 Japanese tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster. Prices lately have sunk to decade lows, prompting layoffs. http://www.mynbc5.com/article/woman-who-lost-her-leg-receives-very-generous-gift/8570346
Depleted uranium, used in some types of ammunition and military armour, is the dense, low-cost leftover once uranium has been processed….
A high-ranking official from Veterans Affairs says a handful of vets mistakenly believe their bodies have been damaged by depleted uranium…..
the Federal Court of Canada has found depleted uranium to be an issue. The court ruled the Veterans Affairs Department must compensate retired serviceman Steve Dornan for a cancer his doctors say resulted from exposure to depleted uranium residue.
Poisoned soldier plans hunger strike at minister’s office in exchange for care, Montreal CTV.ca Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press, 30 Oct 11, MONTREAL — An ex-soldier who says he was poisoned while serving overseas is planning to go on a hunger strike outside the office of Canada’s veterans affairs minister until he gets medical treatment.
Or until he dies.
Donald Trump Is the Stock Market’s Most Interesting Man, Bloomberg, by Joseph Ciolli and
Uranium ETF surges right after post as underlying shares soar
Icahn pick moves stocks the investor has previously rebuked
Donald Trump’s still the most interesting man in the world for U.S. stock investors.
A Twitter post from the President-elect signaling support for beefing up America’s nuclear arsenal sent shares in uranium miners surging……..
Trump’s call for expanded nuclear capability erased a loss of 2 percent in an exchange-traded fund tracking a basket of uranium miners. Uranium Energy Corp. climbed as much as 14 percent intraday to lead gains in the fund, while Mega Uranium Ltd. and Laramide Resources Ltd. are on pace to gain more than 3.7 percent…….
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. shares have surged 32 percent, touching the highest since 2007 this week, to lead financial shares higher on speculation Trump will roll back industry regulations. Goldman alumni dot the billionaire’s inner circle, with his picks for Treasury secretary, economic adviser and chief strategist all having ties to the investment bank………https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-12-22/trump-stock-market-s-most-interesting-man-as-tweet-roils-nuclear
There is increasing worldwide support for a Depleted Uranium ban….There is a growing consensus among civil society groups, scientists and
some military organisations that the health risks from DU have been seriously underestimated.
Latest documents advocating the ban of depleted uranium. By Jerry Mazza, Online Journal, 23 July 2010, US Armed Forces Radiobiology Institute Between 2000 and 2003, Dr Alexandra Miller of AFFRI was at the forefront of US Government sponsored research into DU�s chemical toxicity and radioactivity. Through a series of peer-reviewed papers, Dr Miller and her colleagues demonstrated for the first time that internalised DU oxides could result in �a significant enhancement of urinary mutagenicity,� that they can transform human cells into cells capable of producing cancerous tumours,
……and that DU was capable of inducing DNA damage in the absence of significant radioactive decay, i.e. through its chemical toxicity alone. In one study, 76% of mice implanted with DU pellets developed leukaemia.
�There is increasing worldwide support for a DU ban. In 2007 Belgium became the first country in the world to ban all conventional weapons containing uranium with �other states set to follow their example. Meanwhile the Italian government agreed to a 170m Euro compensation package for personnel exposed to uranium weapons in the Balkans.
Later that year the UN General Assembly passed a resolution highlighting serious health concerns over DU and in May 2008, 94% of MEPs in the European Parliament strengthened four previous calls for a moratorium by calling for a DU ban treaty in a wide-ranging resolution. In December 2008 141 states in the UN General Assembly ordered the World Health Organisation, International Atomic Energy Agency and United Nations Environment Programme to update their positions on the long-term health and environmental threat that uranium weapons pose.
With more than 100 member organisations worldwide, ICBUW represents the best opportunity yet to achieve a global ban on the use of uranium in all conventional weapon systems. Even though the use of weapons containing uranium should already be illegal under International Humanitarian, Human Rights and Environmental Laws, an explicit treaty, as has been seen with chemical and biological weapons, landmines and cluster bombs, has proved the best solution for confirming their illegality. Such a treaty would not only outlaw the use of uranium weapons, but would include the prohibition of their production, the destruction of stockpiles, the decontamination of battlefields and rules on compensation for victims.
ICBUW has prepared a draft treaty, which contains a general and comprehensive prohibition of the development, production, transport, storage, possession, transfer and use of uranium ammunition.
There is a growing consensus among civil society groups, scientists and
some military organisations that the health risks from DU have been seriously underestimated. Establishment scientific bodies have been slow to react to the wealth of new research into DU and policy makers have been content to ignore the claims of researchers and activists. Deliberate obfuscation by the mining, nuclear and arms industries has further hampered efforts to recognise the problem and achieve a ban. The past failure of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional �Weapons to deal with landmines and cluster bombs suggests that an independent treaty process is the best route to limiting the further use and proliferation of uranium weapons.
As enshrined in the Geneva Conventions, the methods and means of warfare are not unlimited. We must not allow the short term military advantage claimed for uranium weapons to override our responsibility for the long-term welfare of people and planet.
Writing on the wall for Paladin Energy Ltd, y Mike King – December 1, 2016 Uranium miner Paladin Energy Ltd (ASX: PDN) faces the prospect of being unable to repay US$212 million due in April 2017 and being forced into liquidation.
The troubled company has seen its share price slump more than 65% this year alone. The planned sale of 24% of its Langer Heinrich Mine (LHM) to CNNC Overseas Uranium Holdings (COUH) for US$175 million appears unlikely to complete before the end of 2016. Now Paladin has been forced to consider other ‘contingencies’ to repay the 2017 convertible bonds.
Not only that but Paladin also needs to raise working capital as it struggles to generate positive cash flow with uranium prices trading under US$20 per pound – the lowest prices in more than 12 years. As Paladin admits, that’s a level that no producer in the world can sustainably break even, and most producers are experiencing negative cash flows.
That’s a long way away from Paladin’s all-in cash expenditure of extracting uranium of US$38.75 per pound (lb). Even the company’s C1 cash costs of US$25.88/lb are well above the spot price of uranium. Paladin is forecasting all-in costs of around US$30/lb for the 2017 financial year, but it’s clear that even at that level, the company is going backwards.
Energy Resources of Australia Limited (ASX: ERA), majority owned by Rio Tinto Limited(ASX: RIO) faces a similar prospect to Paladin and is likely to shut up shop in 2021, once it has finished processing stockpiles at its Ranger uranium mine.
The problem for uranium miners around the world is that since the Fukushima nuclear incident in 2011, uranium prices have steadily fallen from above US$60/lb to its current price under US$20/lb……
Paladin faces the prospect of sinking into administration unless it can find a white knight willing to take a minority stake in its mine – or make an outright bid for the whole company.
That appears highly unlikely. http://www.fool.com.au/2016/12/01/writing-on-the-wall-for-paladin-energy-ltd/
Koodankulam struggle: Western nations are learning from their mistakes, India is not, The Weekend Leader, By Nityanand Jayaraman & Sundar Rajan, 30 Nov “…..In Jadugoda, Jharkhand, where India’s uranium is mined by the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd, the effects of radiation among the local adivasi population are horrendous.
Indian Doctors for Peace and Development, a national chapter of the Nobel-winning International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War, recently published a health study on Jadugoda. The study found that:
• Primary sterility is more common in people residing near uranium mining operations.
• More children with congenital deformities are being born to mothers living near uranium mining operations.
• Congenital defects as a cause of death of children are higher among mothers living near uranium mines.
• Cancer as a cause of death is more common in villages surrounding uranium operations.
• Life expectancy of people living near uranium mining operations is lower than Jharkhand’s state average and lower than in villages far removed from the mines.
• All these indicators of poor health and increased vulnerability are despite the fact that the affected villages have a better economic and literacy status than reference villages….. http://www.theweekendleader.com/Causes/833/Nuking-myths.html
Desperate uranium miners switch to survival mode despite nuclear rebound, Reuters, 7 OCT 16 LONDON “……..BULGING INVENTORIES Mining executives partly blame the slump on their customers’ wait-and-see attitude, as utilities believe that the uranium market’s over-capacity will persist for years and see no need to rebuild their dwindling stockpiles.
Demand for uranium is determined by the number of nuclear plants in operation worldwide, but supply and demand are disjointed by huge stocks and uranium’s long production cycle……..
In the five years before Fukushima, utilities worldwide bought about 200 million pounds of uranium per year, he said. Although Japan’s consumption averaged only around 25 million pounds per year, when it closed its reactors demand was cut far further, falling by half. European and U.S. utilities saw that the market was over-supplied and reduced inventories, buying less.
Mining firm Energy Fuels estimates global uranium stocks held by utilities, miners and governments are now at around 1 billion pounds. That is down from a peak around 2.5 billion pounds in 1990, but still many years’ worth of consumption.
Despite the plunge in uranium prices after the 2008 financial crisis and again after Fukushima, uranium production has doubled from 80-90 million pounds in the mid-1990s to about 160 million pounds last year, according to Energy Fuels data……
With so much new supply, and demand sliding, prices have fallen to a level where most uranium miners operate at a loss.
“At today’s spot prices, the primary uranium mining industry is not sustainable,” US uranium producer Energy Fuels COO Mark Chalmers told the World Nuclear Association’s London conference last month.
He added that many legacy long-term supply contracts will expire in 2017-18, which will force many mines to close or throttle back even further than they already have.
Miners like Canada’s Cameco, France’s Areva and the uranium arms of global mining companies have closed or mothballed several mines and deferred new projects in order to cut back supply.
Paladin – the world’s second-largest independent pure-play uranium miner after Cameco and the seventh or eighth-largest globally – has production capacity of 8 million pounds of yellowcake uranium but produced just 4.9 million pounds last year at its Langer Heinrich mine in Namibia.
Molyneux said the firm will produce about 4 million pounds this year and will cut output further to about 3.5 million pounds next year if prices do not recover.
Paladin suspended production at its 2.3 million pounds per year capacity Kayelekera mine in northern Malawi in 2014 but maintains equipment so it can resume when prices recover.
Meanwhile it is trying to further reduce its debt, which already fell from $1.2 billion five years ago to $362 million.
Paladin has agreed to sell 24 pct of Langer Heinrich to the China National Nuclear Company and plans to use the expected proceeds of 175 million dollars to further reduce debt.
Bigger peer Cameco in April suspended production at its Rabbit Lake, Canada mine while also curtailing output across its U.S. operations, saying market conditions could not support the operating and capital costs needed to sustain production.
Cameco marketing head Tim Gabruch told the WNA conference that “desperate times call for desperate measures”.
Supply adjustments and producer discipline had not yet been sufficient to counter the loss of demand, he said.”As difficult as those decisions have been, we recognize that those actions may not be enough.”(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; editing by Peter Graff) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-uranium-nuclearpower-idUSKCN1230EF
Uranium Mining in Niger: Tuareg Activist Takes on French Nuclear Company,Spiegel.de By Cordula Meyer Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan, 2 Oct 16
Some 2,200 people work there. In the plant, workers break apart large pieces of rock, grind them into dust and then leach out the uranium using large amounts of water and acid. The end product is a yellow material known as yellowcake. The yellowcake is filled into barrels and then transported in convoys to Benin, 2,500 kilometers (1,560 miles) away. From there, the yellowcake is loaded onto ships bound for Marseilles.
Radioactive Dust Alhacen is a member of the Agir tribe in the Aïr Mountains. His father led camel caravans carrying salt and dates. Alhacen accompanied his father for the first time when he was 11. He began working in the mine about 10 years later, in 1978. His job was to repair the machines that crush the rock. Every evening, he would go home to his family and play with his children, still wearing his dusty work overalls. His wife washed his clothes, which were full of radioactive dust.
The first time Alhacen heard about radiation was in 1986, after the Chernobyl reactor accident. From then on, he was given a paper respiratory mask to wear. Eight years later, a lung ailment forced him to stop working. He was transferred to a new department that handled radiation protection. He is still officially employed there today, but the company has relieved him of his duties. “His suspensions were justified by his inappropriate conduct (unjustified absence etc…),” Areva told SPIEGEL in a statement. Alhacen is worried about his job, because he needs the income for his 13 children. But being furloughed also means that he has more time for his fight, and for the victims.
He now has time, for example, to visit the widow Fatima Taoka in her mud-walled house. Her husband Mamadou worked in the mine, where he drilled the rock into smaller pieces, until he fell ill. “He was always strong, but then he had nothing but pain and became as thin as a stick,” says Fatima. It was something in the lungs and kidneys, she says, but the people at the hospital did not tell her what exactly it was.
‘The Doctors Don’t Tell the Truth’
“They died of diseases that we didn’t understand,” says Alhacen. He says that when he asked hospital staff what had killed his coworkers, he didn’t receive an answer. Sometimes, he says, the doctors said it was AIDS, but this made Alhacen suspicious, because Niger had a low incidence of AIDS. The fact that the hospital belongs to Areva also made him suspicious. It was when Mamadou died that Alhacen decided to set up Aghirin Man.
That was 10 years ago. Since then, he has repeatedly heard accounts of ailments that resemble what happened to Mamadou. While making his rounds, he also visits Amalhe Algabit. The former assistant surveyor still has his I.D. card, coated in plastic, with the number 1328. His chest hurts, and he hides his emaciated body in a white robe and his collapsed face behind a pair of large sunglasses. He often feels as if he were suffocating. He doesn’t know why this is happening to him, but is afraid that he doesn’t have much time left. “I’m already so thin,” he says.
Rakia Agouma is a widow whose husband died on Sept. 23, 2009. For 31 years, he had driven trucks containing rocks in the mine. Three years before his death, he had severe pain in his chest and back, but tried to remain in good spirits. It was what Rakia had always liked about him. When he died at Areva’s hospital, she was apparently told it was malaria. “The doctors don’t tell the truth,” she says. “They’re liars.”
Areva says that everyone in Arlit and Akokan receives free medical treatment, even former workers. The company also claims that not a single worker has died of occupational cancer……….
Areva insists that it has satisfied the highest international standards for maximum radiation doses since 2002. Joseph Brehan, a Paris attorney, says: “The improvements aren’t that significant.” He recently traveled to Arlit to meet with his client, Almoustapha Alhacen. Last year, Areva signed an agreement that authorizes Sherpa to examine the working conditions in the mines. In return, Sherpa must coordinate its activities with Areva. Together they intend to introduce a comprehensive health monitoring system.
Depending on Areva
This is the problem with a powerful corporation. Criirad, Aghirin Man and Sherpa are small organizations that survive on donations. Even Alhacen is a critic that Areva can still tolerate, because he too has arguably made a deal with the devil. He still works for Areva. The company has furloughed him, but he still lives rent-free in a house owned by Areva and known as RA4, No. 6. The house has four rooms, and there are four goats in a shed in the inner courtyard. By Arlit standards, Alhacen is a prosperous man. “If I lose the job, I have to get out of the house — right away.”
There is no other place to work in Arlit than in the plant. Arlit is Areva. And even a critic like Alhacen depends on Areva……….http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/uranium-mining-in-niger-tuareg-activist-takes-on-french-nuclear-company-a-686774-2.html
Why Uranium Investments Will Remain Radioactive No commodity faces the unique pressure that uranium and nuclear fuel do and there is little prospect of a near-term recovery WSJ By SPENCER JAKAB Sept. 18, 2016
There is too much of nearly every commodity in the world today. Then there is uranium.
The outlook for the element that powers nuclear reactors may be worse than for any other, and there is almost no prospect for improvement soon. Unlike other commodities, low prices won’t stimulate demand.
There are several reasons for the weakness, some obvious, others surprising. The result has been the price of triuranium octoxide, which surged 1,400% in the five years through June 2007 to $136 a pound, is now about $25. And the price of fuel processing has dropped by nearly two-thirds since 2010.
The obvious reasons are the shutdown of nuclear power plants after the 2011 nuclear accident at Fukushima, Japan. Plants also shut down in Germany, Sweden, and elsewhere, while Belgium and Taiwan may be next. Even China, the leading growth market for nukes, enacted a delay in plant approvals. Meanwhile, the fracking revolution made some planned and existing U.S. plants uneconomical……..
The end of a U.S.-Russia deal to convert old Soviet warheads in 2013 took the equivalent of 20 million tons of triuranium octoxide ore, or 10% of annual supply off the market. That should have been good news for prices. But in anticipation of the end of the deal, processors that turn their ore into fuel built arrays of expensive centrifuges.
Once built, these centrifuges must be run constantly. This has encouraged processors to engage in “underfeeding”—using less ore but enriching it more intensely to create extra fuel. It is the equivalent of mining about 15 million pounds a year of extra ore saysJonathan Hinze, executive vice president at Ux Consulting. U.S. stockpiles of all types of ore and fuel combined have risen by a third in four years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Miners are partially cushioned by fixed long-term contracts with many customers. Canadian miner Cameco reported a cash cost of mining of over $27 a pound in the first half of 2016 but expects to realize an average price above $40 this year. Its capacity isn’t all needed, but shutting down uranium mines is expensive and difficult to reverse…….
Cameco, which has seen its share price drop by 84% since its 2007 peak, is one of the few pieces of the supply chain reacting to the dismal outlook. The miner shut down its Rabbit Lake mine, the longest-operating uranium mine in North America, this summer.
But such painful cuts alone won’t bring the market into balance for what feels to investors like a lifetime—or at least a half-life.http://www.wsj.com/articles/why-uranium-investments-will-remain-radioactive-1474225882
Stories of corruption, dirty dealing and corner cutting are not uncommon in the world of mining and resource extraction, especially in the developing or majority world. It is a tough trade where the high-visibility clothing is often in stark contrast to the lack of transparency surrounding payments and practises.
But as a major industry gathering takes place this week in Perth it is time for a genuine look at whether Australian resource companies are supporting the growth of fledgling democracies or literally undermining them.
No doubt the tall tales will flow along with the cocktails at the Africa Down Under mining conference, an annual event that sees Australian politicians join their African counterparts alongside a melange of miners, merchants and media.
According to the organisers “the ancient land mass of Africa is without question the world’s greatest treasure trove. A new era of joint ventures with juniors and grub-staking is taking place. The action across the continent is taking place hard and fast there could not be a better time to explore the options and hear the stories from the people who are unlocking the wealth of the formerly ‘Dark Continent’.”
While the agenda for conference participants seems clear, the benefits for communities in Africa are less so.
Recent years have seen a marked increase in Australian mining operations and ambitions in Africa with a major increase in the number of Australian mining companies and resource service companies active in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Over a 150 publicly listed companies are operating in more than 30 African nations.
There have been new allegations of Australian companies involved in irregular and illegal practices off-shore, including confirmation that the Australian Federal Police are actively investigating trouble prone Sundance Resources over bribery allegations linked to its Mbalam-Nabeba iron ore project in Congo.
But Sundance is not the only Australian miner generating headlines and heartache. Paladin Energy’scontaminating uranium operations, controversy over Anvil and state repression in Congo, MRC’s exit from its Xolobeni titanium project on South Africa’s Wild Coast following the murder of anti-mining advocateBazooka Rhadebe earlier this year.
The list goes ever on and the details – some of which are documented in a powerful report by the International Consortium of Independent Journalists – are deeply disturbing.
As this decade began, the Human Rights Law Resource Centre expressed the situation clearly stating: “Many Australian companies, particularly mining companies, can have a severe impact on human rights throughout the world, including the right to food, water, health and a clean environment. Despite this, successive governments lack a clear framework of human rights obligations for Australian corporations operating overseas. This is particularly problematic in countries with lax or limited regulations.”……..
Expanding the extractives industry in regions with major governance, capacity and transparency challenges is a concern for communities and civil society groups in both Australia and Africa. The absence of a robust regulatory regime in many African countries can see situations where Australian companies are engaged in activities that would not be acceptable practise at home………
Tracey Davies, a lawyer with the South African-based Centre for Environmental Rights told Fairfax medialast year that there is a widespread and “very strong perception that when Australian mining companies come here they take every advantage of regulatory and compliance monitoring weaknesses, and of the huge disparity in power between themselves and affected communities, and aim to get away with things they wouldn’t even think of trying in Australia”……https://newmatilda.com/2016/09/07/africa-down-under-tales-of-australia-woe-on-the-dark-continent/
Grand Canyon tribe fears for its future amid battle against uranium mining Conservationists and other campaigners are urging President Obama to designate 1.7 million acres of the Canyon watershed a national monument before he leaves office, Independent Tim Walker Arizona @timwalker 30 August 2016 “…….First mined for copper at the turn of the 20th Century, the Orphan Mine became a source of uranium to supply the nuclear arms race in the 1950s. It was closed in 1969, but not before contaminating the water in nearby Horn Creek with enough uranium that passing hikers are warned not to drink it. The US National Park Service has already spent millions on a clean-up effort that is still in its early stages. “It proves not everything you dig up can be covered again,” says Kaska, a member of the Havasupai tribe.
The Havasupai, whose name means “people of the blue-green water”, have lived in the Canyon for at least 800 years. The tribe, who today number fewer than 700, rely for their income on the tourists – some 20,000 per year – who visit their reservation to see its strikingly beautiful blue-green waterfalls. But now they fear their lives and livelihoods could be endangered by another uranium mine being drilled nearby.
Canyon Mine sits far from the tourist attractions of the Grand Canyon, six miles to the south in a quiet, 15-acre patch of the Kaibab National Forest. But it is close to Red Butte, a Havasupai sacred site – and, more perilously, it threatens to affect the tribe’s water. The aquifer under the mine flows into Havasupai Springs, their sole water source…
Now, the Havasupai, the Navajo and the Grand Canyon Trust are all part of a coalition of tribes, conservationists and other campaigners hoping to persuade President Obama to create a national monument that would permanently protect the Grand Canyon watershed from any further uranium mining.
Since taking office, Obama has created or enlarged 26 national monuments, protecting almost 550 million acres of federal land and water – at least twice as much as any of his predecessors. Last week, under the US Antiquities Act, he created the largest protected area on Earth, expanding a national marine monument around Hawaii to 582,578 square miles……..http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/grand-canyon-tribe-uranium-mining-obama-national-monument-a7215776.html
Greenland Inuit oppose open-pit uranium mine on Arctic mountain-top http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2988016/greenland_inuit_oppose_openpit_uranium_mine_on_arctic_mountaintop.html, Bill Williams ,17th August 2016
A collapse in the price of uranium has not yet stopped Australian mining company GME from trying to press ahead with a massive open-pit uranium mine on an Arctic mountain in southern Greenland, writes Bill Williams – just returned from the small coastal town of Narsaq where local people and Inuit campaigners are driving the growing resistance to the ruinous project.
Recently I was invited to assess an old Danish uranium exploration site in Kvanefjeld in southern Greenland.
Inuit Ataqatigiit – the opposition party in the national parliament – had asked me to talk to local people about the health implications of re-opening the defunct mine.
An Australian firm called Greenland Minerals and Energy (GME) has big plans to extract uranium and rare earth minerals here. It would be a world first: an open-pit uranium mine on an Arctic mountain-top.
From the top of the range above the mine site I looked down across rolling green farmland to the small fishing village of Narsaq. Colourful timber houses rested at the edge of a deep blue strait that the Viking Eric the Red navigated a thousand years ago. Hundreds of icebergs bobbed on its mirror-like surface. To the east, half way up the valley, a small creek tumbled into a deep rock pool.
Behind that saddle lies Lake Tesaq, a pristine Arctic lake that GME plans to fill with nearly a billion tonnes of waste rock. This part of the mine waste would not be the most radioactive, because the company plans to dump this material in a nearby natural basin, with the promise that an ‘impervious’ layer would prevent leaching into the surrounding habitat.
Left behind – all the toxic products of radioactive decay
These mine tailings would contain the majority of the original radioactivity – about 85% in fact – because the miners only want the uranium and the rare earth elements. They would mine and then leave the now highly mobile radioactive contaminants, the progeny from the uranium decay behind: thorium, radium, radon gas, polonium and a horde of other toxins.
Even at very low levels of exposure ionising radiation is recognised as poisonous: responsible for cancer and non-cancer diseases in humans over vast timespans.
This is why my own profession is under growing pressure to reduce exposure of our patients to X-Rays and CT scans in particular – making sure benefit outweighs risk. It’s also why ERA, the proprietors of the Ranger mine in Kakadu, Australia, are legally obliged to isolate the tailings for at least 10,000 years.
While this is hardly possible, the mere fact that it is required highlights the severity and longevity of the risk. My Inuit audience in Narsaq was particularly interested to hear the messages I brought from traditional owners in Australia like Yvonne Margarula, of the Mirarr people:
“The problems always last, but the promises never do.”
And Jeffrey Lee from Koongara:
“I will fight to the end and we will stop it, then it won’t continue on for more uranium here in Kakadu.”
So far in 2016, not a single new nuclear reactor has opened
The U.S. nuclear regulator is considering long-term shipments of weapons-grade uranium to a medical research reactor in security-challenged Belgium, something critics say would set back global anti-proliferation efforts.
With a final decision still months away, the Belgian Nuclear Research Center is seeking permission from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to receive 317 pounds (144 kilos) of highly enriched uranium, or HEU, fuel in a series of shipments over 10 years.
The United States has supplied the reactor, which produces radioisotopes for fighting cancer, with HEU for decades. But the long-term nature of the latest request is unprecedented; previous agreements have been for periods of one to three years.
The Belgian research center has told U.S. officials since at least 2005 that it is on the verge of converting to low-enriched uranium, or LEU, not suitable for bombs. But there is no definitive date set for that change.
“Now more than a decade has passed and they are asking for another 10 years – that seems to be a bit preposterous,” said Armando Travelli, who until 2005 headed the U.S. Energy Department’s program to convert research reactors to safer uranium and bring bomb-grade uranium back to the United States.
If the Belgian reactor closes before the end of the 10 years, it could leave the center with an HEU supply over which the United States would have little control, he said……..http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-nuclear-belgium-idUSKCN10Q0VL?feedType=RSS&feedName=GCA-Commodities
Years after mining stops, uranium’s legacy lingers on Native land http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2016/tribal-series/crow-series/years-after-mining-stops-uraniums-legacy-lingers-on-native-land August 22, 2016 By Brian Bienkowski
Editor’s Note: This story is part of “Sacred Water,” EHN’s ongoing investigation into Native American struggles—and successes—to protect culturally significant water sources on and off the reservation.
CROW AGENCY, Mont.—The Crow are not alone in their struggle with uranium. The toxic metal is irrefutably intertwined with Native Americans, long a notorious national environmental injustice. Some 15,000 abandoned uranium mines with uranium contamination pocket 14 Western states. Of those, 75 percent are on federal and tribal lands, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Contamination is especially concentrated across the Colorado Plateau near the Four Corners region of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico, leaving a lasting impact on tribes such as Navajos, Utes, Hopi and Zuni.
The area became saturated with the dangerous metal from the heavy mining fueled by Cold War-era anxieties in the 1940s and ’60s, and the lax cleanup of the 1980s.
Most of the mines were on federal land—managed by the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management. But tribes, namely the Navajo, were swept into the uranium-mining boom for both their labor and land and are still dealing with the mess it left.
More than 521 abandoned uranium mines pocket Navajo land alone. Some 90 percent of uranium milling in the United States took place on or just outside the boundaries of Native American reservations, according to a 2015 study. This left a legacy of dirty water, leftover toxic waste and health problems such as lung cancer and developmental delays for children in many Western tribes.
Such pollution becomes a force multiplier for Native Americans—on the Crow reservation it adds to economic, health and historical burdens, and further complicates the ability to cultivate and sustain their culture.
In the body, most—but not all—uranium is excreted. What remains settles mostly in the kidneys and bones. Excess uranium has been linked to increased cancer risk, liver damage, weakened bone growth, developmental and reproductive problems.
Even at low levels uranium may play a role in some cancers and fertility problems. Studies have shown it acts as an endocrine disruptor, mimicking the hormone estrogen. Hormones are crucial for proper development, and such altering can lead to some cancers and fertility and reproductive problems.
For the Navajo Nation, many men worked in mining or milling, unaware of the risks, and later dealt with various cancers and failing kidneys. In 2000 researchers reported that from 1969 to 1993 Navajo uranium miners had a lung-cancer rate about 29 times that of non-mining Navajos, according to the study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Most of the mining tunnels, pits and waste piles remain on the reservation today near Navajo families. Water, already scarce, remains tainted with uranium and other metals. In one report, researchers found elevated uranium levels in the urine of 27 percent of almost 600 Navajo tribal members tested. The U.S. population as a whole is closer to 5 percent.
The uranium-mining legacy also left contaminated groundwater on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, home to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Indians. In Washington state, two mines were shuttered in the 1980s, but more than 30 million tons of radioactive rock and ore remain at the site. Today it is a federal Superfund site. Researchers are now tracking cancer rates on the Spokane Indian Reservation.
“We see a high percentage of wells contaminated with trace elements like uranium in the double digits all over the U.S, but they are certainly more prevalent in Western, more arid areas.”
– Joe Ayotte, USGSThis toxic trail spreads throughout the West. Some uranium mining took place near the Crow Reservation, but naturally occurring levels can infiltrate drinking water wells too. And private wells don’t have the same safeguards of testing and treatment that public water does.
“We see a high percentage of wells contaminated with trace elements like uranium in the double digits all over the U.S, but they are certainly more prevalent in Western, more arid areas,” says Joe Ayotte, chief of groundwater quality studies section for the U.S. Geological Survey.
The USGS reported 20 percent of untreated water samples from public, private and monitoring wells nationwide contained concentrations of at least one trace element, such as uranium, arsenic and manganese. Manganese and uranium were found at levels at or above human health standards in 12 percent and 4 percent of wells nationwide, respectively, according to the study.
Like the rest of the country, Montana home wells have historically not been tested for elements such as uranium and manganese, so it’s unclear if Crow is an outlier or the norm for the state.
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality does not have regulatory authority over private wells on tribal lands, says Lisa Peterson, an agency spokesperson, adding that they haven’t received any information about contamination on the Crow Reservation.
For questions or feedback about this piece, contact Brian Bienkowski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Uranium from Russia, with love, Ecologist, 4th August, 2016 Uranium mining is a dirty business that we didn’t clean up but sourced out to less demanding countries, so why isn’t this being discussed in any debate about nuclear energy asks NICK MEYNEN
One issue is security. Reciprocal sanctions between Russia and the EU are now in place for over two years. If some recent polls in the US become reality and Trump becomes the new US president, things will get worse for the EU. Trump already hinted that a grim scenario (or much worse) could play out in Latvia or Estonia, EU countries with a Russian minority of over a quarter of the whole population. How hard can the EU bite in the hand that feeds it with the gas and uranium it so desperately needs? Putin will answer: not that hard.
Another issue is the future supply risk. Any power plant envisaged today will need uranium in 40 years from now. But both Russia and Kazachstan, the two biggest uranium exporters to the EU have plans to build new nuclear power plants for themselves. Kazachstan has gone from zero to hero: in 20 years it went from no production to supplying 40% of the world’s uranium. But aside from their own future needs, and those of nearby befriended Russia, analysts fear that mismanagement is likely to lead to a collapse in exports…………http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2987988/uranium_from_russia_with_love.html
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