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B.1. Practical Intervention Techniques to Reduce Public Doses at Uranium Mining and Milling Legacy Sites


Project Rationale

Significant legacy issues have arisen from past operating practices that resulted in poorly sited and designed tailings facilities which, in some cases, were not remediated and closed, or not remediated and closed in accordance with current international standards. Many of these legacy sites are located in countries eligible to receive technical support, which have poorly developed or limited regulatory capacity.

Uranium tailings legacy issues in these countries have resulted in the following types of public impacts:

  • Exposure of the public to ionising radiation e.g. gamma radiation through direct exposure to the tailings, the ingestion of tailings material (e.g. children playing on the tailings material), and airborne radioactive emissions (radon and long lived alpha emitting particulates);
  • Contamination of surface and ground waters and local drinking water supplies with radionuclides;
  • Contamination of rivers and agricultural land with tailings;
  • The grazing of cattle on contaminated pastures and tailings;
  • Intrusion into the tailings to recover scrap materials or to create living areas;
  • The diversion of materials for construction purposes (roads, foundations, buildings);
  • The diversion of raw materials through uncontrolled artisanal mining of abandoned mines.

It should be understood that these are existing exposure situations. Until these countries are able to implement well-funded and resourced remediation efforts, there is a clear need to develop short-term intervention techniques to reduce public doses.

The project enhances the regulatory framework for countries that have legacy uranium production sites to provide for mitigation of impacts and to improve the safety and protection of populations living close to legacy sites.

Significant legacy issues have arisen from past operating practices that resulted in poorly sited and designed tailings facilities which, in some cases, were not remediated and closed, or not remediated and closed in accordance with current international standards. Many of these legacy sites are located in countries eligible to receive technical support, which have poorly developed or limited regulatory capacity.

Uranium tailings legacy issues in these countries have resulted in the following types of public impacts:

  • Exposure of the public to ionising radiation e.g. gamma radiation through direct exposure to the tailings, the ingestion of tailings material (e.g. children playing on the tailings material), and airborne radioactive emissions (radon and long lived alpha emitting particulates);
  • Contamination of surface and ground waters and local drinking water supplies with radionuclides;
  • Contamination of rivers and agricultural land with tailings;
  • The grazing of cattle on contaminated pastures and tailings;
  • Intrusion into the tailings to recover scrap materials or to create living areas;
  • The diversion of materials for construction purposes (roads, foundations, buildings);
  • The diversion of raw materials through uncontrolled artisanal mining of abandoned mines.

It should be understood that these are existing exposure situations. Until these countries are able to implement well-funded and resourced remediation efforts, there is a clear need to develop short-term intervention techniques to reduce public doses.

The project enhances the regulatory framework for countries that have legacy uranium production sites to provide for mitigation of impacts and to improve the safety and protection of populations living close to legacy sites.

Objective

To provide regulators in countries with uranium legacy sites with the knowledge to develop and implement site specific, low cost mitigation techniques to protect the public.

Outcome

  • The regulators in African countries with uranium legacy sites having the knowledge to develop and implement site specific, low-cost mitigation techniques to protect the public. The measures to be considered will comprise simple administrative, physical and engineering controls that can be used to reduce doses to members of the public living close to these uranium legacy sites;
  • Enhanced transfer of knowledge of potential risks to the public, low-cost/quick-fix mitigation options for the management of legacy sites to reduce public exposure now and in the future;
  • Improved safety of legacy sites, which will contribute to increased protection of the public and a reduction in future legacy issues in the longer term.

Beneficiary Countries: Member States in Africa

Scientific secretaries: Ron STENSON, John ROWAT and Luis JOVA SED, Decommissioning and Remediation Unit (DRU), Waste and Environmental Safety Section (WES), Division of Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety (NSRW)

This project is part of the IAEA’s approved Programme and Budget for 2014-15 and is included under IAEA Project 3.4.1.3 on “Decommissioning and Remediation Safety”. The project is conducted by the IAEA with supplementary funding from the European Union.

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Upcoming events

Meeting title

Venue

Dates

Final wrap up Consultancy

IAEA, Vienna

June 2016


Outputs

Technical Documents and Training Materials

The IAEA TECDOC on "Practical Intervention Techniques to Reduce Public Doses at Uranium Mining and Milling Legacy Site and associated training material provide an overview of practical mitigation techniques, lessons learned and case studies which illustrate their implementation. The rationale of the document was to evaluate "low-tech/low-cost" interim mitigation measures i.e. simple administrative, technical and practical measures to reduce doses received by members of the public, until resources can be found for full scale remediation. Given these limitations, there is a need to identify simple measures that can be taken to reduce public risk from legacy uranium mining and milling sites in developing countries. The TECDOC and associated training material are aimed primarily at Member States that do not yet have the necessary resources and/or experience for carrying out full scale long term remediation but which need to implement, in the meantime, short term dose reduction measures.

While this TECDOC and training materials are aimed specifically at legacies from the mining and processing of uranium ore, the principles and approaches outlined in the document can generally be applied also to address legacies from the mining and processing of other radioactive minerals. The establishment of the necessary legislative and regulatory framework to deal with legacy sites is addressed in various IAEA publications and is beyond the scope of this TECDOC.

On the basis of the TECDOC, 21 Power Point presentations with lecture notes, 8 exercises as well as 9 case studies were elaborated. Click here for the Syllabus.

All developed materials follow the attached scheme:

B1 B2 Scheme

Technical Meeting

Technical Meeting Group

Technical Meeting to present and review the draft technical document and training materials on “Practical Intervention Techniques to Reduce Public Doses at Uranium Mining and Milling Legacy Sites” (TM-49543), IAEA, Vienna, 23 – 27 Feb 2015.

Regional Training Workshop

REGIONAL TRAINING WORKSHOP

The first Regional Training Workshop on “Practical intervention techniques to reduce public doses at uranium mining and milling legacy sites” (TR-49588), took place in South Africa, Centurion, 15 – 19 June 2015.

In the Regional Training Workshop participated twenty participants from 9 Member States: Egypt (2), South Africa (8), Tanzania (2), Sudan (1), Nigeria (1), Malawi (1), Zambia (2), Botswana (1), and Sudan (2). The lectures and exercises were presented by three experts from: Canada and Netherlands and the IAEA

The training workshop went well. Participants were active and expressed positive feedback. Suggestions for small improvements were received - for the most part feedback indicated that the material presented was appropriate and of sufficient detail. Participants are looking forward to the B2 Project training workshop.

2nd WS

The Second Regional Training Workshop on Practical Intervention Techniques to Reduce Public Doses at Uranium Mining and Milling Legacy Sites (TR-48454) for Portuguese-speaking African Member States. The workshop was organized from 28 September – 2 October 2015 in Vienna.

In the Regional Training Workshop participated 9 participants from 3 IAEA Member States: Angola (2), Brazil (4) and Mozambique (3). Due to the low participation of representatives from African Portuguese speaking countries it was decided to invite participants from another Member State from another Region. This was performed in close cooperation with the IAEA Technical Cooperation Department, which financed the participation of the Brazilian participants.

Overall the course was very successful and timely as mentioned in the feedback questionnaires. Participants left the training with a good understanding of the different steps to be taken towards the elaboration of a remediation plan in a simple and not expensive manner and how to find out other sources of information.

Regional Meeting on Prevention of future legacy sites in Uranium mining and processing (TM-52562) took place from 14-15 December 2015 in Vienna and was held in conjunction with Project B.2. The meeting was organized specifically for senior management representatives from African Member States from the nuclear regulatory body and/or any other national competent authorities who participate in the governmental policy decision making process.

The purpose of the meeting was to provide senior governmental decision makers in African Member States that have uranium mining and milling facilities, either in planning or in operation, with the information needed for establishing sound policies, regulatory frameworks and infrastructure to achieve sustainable levels of safety compatible with the requirements of the IAEA Safety Standards and with the objective to prevent future legacy sites.

In the Regional Meeting participated twelve participants from 9 IAEA Member States: Cameroon (1), Congo (1), Gabon (1), Madagascar (1), Malawi (1), Mali (2), Niger (2), Tanzania (1) and Uganda (2). In addition 3 external experts from Australia, Canada and United State as well as one IAEA staff member participated in the Regional Meeting.

It was noticed that African Member States should fast-track the establishment of a policy framework for uranium mining including the elaboration of a national strategy, legislation addressing the authorization of uranium (and nuclear) activities, and appropriate regulations supporting that legislation in order to reduce risk associated with these activities and prevent uranium legacy situations. African Member States recognized the importance of gaining the commitment of decision makers and, ultimately, their governments, to establish their policy, legal and regulatory frameworks and concluded that it would be necessary that their efforts to encourage action from within their organizations should be complemented by continued efforts by the IAEA to bring the matter the attention of Ministers.

| Last update: Wednesday, 13 April, 2016.