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URANIUM: The Mines & Radioactive Waste Left Behind. Uranium Mines. Rabbit Lake. Cigar Lake. Uranium City. Port Hope. Ardoch Algonquin. Environmental Threats. Waste Dispersal Water Contamination Air Pollution & Greenhouse Gas Emissions Exposure to radioactivity & toxins. Waste.

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Presentation Transcript
environmental threats
Environmental Threats

Waste Dispersal

Water Contamination

Air Pollution & Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Exposure to radioactivity & toxins

  • Acidic, potentially acid generating andcontain long-lived radionuclides, heavy metalsand other contaminants.
  • Whole groups of organisms have disappeared downstream from some uranium tailings areas. Radiation hazards are more subtle and will take longer to be manifested.
  • Canadian uranium mines and mills have alreadycreated 109 million tonnes of waste rock and 214million tonnes of tailings. Current rate of half a million tonnes/year.
  • Mining of lower grade ores will be mean more tailings.
  • Long-term storage requires long-term institutionalcare.” – Auditor General of Canada.
who regulates tailings
Who regulates tailings?
  • Canada has no detailed laws on removal or covering of mine and mill tailings by mining companies.
  • Tailings management of operating uranium mines/mills regulated by the Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) andprovincial authorities.
  • Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of radioactive mine tailings or refinery wastes, neglected by the authorities, have been used in the construction.
  • Tailings management during the operational phase has greatly improved in the last fifteen years. But even at the newest mines, radioactive spills are frequent.
  • The long term containment of uranium tailings remains a major unsolved problem. Concrete "pots" have cracked and leaked after less than five years of use.
water contamination
Water Contamination
  • Severe contamination of groundwater with radionuclides,heavy metals, and other contaminantshas occurred at tailings management facilitiesand waste rock storage areas.
  • Surface water discharges from uranium miningand milling facility have resulted in thecontamination of the surrounding environmentwith radionuclides and heavy metals. Effluentfrom uranium mines and mills has been classifiedas “toxic” for the purposes of the CanadianEnvironmental Protection Act.
  • Uranium mining operations involve extensivepumping-out of groundwater (in excess of 16billion litres per year).
elliot lake
Elliot Lake

Robert Del Tredici

air pollution greenhouse gas emissions
Air Pollution & Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • Significantsources of atmospheric releases of radongas.
  • In 2004, VOC emissions from the uranium millingoperations were equivalent to average annualemissions of more than 300,000 cars.
  • The RabbitLake acid plant reported releases of 43,000 tonnesof SO2 in 2004, ranking it among the largestsources of SO2 emissions in Canada.
  • GHG emissions arise from the operation of mining equipment, milling and tailings managementprocesses, and mine site closure and post-closurecare activities.
hazards to humans wildlife
Hazards to humans & wildlife
  • Contamination of natural environment and wildlife near uranium mines and mills via windblown dust from tailings sites andeffluent discharges to surface waters.
  • Uranium mining operations involve major disruptionsof the surface landscape, and surface andgroundwater flows.
what we don t know can hurt us
What we don’t know…can hurt us
  • How to eliminate, neutralize or destroy radiation
  • Effects of chronic exposure to low level radiation on biota and ecosystems
  • How to decommission uranium mines so as to minimize radionuclide migration forever
  • Significance of other contaminants released by uranium mining.
care needed now and for ever
Care needed now — and forever
  • Decommissioned mines must be managedessentially forever to prevent the release of radioactive contaminants from tailings and waste rock to thesurrounding ecosystem and community.
recent headlines
Recent headlines
  • Cameco says concrete barrier at Cigar Lake has been poured, work going ahead - February 19, 2008
  • Cameco's Rabbit Lake mine back in operation (after flooding) – January 2, 2008
  • Cameco to spend up to Can$20 million to clean up Port Hope, Ont., plant – January 28, 2008