[ RadSafe ] radiation regimes for processing radioactive ores in Europe

Rees, Brian G brees at lanl.gov
Thu Dec 18 08:36:20 CST 2014


I worked for ARCO at the Bluewater Mill (reclamation) for a number of years, one of the documents we had was from the 50's, written by the AEC, in which they recommended the disposal of tailings "in a low-lying area"... 

Brian Rees 

-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu [mailto:radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu] On Behalf Of Dan McCarn
Sent: Thursday, December 18, 2014 12:56 AM
To: The International Radiation Protection (Health Physics) Mailing List
Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] radiation regimes for processing radioactive ores in Europe

Hi Mark:

I've worked on decommissioning mining facilities in Czech Republic.
Basically, there was no real "licensing" prior to operation for the Warsaw Pact countries, as far as I can see. The only country with licensed mining would be France, and those mines were licensed quite a long time ago.  At the Homestake Facility near Grants, New Mexico which operated an alkaline leach facility requiring autogenous grinders to pulverize the ore, the fine tailings were placed on an alluvial valley floor creating a groundwater problem for decades. Likewise, the Rozna facility in Central Moravia (Czech
Republic) placed their alkaline leach tailings on an alluvial valley floor, and they are reaping the problems of contaminated groundwater. Significant groundwater contamination (mainly dissolved aluminum, sulfate, fluoride,
etc,) is present down the hydrologic gradient from the acid In Situ Leach facility at Straz pod Ralskem, Northern Bohemia, Czech Republic.
The old DDR (East Germany) has similar issues.  I have a paper on that locality in:


McCarn, Dan W. (2005): Natural Attenuation processes in Cenomanian sediments following acid in situ leach mining of uranium, Stráž pod Ralskem, Northern Bohemia, Czech Republic, IAEA-TECDOC-1425, 15-18 June 1999.

Abstract. Decommissioning of the Stráž uranium district in Northern Bohemia is underway following 30 years of continuous production. To date, both underground mining (1968-present) and in situ leach (ISL) mining
(1980-present) have been performed at the Hamr I underground mine and the
1.5 km distant Hamr ISL mine. The ore-bearing zone occurs in the Cretaceous Northern Bohemian basin in Cenomanian sediments. The mines are operated by the state uranium company, DIAMO, located in Stráž pod Ralskem. At present, a hydrobarrier between the Hamr I and the ISL mine allows the co-existence of the two mine types. Water injected into the hydrobarrier maintains the hydrostatic conditions for the ISL mine while decommissioning of the underground mine is proceeding. Following decommissioning of the Hamr I mine, DIAMO proposes that 2-5 million m3 of free water from the nearby Stage I and Stage II tailings impoundments be used to restore the hydrostatic equilibrium at the Hamr I mine. Following flooding of the mine, injection of water at the hydrobarrier would cease, followed by active restoration of the aquifer. The objective of this restoration is to prevent contaminated Cenomanian waters from reaching the water supply wells for the town of Mimon, about 6 km to the southwest. This paper describes natural attenuation processes of Cenomanian sediments and fluids reacting with the acid ISL lixiviant solutions based on mathematical modeling with a mineral solution equilibrium code. PHREEQC is used to model these reactions. Based on the mineralogy, the Cenomanian sediments provide extensive buffering for low pH solutions of the lixiviant and rapid precipitation of Al+3, SO4-2, and U+4 species.

So, what does licensing mean in Europe? in most of the old Warsaw Pact, it means cleaning the mess up as costs will allow. But for future licensing?
No clue. I'd check at the IAEA site for any recommendations.

I also have a paper that I co-authored with Mark Pelizza on licensing in the USA, if you are interested. That can be found at:

*Pelizza, Mark and McCarn, Dan W., (2004): Licensing of In Situ Leach Recovery Operations for the Crownpoint and Church Rock Uranium Deposits, New Mexico: A Case Study, IAEA-TECDOC-1396, pp. 153-173.*

Abstract. Licensing of in situ leach recovery operations in New Mexico, adjacent to the Navajo Indian Reservation, required significant effort on the part of Uranium Resources, Inc. and the subsidiary, Hydro Resources Inc., since the original application in 1988. On January 5, 1998, the U.S.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued the license to operate following a lengthy Environmental Impact Statement process jointly managed by the U.S.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The principal stakeholders include the State of New Mexico, the Navajo Nation and a number of citizen groups. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reviewed the Environmental Impact Statement. Since licensing, Hydro Resources Inc. overcame legal challenges to the source material license from groups opposed to uranium development and obtained the necessary water rights from the State of New Mexico on October 19, 1999. On January 19, 2000, the Navajo Nation lifted its 1983 moratorium on uranium mining for uranium in situ leach recovery. Since then, Hydro Resources Inc.’s focus has changed to preparing the Restoration Action Plan for Church Rock Section 17 site, Crownpoint Unit One, and Crownpoint. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has since approved these plans. The Grants Uranium Region is located in northwestern New Mexico and is part of the Colorado Plateau physiographic province. The Jurassic Westwater Canyon Member of the Morrison Formation in the San Juan Basin hosts the uranium. The Crownpoint and Church Rock ore trends are monometallic, regional redox-controlled, roll-front type uranium deposits and occur as stacked roll-fronts. Total low-cost Reasonably Assured Resources (RAR) for properties controlled by Hydro Resources Inc. includes
38,462 Tonnes U (100 million lbs U3O8). This paper reviews the process of developing and licensing this resource.

Take a look at the Gantt Chart (Plate 1) on page 173 to get a visual idea on the complexity of licensing in the USA, at least through 2002.

Dan ii

Dan W McCarn, Geologist
108 Sherwood Blvd
Los Alamos, NM 87544-3425
+1-505-672-2014 (Home – New Mexico)
+1-505-670-8123 (Mobile - New Mexico)
HotGreenChile at gmail.com (Private email) HotGreenChile at gmail dot com

On Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 11:14 PM, Mark Sonter <sontermj at tpg.com.au> wrote:
> A Hypothetical Question for my Radsafer colleagues:
> I am trying to form a view on the comparative licencing difficulties 
> in the handling and processing of low level radioactive ores and 
> concentrates, and disposing of their wastes, in various european 
> countries. How do the regulatory regimes compare? How difficult or easy are the disposal rules?
> Any comments or observations gratefully received..
> Mark Sonter
> Radiation Advice & Solutions Pty Ltd,   abn 31 891 761 435
> Asteroid Enterprises Pty Ltd,   abn 53 008 115 302
> 116 Pennine Drive, South Maclean, Queensland 4280, Australia
> Phone / fax  (+61) 07 3297 7653   Mobile 0447 755598
> “Keep everything as simple as possible, but no simpler”  - A. Einstein
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