|11.URANIUM MINING, MILLING, AND PROCESSING|
The mining, milling, and processing of uranium (conversion and enrichment) is the first stage in the nuclear weapons production cycle and has resulted in the accumulation of greater volumes of radioactive wastes in the form of uranium mill tailings than any other stage in the weapons production process. Following the mining of uranium deposits a milling process extracts uranium oxide (U3O8) producing yellow cake, which is 90% uranium oxide, as well as huge quantities of mill tailings. The yellow cake then undergoes chemical processing to produce uranium hexaflouride (UF6), a form of uranium which allows enrichment to increase the proportion of 235U relative to the 238U component. This Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) contains over 90% 235U and is now suitable for use in weapons production. Following the enrichment stage the resulting uranium metal (uranium dioxide - UO2) has to be further fabricated and milled into the proper shapes to combine with 239Pu in the actual weapon assembly process. The uranium conversion and enrichment process results in significant quantities of highly toxic uranium hexaflouride. Additional significant quantities of radioactive waste are produced when the uranium metal undergoes its final stage of processing prior to the final stage of nuclear weapons assembly. For interesting overviews of the most important source points of uranium effluents see Fernald and Oak Ridge National Laboratories in Part 5 of this Section of RADNET, as well as the DOE BEMR, which lists all of the uranium mining, milling and processing plume source points in the United States now undergoing environmental remediation as a part of UMTRA (Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978), as well as CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act 1980).
Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. (May 5, 1995). Uranium enrichment. Recommendation 95-1 to the Secretary of Energy.
Goldman, B. (October 9, 1991). Discounted lives: the costs and benefits of uranium mining and refining in Northern Ontario. Radioactive Waste Management Associates, New York, NY. 112 pp.
Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. (1997). Uranium: its uses and hazards. IEER Fact sheet.
National Research Council. (1986). Scientific basis for risk assessment and management of uranium mill tailings. Board of Radioactive Waste Management. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.
OECD, NRC and IAEA. (1990). Uranium resources, production and demand 1989. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris.
OECD, NRC and IAEA. (May, 1996). Uranium resources, production and demand, 1995. 66-96-07-1. ISBN 92-64-14875-2. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris. pp. 364.
Shearer, S.D., Jr., and Sill, C.W. (1969). Evaluation of atmospheric radon in vicinity of uranium mill tailings. Health Physics. 17. pg. 77-88.
Toro, T. (June 22, 1991). Uranium mines leave heaps of trouble for Germany. New Scientist. pg. 29.
Tso, Linda. Web page containing interview excerpts. http://www.applicom.com/vbm/BefPea.htm.
U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (September, 1980). Final generic environmental impact statement on uranium milling. Project M-25. NURGE-0706. Vols. I and II. U. S. NRC.
(January 21, 1991). Wismut uranium cleanup will cost
$10 billion, U.S. consultant says. Nuclear Fuel. pg. 5-6.
|12. DEPLETED URANIUM|
We will be posting more information and citations on
this topic, meanwhile, check out our RADLINKS
to other information sources on this subject.
|13. SEALED SOURCES, DEVICES AND RADIOACTIVE SCRAP|
|SNAP Power Generators, Except Satellites|
As well as being used in satellites, radioisotopic power generators, called SNAP in the U.S., and RIPPLE (radio isotopic power packages for electricity) in Europe are also used in a number of industrial and maritime applications. These include offshore oil platform power sources, sonar transducers, Coast Guard buoys and light house energy sources used by U.S., European, Soviet and other government agencies. Inventories of radioactivity in U.S. SNAP units utilizing strontium in the form of SrTiO3 ranged from 30,000 to 225,000 Ci as of November 1968. Units under development at this date may contain up to a million curies (Radioactivity in the Marine Environment, p.32). Little unclassified information is available on these radioisotopic power generators or any resulting accidents which have occurred after the development and proliferation of these technologies.
Characteristics and Applications of Oceanic SNAP Systems
(Panel on Radioactivity in the Marine Environment, 1971, pg. 33).
|System||Fuel form||Fuel Quantity (kCi)||Marine Application||Status as of November 1968|
|Past and Present Systems|
|SNAP 7A||SrTiO3||41||Coast Guard buoy||Post test analysis after 3-yr operation|
|SNAP 7B||SrTiO3||225||CG lighthouse, then, offshore oil platform||Operating (relocated on oil platform in August 1996 after 2 yr on lighthouse)|
|SNAP 7D||SrTiO3||225||Navy NOMAD buoy, Gulf of Mexico||Operating (implanted January 1964)|
|SNAP 7E||SrTiO3||31||Sonar transducer at 15,600 ft depth||Operating (implanted July 1964)|
|SNAP 7F||SrTiO3||225||Offshore oil platform||Post test examination of power decrease|
|SNAP 21||SrTiO3 or SrO||33
|Sonar, cable boosters, navigation aid, research||Under development (environment test units 1969)|
|SNAP 23||SrTiO3 or SrO||75
|Weather buoy, navigation buoy, offshore oil platform||Under development (environmental test units scheduled 1971)|
|SrTiO3 or SrO, Co, or CeO||Up to 10,000||Man-in-the-sea research; offshore oil, mining, and exploration; communications||Application engineering and design study in progress|
The Russian government has also made extensive use
of radioisotopic power generators, especially in marine applications to
supply a power source for isolated lighthouses. See Aarkrog (1994) Radioactivity
in Polar Regions (pg. 29):
|Sr-90 powered lighthouses, Siberian coast||10-15 PBq 90Sr per unit|
(December 22, 1998). International concern at radioactive smuggling growing. Nuclear Engineering International. pg. 8.
Allison, Graham T., Cote, Owen R. Jr., Falkenrath, Richard A. and Miller, Steven E. (March 1996). Avoiding nuclear anarchy: Containing the threat of loose Russian nuclear weapons and fissile material. Center for Science and International Affairs (CSIA), Harvard University, Studies in International Security.
Perera, Judith. (February 11, 1999). Radiation accident rated level 3 on international nuclear event scale. Nuclear Waste News. 19(6). pg. NA.
|Food and Irradiation|
Karim, S.M.F., Awal, K.O. and Ali, M.A.T. (March 1997).
Report on salvage of a jammed cobalt-60 source of the gamma beam irradiator
at Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture (BINA), Mymensingh, Bangladesh.
of Radiological Protection. 71(1). pg. 25-29.
Swanson, J. (December 1996). Long-term variations in
the exposure of the population of England and Wales to power-frequency
magnetic fields. Journal of Radiological Protection. 16(4).
|14. OTHER NUCLEAR ACCIDENTS AND MISCELLANEOUS SOURCE POINTS|
|French and Israeli Military Source Points|
RADNET recognizes that it would not be in its own best interest to post any information pertaining to Israeli military nuclear weapons research and production facilities. Rumor has it that if the National Reconnaissance Office releases any satellite fly over data about Israeli weapons production facilities, their comfortable complex of offices at Chantilly, Virginia will be ......... All Israeli weapons production facilities are located underground, as are their waste disposal sites, but all those trucks driving around the desert and suddenly disappearing.........
The topic of French weapons production and nuclear
electricity generating station source points is not a component of RADNET's
efforts to document radioactive plumes due to a lack of time, staff and
space. An excellent summary of French weapons production facilities and
laboratories, waste disposal sites and reactor locations (50) is contained
in Table 9.1 of Nuclear Wastelands, Makhijani et. al. pg. 444-456.
The chapter on French source points was written by Albert Donnay and Martin
Kuster; Table 9.1 and other related information may be available by contacting
(Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Takoma Park, Maryland):
See RAD 13: RADLINKS Part II-A.
|Canadian Source Points|
While RADNET does not maintain detailed files on Canadian
source points of anthropogenic radioactivity, the Chalk River Laboratories
(CRL) of Atomic Energy of Canada, Ltd. (AECL), 150 km northwest of Ottawa
are the most significant source of radioactive contamination within Canada.
This location has recently been in the news due to an extensive tritium
plume which originates from a liquid dispersal area where large quantities
of tritium (25 TBq) as well as 90Sr (30 GBq) are released each
year. Tritium concentrations in the plume are reported in the range of
up to 10 million Bq/l near the dispersal point decreasing to 30 to 100
thousand Bq/l where the plume enters Perch Lake, decreasing to 12 thousand
Bq/l where Perch Creek enters the Ottawa River. For an extensive description
of the Chalk River facilities, click on the Concerned
Citizens of Renfrew County link in RAD 13: RADLINKS: II-B. This facility
is also the location of a proposed underground uranium and radium refinery
waste disposal cavern (Deep River) as well as the location of the National
Research Experimental (NRX) reactor which suffered a coolant and fuel melting
accident in 1952 which was kept secret until recently. Wastes from this
accident were pumped uphill to a surface storage area which remains unremediated
today. The Deep River cavern may also be the location for radioactive wastes
originating from environmental remediation, decommissioning, and AECL utility,
hospital and research activities. The CCRC site contains a selection of
bibliographic citations of reports produced by AECL. The editor of RADNET
solicits any additional citations documenting anthropogenic emissions from
this or any other Canadian (CANDU) source point.
|Cap de la Hague|
A fuel reprocessing plant similar to but smaller than the Sellafield facility in the United Kingdom, the Cap de la Hague facility makes an appearance in radiological surveillance literature from time to time as a source point of contamination. The French government maintains a veil of secrecy about contamination originating at this location. The Cap de la Hague facility, operated by COGEMA, the French equivalent of our Department of Energy weapons production facilities, has recently been in the news because of extensive contamination discovered on the beaches and near the waste discharge outlet pipe. Greenpeace has played a major role in documenting contamination at this location including the recent fiasco where COGEMA scraped out pipe deposits and then left them in drums near the outlet, temporarily increasing contamination levels to 100 times those existing just prior to the clean-up effort. Greenpeace activists are the object of one of the more interesting quotes from a nuclear enthusiast (Simon Rippon) writing in the September issue of the American Nuclear Society's Nuclear News "In this case, levels of 200 million becquerels per liter (Bq/l) sound to be quite high, especially to those who are unaware of the ridiculously small size of a becquerel." For more information on Greenpeace activities pertaining to Europe as a nuclear wastebasket see RAD 13: RADLINKS: II-A. In the case of France, a dim awareness of the high costs of the nuclear energy pyramid scheme is just beginning to emerge, whereas in Britain consciousness of the debacle at Sellafield including the THORP reprocessing facility fiasco has reached a more advanced state of public awareness.
Cross, J.E. and Day, J.P. (1981). Plutonium and americium
in seaweed from the channel islands. Environmental Pollution, 2,
|May 1978||Channel Is.||Fucus vesiculosus||239,240Pu||20 pCi/kg dry weight|
The state of Goiania, Brazil was the location of an accident in 1987 involving the release of several hundred thousand curies of 137Cs into an urban environment from a piece of surplus medical equipment. A teletherapy unit that contained 51 TBq (1375 Ci) of 137Cs in the form of CsCl2 powder was left in an abandoned medical clinic. The cesium was used as a power source and once abandoned was vandalized with the resultant spread of the cesium powder throughout the neighborhood.
Amaral, E.C.S., Paretzke, H.G., Campos, M.J., Pires
do Rio, M.A. and Franklin, M. (1996). Transfer of 137Cs from
soil to chicken meat and eggs. J. Environ. Radioactivity, 29,
|May 1989||Goiania||Chicken yard soil (mean of 23 samples)||137Cs||1706 Bq/kg|
|March 1990||Goiania||Chicken yard soil (mean of 10 samples)||137Cs||3069 Bq/kg|
Amaral, E.C.S., Vienna, M.E.C., Godoy, J.M., Rochedo, E.R.R., Campos, M.J., Pires de Riso, M.A., Oliveira, J.P., Pereira, J.C.A. and Reis, W.G. (1991). Distribution of Cs-137 in soil due to the Goiania accident and decisions for remedial action during recovery phase. Health Physics, 60, 91-98.
Godoy, J.M., Guimaraes, J.R.D., Pereira, J.C.A. and Pires do Rio, M.A.. (1991). Cesium-137 in the Goiania waterways during and after the radiological accident. Health Physics, 60, 99-103.
Rochedo, E.R.R., Amaral, E.C.S. and Bartell, S.M. (1992). The relative significance of pathways and parameters for the cesium-137 soil decontamination scenario at Goiania. J. Environ. Radioactivity, 15, 171-183.
This was the location of a midair collision between two U.S. Army planes during a refueling operation on January 16, 1966. Four thermonuclear bombs fell in the area, 3 onto soil and one into the Mediterranean Sea. Two of the bombs exploded on impact (a chemical explosion, not a nuclear explosion) releasing significant quantities of fissile material into the environment. This is the first citation the editor of RADNET has located listing specific amounts of contamination in the contaminated area. Other citations on this accident would be welcomed.
Garcia-Olivares, Antonio and Iranzo, C. Enma. (1997). Resuspension and transport of plutonium in the Palomares area. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity. 37(1). pg. 101-114.
Iranzo, E., Salvador, S. and Iranzo, C.E. (1987). Air
concentrations of plutonium-239 and plutonium-240 and potential radiation
doses to persons living near plutonium contaminated areas in Palomares,
Spain. Health Phys. 52(4). pg. 453-462.
|Rosyth, United Kingdom|
The storage site for decommissioned United Kingdom
nuclear submarines, Rosyth is a potential source of anthropogenic radioactivity
in the future, particularly because the spent fuel and nuclear wastes at
this location are destined for the underground geological disposal facility
plant at Sellafield. It is very unlikely that nuclear submarine spent fuel
will ever be disposed of as uncontained wastes in the hypothetical Sellafield
repository which is now the subject of intense public scrutiny. No information
is presently available about the total inventories of spent fuel and other
radioactive wastes at this location.
Thule was the site of the crash of a United States bomber carrying nuclear weapons, which while not exploding, disintegrated, spreading plutonium into the ocean off the coast of Greenland in January of 1968, depositing an inventory of 1 TBq 239,240Pu; 0.02 TBq 238Pu and 0.1 TBq 241Am. (Aarkrog, 1994)
|15. SABOTAGE AND TERRORISM|
One of the major advances in the evolution of nuclear
weapons technology has been the development of very small nuclear warheads
utilizing 1 to 2 kilograms of fissile material which then can be incorporated
into a nuclear weapon and transported in a suitcase. While the United States
was the first to develop this technology in the late 1960's or early 1970's,
other nations either designed similar weapons or were able to obtain such
designs from US intelligence sources. The Israeli government is currently
the world leader in the design and production of nuclear weapons small
enough to be transported, deployed and detonated by a single person. All
other nuclear powers have access to this type of weapon; in the age of
the proliferation of fissile material it is only a matter of time before
this technology is obtained by terrorists and saboteurs. A new scenario
for accidents at commercial nuclear reactors, which had never been conceived
of in the good old days when LORCA's (loss of reactor coolant accidents)
were the primary safety issue at such facilities, has evolved: a quick
release accident (QRA), which results when a commercial nuclear reactor
is vaporized by a single person with a suitcase bomb, or more likely, utilizing
a surface to ground missile. Such an unspeakable scenario would be the
mother of all nuclear accidents. The fissile material necessary for such
a scenario is now widely available on the black market; the design plans
are available on the Internet. Click here for the most up-to-date
Israeli design of a portable surface to ground missile (Sorry, authorized
|16. MISSING WEAPONS PRODUCTION HIGH-LEVEL WASTE|
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory Integrated Data Base Report for 1994 (U.S. Spent Nuclear Fuel and Waste Inventories, Projections and Characteristics) includes the following disclaimer "This report does not track the inventories of government production reactor spent nuclear fuel that have been reprocessed in the manufacture of nuclear weapons for national defense." (p. 2) The reader of RADNET will note that the era of commercial atomic power generation commenced in 1968, and has resulted in the accumulation of 30,200,000,000 Ci of spent fuel high-level wastes in the United States (only) as of January 1, 1996, including 9,000,000 Ci of 239Pu (145.8 MT). In contrast, the DOE report Plutonium, the First Fifty Years, lists production of 111 MT of 239Pu, but the ORNL data base reports only 957,900,000 Ci of HLW, thirty times less than commercial spent fuel inventories. The ORNL data base lists the DOE inventories of spent nuclear fuel as "greater than 2,643 metric tons of heavy metal", in contrast to commercial reactor waste inventories of 29,812 metric tons. The ORNL data base lists inventories of radioactivity (Ci) from DOE weapons productions facilities as "information not available." (p. 15) United States nuclear weapons production commenced in 1944 and reached a peak of activity just before the start up of the first commercial nuclear generating facilities. While the majority of spent nuclear fuel produced for the purpose of creating nuclear weapons was recycled in the actual manufacture of fissile plutonium, and resulted in the production of large quantities of liquid high-level waste, the cumulative radioactivity of weapons production wastes should be within the same order of magnitude as the cumulative radioactivity generated by commercial nuclear power production. Weapons production spent fuel is irradiated for a shorter time period (low burnup fuel) than commercial spent fuel (high burnup fuel) producing significantly less contaminants in the desired plutonium which results (i.e. less of the contaminant 240Pu as well as less spent fuel wastes in general). On the other hand, military spent fuel is subject to multiple reprocessing technologies at numerous weapons research, production and testing facilities resulting in large additional quantities of liquid high-level wastes which do not characterize commercial spent fuel. If Makhijani, et. al. (1995, Nuclear Wastelands, pg. 54) are correct in asserting as a general rule of thumb that three curies of 137Cs are produced per gram of plutonium recovered during reprocessing then the production of 111 megatons of plutonium has resulted in 333 million curies of 137Cs from the weapons production process.
As of Jan 1, 1995, the commercial spent fuel inventory
of 137Cs is much greater, 2,310,000,000 curies produced in conjunction
with 145 metric tons of 239Pu contained in domestic spent fuel.
Military low burnup spent fuel therefore contains about 14.5% of the 137Cs
contained in commercial high burnup spent fuel for 76.5% as much plutonium.
Extending our rule of thumb slightly further, but on the conservative side,
we may conclude that high burnup commercial spent fuel contains approximately
5 times more waste than results from the reprocessing of low burnup military
spent fuel, at least for 137Cs (The 90Sr production
ratio is even lower). Five billion curies is then a reasonable
estimate of the total of US military high-level waste production, excluding
unprocessed spent fuel. Of this inventory approximately 4 billion curies
is missing and unaccounted for. Additional military reprocessing for the
purpose, for example, of extracting 238Pu as an energy source
for RTG's, will account for some lost high-level waste as well as produce
additional high-level waste. While the actual amounts of military high-level
wastes are classified information, it is obvious that the inventories of
wastes listed for Savannah River, Hanford and INEL (<1,000,000,000 Ci)
are a gross understatement of the actual amounts of liquid high-level wastes
which remain as a legacy from the cold war arms race. The most likely explanation
of the destination of these missing high-level wastes is that in being
reprocessed into a liquid high-level waste, only about 1/5 of the resulting
wastes were contained in the holding tanks at Hanford and Savannah River
plants. The remaining wastes were released, uncontained, to shallow pits,
holding ponds and lagoons, creeks, shallow and deep injection wells, sometimes
as diluted low-level waste. Other countries including Russia and the United
Kingdom also indulged in similar disposal methodologies. NIREX, the United
Kingdom consortium in charge of disposing Sellafield wastes, is planning
to use the same technologies for uncontained injection of radioactive wastes
into the rock formations of northern Cumbria. If the spent fuel and high-level
waste from Russian, French, British and other nuclear weapons programs
and fuel reprocessing facilities are added to U.S. military high-level
waste inventories, long lived weapons production waste inventories can
be reasonably estimated at +/- 35,000,000,000 Ci. World wide nuclear power
production (326 operational reactors outside of the United States) spent
fuel wastes are at least double this estimate. The total world wide inventory
of high-level wastes produced during the nuclear era now approaches or
exceeds the 100 billion curies. "A principle activity of government in
the twenty-first century will be the removal, packaging, storage and disposal,
administration and supervision of the nuclear waste produced in the twentieth
century." (Brack, 1993, pg. 94) A full accounting of the inventories of
U.S. weapons production wastes will be a giant step in confronting the
reality of the radioactive legacy of the arms race and its unfortunate
footnote, the commercial atomic generation of electricity, and the social
and health physics implications these wastes have for citizens living in
the twenty-first century.
|17. SEWAGE SLUDGE|
The GAO criticized the EPA in a report written in 1994, stating that they had not investigated the issue of radioactivity in sewage sludge. A joint draft between the EPA and NRC was issued in 1997 on this subject. It stated that the wastewater treatment process reconcentrates the radioactivity in the sewage sludge as it also reconcentrates the toxic metals in the sludge. There are 24,000 facilities around the country discharging radioactive wastes into public sewers. In 1999 they published a report on radionuclides found in sewage sludge and ash from incinerated sludge at 9 sites (citation below). Information courtesy of Helene Shields, email to CBM, 10/18/99. Additional citations on this topic would be welcomed. Peak values of sludge contamination will be posted after relevant citations are reviewed.
(June 17, 1999). Sludge survey test results will aid ISCORS national survey design. Nuclear Waste News. 24 (19).
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency and U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Agency. (August 1999). Joint NRC/EPA sewage sludge radiological survey: Survey design and test site results. EPA 832-R-99-900. Sewage Subcommittee of the Interagency Steering Committee on Radiation Standards (ISCORS), US EPA and US NRC, Washington, DC. <http://www.epa.gov/radiation/tenorm/docs/sludgereport.htm>
| Index | Introduction | Guide | Accidents | Definitions | Radionuclides | Protection Guidelines | Plumes | Baseline Data | Dietary Intake | Chernobyl | Source Points | Maine Yankee | Links | Bibliography | Alerts | Sponsor |