Nine Facts You Need to Know
about Uranium Mining

UPdate Fall 2008

1. “Uranium mine tailings are among the most difficult to manage wastes on the planet… They contain toxic substances, particularly heavy metals. About 85 per cent of the radionucleides from the ore end up in the tailings, so it's radioactive. They're typically acidic and semi liquid and hard to contain. … In the Maritimes, because you'd be dealing with relatively low-grade ore, you'd tend to produce more tailings per tonne of ore."
Mark Winfield, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, York University, Toronto.

2. “In Nova Scotia, the wet climate, generally high water table, and generally acidic waters may pose special problems to radioactive waste management.”
Environment Canada Brief to McCleave Inquiry EPS-7-AR-82-1]

3. Once groundwater is contaminated from uranium mine tailings, is impossible to undo the damage. 1% of wells in NS already contain levels of uranium above the limits considered safe, from naturally occurring uranium in rock.

4. “In Canada, a walk away solution is not realistic for decommissioning most uranium tailings sites. Long-term storage requires long-term institutional care.”
Auditor General of Canada, 1995, Federal Radioactive Waste Management, Report to House of Commons

5. Surface mines can generate up to 40 tonnes of waste rock for every tonne of uranium ore produced, while underground mines produce about one tonne of waste rock per tonne of ore. There are 109 million tonnes of waste rock from uranium mining in Canada today.
Pembina Institute: Uranium Mining: Nuclear Power’s Dirty Secret, May 2007

6. Supplying a typical Canadian household with nuclear-generated electricity results in the production of 14kg of toxic and radioactive mine tailings and up to 440 kg of waste rock every year. These wastes continue to release radioactive elements for thousands of years.
Pembina Institute

7. “Whether or not [uranium] mining is conducted in open pits or underground, there are environmental health hazards and impacts to workers and the general public that need to be considered. These include radiation hazards from radon gas, radium, thorium, and non-radioactive contamination from dust and heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, and nickel.”
Health Canada, Environment and workplace health. Canadian Handbook on Health Impact Assessment. Volume 4, Chapter 5.4 Uranium Mining.

8. Radiation is one of the few exposures for which the cause-effect relationship with childhood leukemia has been established (Belson et al. 2007). Children are 20% more sensitive to radioactivity because their cells are actively dividing.

9. Residents living near uranium mining operations have a higher risk of genetic damage than people living further away.
Au et al 1998

Thanks to the Conservation Council of New Brunswick

UPdate, Fall 2008, Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia

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