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Radiological Aspects of In Situ Uranium Recovery

[+] Author Affiliations
Steven H. Brown

CHP, SHB Inc., Centennial, CO

Paper No. ICEM2007-7379, pp. 1465-1477; 13 pages
  • The 11th International Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management
  • 11th International Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management, Parts A and B
  • Bruges, Belgium, September 2–6, 2007
  • Conference Sponsors: Nuclear Division and Environmental Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4339-0 | eISBN: 0-7918-3818-8
  • Copyright © 2007 by ASME


In the last few years, there has been a significant increase in the demand for Uranium as historical inventories have been consumed and new reactor orders are being placed. Numerous mineralized properties around the world are being evaluated for Uranium recovery and new mining / milling projects are being evaluated and developed. Ore bodies which are considered uneconomical to mine by conventional methods such as tunneling or open pits, can be candidates for non-conventional recovery techniques, involving considerably less capital expenditure. Technologies such as Uranium in situ leaching in situ recovery (ISL / ISR), have enabled commercial scale mining and milling of relatively small ore pockets of lower grade, and may make a significant contribution to overall world wide uranium supplies over the next ten years. Commercial size solution mining production facilities have operated in the US since 1975. Solution mining involves the pumping of groundwater, fortified with oxidizing and complexing agents into an ore body, solubilizing the uranium in situ, and then pumping the solutions to the surface where they are fed to a processing plant. Processing involves ion exchange and may also include precipitation, drying or calcining and packaging operations depending on facility specifics. This paper presents an overview of the ISR process and the health physics monitoring programs developed at a number of commercial scale ISL / ISR Uranium recovery and production facillities as a result of the radiological character of these processes. Although many radiological aspects of the process are similar to that of conventional mills, conventional-type tailings as such are not generated. However, liquid and solid by product materials may be generated and impounded. The quantity and radiological character of these by products are related to facility specifics. Some special monitoring considerations are presented which are required due to the manner in which Radon gas is evolved in the process and the unique aspects of controlling solution flow patterns underground. An overview of the major aspects of the health physics and radiation protection programs that were developed at these facilities are discussed and contrasted to circumstances of the current generation and state of the art of Uranium ISR technologies and facilities.

Copyright © 2007 by ASME
Topics: Uranium



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