Uranium and ecology
Value of uranium for the mankind is difficult to overestimate. Uranium opened hordes of new opportunities which had never been available before. The modern world is unimaginable any more without the use of uranium in industry, medicine, agriculture and energy. The man used nuclear energy to survey the subglacial space of the Arctic Regions and depths of all oceans, enter the space orbits and got acquainted with the neighboring planets.
Uranium by its nature is not radioactive. It is the uranium’s decay daughters — radium and radon — that are dangerous. When uranium is extracted most of radioactivity remains at the place of ore occurrence. At the same time mining and processing leaves behind dumps of waste rock and mill tailings which require close attention.
Mining of uranium using conventional methods (mines and open pits) and its processing leaves behind refuse heaps and uranium tails. By composition and potential impact upon the environment tailing dumps are potentially the most dangerous. In this connection matters of handling tailing dumps generated as a result of mining and processing of uranium ores are the most acute. Mining sectors in many countries have developed and implemented guidelines and regulatory acts governing all aspects of tailing dumps: from their design to operation.
Generally, all countries focus on reclamation of tailing dumps and environmental safety of areas adjacent to mines. The practice of countries which are the industry leaders shows that the programs of deactivation of uranium mines are fully and successfully implemented, while improvement of the regulatory framework to a large extent ensures support to similar projects aimed at ensuring safety of life for the population of the regions and environment in general.
Uranium mining companies view environmental matters associated with uranium mining as a key factor which directly affects the development of uranium mining projects. Responsibility of uranium business to environment and the society is the main motto of the industry leaders and companies striving to be among the best.
Today a mandatory condition of any uranium mining permission is the development and public approval of an environmental impact assessment and annual social and environmental reports on Sustainable Development.