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Assessment of the EU stress tests

Wenisch and Becker

The March 2011 accident at the Fukushima I nuclear power plant proved that highly unlikely incidents cannot be excluded. Contrary to accepted practice Probabilistic Safety Assessments (PSA) do not constitute a sufficient basis to declare a plant operation safe. Safety of nuclear power plants needs to be backed by deterministic assessments, which excludes initiating events and accident scenarios only if they are proven to be physically impossible.

Events at Fukushima compounded public mistrust towards nuclear power worldwide. In Europe, the European Commission welcomed a suggestion by the government of Austria to conduct stress tests at all nuclear power plants in the European Union. The EU nuclear safety regulators –ENSREG –took over this task. The tests were introduced to improve confi-dence in the safety of European nuclear power plants (NPPs). In particular, they should examine the consequences of earthquakes and floods, and the com-bination of events previously excluded. However, the tests would be limited in scope: safety features such as ageing or design faults would not be taken into account.

Assessment of stress tests
An assessment of the stress tests –by Antonia Wenisch and Oda Becker, commissioned by Greenpeace- is published recently: Critical Review of the EU Stress Test performed on Nuclear Power Plants. 

The EU stress tests are not a safety assessment of the European nuclear power plants. They represent a limited analysis of the vulnerability of such plants with respect to natural hazards. The accident scenarios are focused on external events: the quality of the struc-tures, systems and components and the degradation of the oldest nuclear power plants in Europe are not subject of the analysis. The peer review team did not consider all safety issues that could trigger or aggravate an accident situation (e.g. ageing, use of MOX fuel, safety culture).

The design of the plants with respect to natural events varies, therefore the safety margins can only be assessed through an engineering judgment. In December 2011, the IAEA has published a new guide for extreme weather hazards. Greenpeace recommends that all plants make an assessment of weather hazards according to the new IAEA guide.

Severe accident management, espe-cially regarding spent fuel pools and multi-unit accidents like at Fukushima, is an issue everywhere, but the way it is tackled varies immensely. Only one country (Slovenia) has a simulator for severe accident management.

The peer review team has not assessed the current safety level of the European nuclear power plants, but only the potential increase in the level of safety in the next decade. Currently, there are several known shortcomings with respect to the protection against earth-quake, flooding and extreme weather. Furthermore, it is well known that it will be impossible to cope with a severe accident,  especially if it is accompa-nied by earthquake or flooding. The reviewers only described the weaknes-ses they identified, but not an overall assessment of all facts, which would allow a risk

The EU stress tests have no direct effect on the European nuclear power plant fleet. ENSREG has no say on the lifetime extension applications of even the oldest plants with the most obvious problems (Mühleberg, Doel, Rivne etc.). To gain an accurate picture of nuclear risk, EU decision makers should add a third leg to the nuclear stress tests - a full assessment of emergency response preparedness, which examines the viability of emergency response plans, address weaknesses and purpose improvements.

Far from restoring faith in the safety of nuclear power in Europe, the stress tests and ENSREG report published in April 2012 serve to further undermine it. At their most basic level, nuclear plants are concrete shielding to a fission process that creates large quantities of energy. Energy Commissioner Oettinger has acknowledged that the elimination of risk at such facilities is impossible, with efforts limited to merely minimising the threat. Across Europe, the stress tests have revealed some unacceptable failures in risk management. Serious gaps have repeatedly been found in readiness for emergencies. No guarantee can be given that plants operating in earthquake zones will remain safe in the event of serious seismic activity. Many lack any form of safe containment for their spent fuel pools and some have entirely inadequate access to emer-gency power. In short, the lessons from Fukushima are clearly yet to be learned in Europe.

Yet some plants are located just 10 kilometres from major urban populations like the city of Antwerp, raising the question why evacuation plans were not considered as part of the stress tests. The tests also failed to consider the impacts of multiple disaster scenarios as experienced at Fukushima in 2011 - the very crisis that originally prompted the stress tests. On top of these questionable omissions, the test results are not standardized in any way, making comparisons effectively impossible. The results are lack of any kind of pass or fail criteria and the partiality of those carrying and vetting the tests and falls short of providing the relevant authori-ties with the necessary information to draw proper conclusions.

When EU heads of state and government meet in autumn 2012 to discuss the results of this exercise, they can only conclude that the stress tests and peer review fall far short of expectations. They should recognise that nuclear power will always remain a dangerous technology. This is why all European governments should develop a credible phaseout plan for nuclear power 
in Europe, starting with the most risky reactors.

Source: Critical Review of the EU Stress Test performed on Nuclear Power Plants. Study commissioned by Greenpeace. Authors: Antonia Wenisch, Oda Becker, May 2012 (Published 14 June 2012)
Both the full report and the executive summary are available at:
Ing. Antonia Wenisch, Mail: antonia.wenisch[at]
Dipl. Phys. Oda Becker, mail: oda. becker[at]

Uranium mining issues: 2011 review

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Uranium

For the fourteenth consecutive year, the Nuclear Monitor is proud to publish the annual Uranium Mining Issues Review. The reviews are compiled by Peter Diehl from the WISE Uranium Project. First published in the last issue of 1998 it gives an in-depth overview of developments regarding all aspects of uranium mining: mines, exploration, environmental issues, indigenous people, production and so on.

At the beginning of the year 2011, the weekly uranium spot price, as published by Ux Consulting (UxC), continued the increase it had begun in mid-2010, starting from US$ 62.50 per lb U3O8 at year end 2010, until reaching a high of US$ 73.00 on January 31. As of March 7, it had declined again to US$ 66.50. After the Fukushima disaster in Japan (March 11), the price declined further, reaching a low of US$ 49.00 on August 29. It then remained in the US$ 51-55 range, with US$ $51.75 at year-end.

The monthly industry average price for long-term contracts, as published by Cameco, first jumped from US$ 66.00 in December 2010 to 71.50 in January 2011, but then continuously declined to US$ 62.50 per lb U3O8 (in November, as the December-value was not yet available at the time of writing).

Impacts of the Fukushima accident in Japan and the subsequent nuclear phase-out announcements of several countries:
- Cameco expects a 8% reduction in global uranium consumption in 2011 as a result of the Fukushima accident,
- Ux Consulting (UxC) cut the 2020 nuclear expectations by 10% after the Fukushima accident,
- in October, Kazakhstan ended its rise in uranium production to stabilize prices,
- the low uranium price contributed to the suspension of several uranium mine development projects, many of which are based on a uranium price of US$ 60 per lb U3O8, or higher (see below)


Moratoria/Bans (establishing/extending/keeping):
- In Canada, the province of British Columbia paid a company CDN$ 30 million for the surrender of its Blizzard deposit claim, pre-existing to the province's anti-uranium policy.
- The U.S. Department of Interior plans to ban mining claims near the Grand Canyon (Arizona) for 20 years. The ban hasn't been finalized yet, but a temporary ban has been extended twice, already. Nevertheless, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality issued permits for three uranium mines in the proposed withdrawal area. Arizona businesses launched a campaign –supporting- the Grand Canyon mining moratorium.
- UNESCO included the site of the Koongarra uranium deposit in Australia into the Kakadu National Park's World Heritage listing, as requested by the Traditional Owner to protect the site from uranium mining. Areva's attempts to prevent this had remained fruitless.
- South Australia proclaimed a mining ban for the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, causing the Traditional Owners to split over the issue. Exploration company Marathon Resources commenced court action over the ban that affects its exploration license.

Moratoria/Bans (lifting/weakening):
- Labrador's Inuit government voted to lift the moratorium on uranium mining it had imposed in 2008.
- In New Mexico, a court overturned the designation of Traditional Cultural Property status to Mount Taylor. The mountain, which as many as 30 Indian tribes consider sacred, is threatened by exploration and proposals for uranium mining.
- A company that wants to mine the Coles Hill deposit in Virginia pushes for lifting the state's uranium mining moratorium, whereupon several organizations formed to keep it.
- Greenland authorized the exploration of radioactive minerals at the Kvanefjeld rare earth/uranium deposit, thus further relaxing its zero-tolerance uranium policy.
- New South Wales announced in December to review its ban on uranium mining, after it still had assured in August to have no plans to overturn the ban. The change of opinion is caused by the Federal Government's policy change to allow uranium exports to India (see below).

Exploration issues:
- In February, a drilling company employee died in an accident at the Cree East project uranium exploration site in Saskatchewan, Canada.
- A Federal review panel recommended approval of the Matoush underground uranium exploration project in Québec despite missing social license and a long list of inadequacies.

Canada's federal regulator CNSC subsequently approved the Environmental Assessment Comprehensive Study Report on the project. This is one of the few cases, where an Environmental Impact Assessment process was initiated already for exploration rather than mining.
- Uranium exploration in Uruguay was put on hold, after uranium was declared a class one mineral, which becomes state property once it is mined.
- Areva announced 12,000 tons of potential uranium resources in central Jordan, while Rio Tinto withdrew from uranium prospecting in southern Jordan.
- Israel is set to license uranium exploration in the Negev.
- Nepal announced to start uranium exploration near the Tibet border.
- The Czech Environment Minister upheld the decision to deny a request to open the Osecná-Kotel area in Northern Bohemia for uranium prospection and exploration. The Ministry of Economics, on the contrary, urges the revival of uranium mining in the Czech Republic.
- Mongolia issued 107 uranium exploration licenses.
- South Australia reinstated Marathon Resources' exploration license in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary after a three year suspension for improper waste disposal. 

Environmental opposition against uranium exploration:
Uranium exploration projects drew opposition at a number of locations:
- at various sites in the Canadian province of Québec, where in November a petition for a uranium moratorium was presented to the National Assembly of Québec,
- in the Puno region of Peru,
- in the Jämtland province of Sweden,
- in the Sudety mountains in Southwestern Poland,
- in Western Australia, where a 1250 km uranium protest march was held.

Positive preliminary economic assessments:
Positive preliminary economic assessments, preliminary feasibility studies, or scoping studies were announced for the following uranium mine projects:
- Horseshoe, Raven, and Roughrider (Saskatchewan)
- Eco Ridge (Ontario)
- Lance in-situ leach projects (Wyoming)
- in situ leach mining of Strathmore's Churchrock deposit (New Mexico)
- Phase 1 development of Nyota prospect (Tanzania)
- Omahola (Namibia)
- De Bron-Merriespruit South (South Africa)
- Blackbush in situ leach mine (South Australia)

A Pre-feasibility study for the Bigrlyi uranium deposit in Australia's Northern Territory, however, showed that the mining project is economically marginal.


License applications for new uranium mines were actually filed for the following projects:
- Ross uranium in situ leach mine project in Wyoming,
- reopening of Laramide's La Sal uranium mine in Utah,
- Atomredmetzoloto's Mkuju River project in Tanzania,
- Mulga Rock project in Western Australia

Uranium mining/milling licenses were issued for:
- the Eco Ridge rare earths and uranium mine project near Elliot Lake (Ontario), fifteen years after the shutdown of the last uranium mine in the area; the company plans to use underground (!) and surface heap leaching,
- the Nichols Ranch and Lost Creek uranium in-situ leach projects in Wyoming,
- the controversial Piñon Ridge uranium mill in Colorado,
- the license for the Crownpoint in situ leach mine in New Mexico (heavily opposed by the Navajo) was reactivated after 11 years on hold,
- the controversial Goliad uranium in situ leach project in Texas,
- the huge Husab (ex Rössing South) open pit uranium mine project in Namibia

Several uranium mine development projects were temporarily suspended due to the unfavourable market situation (...and other issues):
- Moore Ranch in situ leach mine in Wyoming - just six months after receiving the license,
- the controversial Centennial mine project in Colorado,
- Areva's Bakouma project in the Central African Republic, where six uranium activists were arrested for one week in September,
- Areva's Trekkopje open pit and heap leach project in Namibia,
- Areva's Ryst Kuil project in South Africa,
- Salamanca I in Spain,
- BHP's Yeelirrie project in West Australia

Projects currently under development, or being prepared for development, with licensing processes at various stages:
In Canada:
- Areva's long-planned Kiggavik uranium mine project near Baker Lake in Nunavut, where the Draft EIS was made available for comment at the end of the year; the project became possible after local Inuit abandoned their opposition in 2007,
- Cameco's high-grade Cigar Lake uranium mine in Saskatchewan, where Cameco signed a milling arrangement with Areva to have all ore from the mine processed at Areva's existing McClean Lake mill,
- the recently discovered high-grade Roughrider deposit in Saskatchewan, the majority owner of which is now being acquired by Rio Tinto after winning a bidding war with Cameco

In the USA:
- Aurora open pit uranium mine and mill in Oregon, a state that has not seen uranium mining for decades,
- heap leach facility at Strathmore's Gas Hills project in Wyoming,
- Sheep Mountain uranium mine and sulfuric acid heap leach project in Wyoming,
- Green River uranium mill project in Utah, where the state rejected the request of Mancos Resources Inc. for water for the mine,
- reopening of La Sal #2 mine in Utah for ore "sampling",
- Green River #9 underground uranium mine in Utah,
- Pawnee in situ leach uranium mine project in Texas,
- the controversial Coles Hill uranium mine project in Virginia, that became the subject of several independent studies analyzing its social, economical, and environmental impacts; a National Academy of Sciences report, in particular, found "steep hurdles" for the project; in August, a consultant for Virginia Uranium disputed a study on the hazards from the planned uranium mill tailings dam during a natural disaster - three hours after the area was shaken by a rare 5.8-magnitude earthquake...

In Central/South America:
- restart of uranium mining in Reynosa, Mexico,
- Caetité mine in Bahia, Brazil,
- Santa Quitéria mine in Ceará, Brazil, where uranium production is to start in 2014/2015

In Africa:
- Namibia completed a Strategic Environmental Assessment for the central Namib Uranium Rush, while that rush is already in full swing,
- the Valencia uranium mine project in Namibia, where Forsys lost an appeal over a groundwater abstraction permit,
- the INCA and Tubas Red Sand areas of the Omahola uranium mine project in Namibia,
- the Etango uranium mine project in Namibia, where the public consultation period for the Environmental and Social Impact Statement on the expanded mine ended in March, while the document still wasn't available at the end of the year (!),
- Firawa uranium project in Guinea,
- Kanyika niobium-uranium project in Malawi
- Mooifontein open pit uranium mine and heap leach project in South Africa,
- the controversial Mkuju River project in Tanzania, where Russia's Atomredmetzoloto plans to mine uranium in the UN World Heritage-listed Selous Game Reserve,
- the Manyoni project in Tanzania, where the costs of proposed uranium mining in the Bahi Swamp area are highly likely to exceed benefits, according to an NGO report,

In Europe:
- a proposal for restart of in situ leach uranium mining at Stráz pod Ralskem in North Bohemia (Czech Republic) was slammed by NGOs in view of exorbitant reclamation cost still to be covered at the site,
- Novokonstantinovskoye uranium mine in Ukraine

In Asia:
- Jordan announced that is to produce uranium in the central region in a joint venture with Areva "within two years",
- a Uzbek-Chinese joint venture plans to start uranium mining in the Navoi region of Uzbekistan,
- the Kharasan in situ leach uranium mine in Kazakhstan is at commissioning stage, still awaiting an operating license,
- herders on horseback protested in Ulaanbaatar in April against mining activities in Mongolia; in December it was announced that two uranium processing facilities are to be built in the Dornod province,
- a CGNPG uranium subsidiary develops new mines in China,
- CNNC signed an agreement with the Xinjiang Autonomous Region on mining of the Yili uranium deposit,
- the controversial Gogi uranium mine project in Karnataka (India) received state approval, while environmental clearances from the State and Central agencies are still pending,
- the Thummalapalle uranium mine and mill in Andhra Pradesh (India) was causing depletion and contamination of groundwater even before commissioning, and villagers demanded full compensation for displaced families,
- environmentalists warned from possible impacts of uranium mining in the Lambapur area in Andhra Pradesh (India) on Hyderabad's drinking water resource,
- The state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) has started mining for uranium in the Cauvery area in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu in partnership with Uranium Corp. of India,
- Meghalaya (India) may shift the proposed Kynshi hydro power project in the West Khasi Hills for known uranium deposits

In Australia:
- Traditional Owners want the Jabiluka deposit in the Northern Territory (Australia) to remain undeveloped and the site to be incorporated into the Kakadu National Park,
- Cameco's Kintyre uranium project (West Australia), where construction is to start after 2015,
- the Wiluna uranium mine project (Western Australia), where the EIS was released for public review,
- Mullaquana uranium in situ leach project field leach trial in South Australia,
- the Honeymoon in situ leach uranium mine in South Australia, where commissioning started in November

Supplies projects for the uranium industry
Namibia's extraordinary uranium rush requires manifold efforts to assure the necessary supplies for the uranium mines:
- Namibia plans to build a second desalination plant in the uranium region,
- Namibia is to install Diesel generators near the uranium mines, but is also considering the construction of an 800 MW coal power plant near Arandis,
- Three chemical production plants for uranium industry chemicals planned at the Namibian coast will have serious environmental impacts and extinct certain species; conservationists demanded the selection of a less environmentally sensitive site for the plants

Alternate uranium recovery projects
By-product recovery of uranium from mining primarily for other ores:
- Talvivaara's Sotkamo uranium byproduct recovery project in Finland obtained government permission,
- Norilsk Nickel's Harjavalta uranium byproduct recovery project in Finland is progressing,
- the uranium processing plant at the Ezulwini gold/uranium mine in South Africa restarted after repairs,
- Harmony Gold Mining Co. considers uranium production at its Tshepong, Phakisa and Masimong mines in South Africa

The recovery of residual uranium from wastes and tailings:
This process that in principle would be environmentally advantageous for reducing the toxic load of the wastes and at the same time decreasing the need for fresh mining, in reality turns out to work not so smoothly:
- Cameco canceled the project for recycling of wastes from the Blind River and Port Hope nuclear fuel facilities in Ontario at its Key Lake mill in Saskatchewan,
- First Uranium's Mine Waste Solutions tailings reprocessing project in South Africa was commissioned, but so far it only recovers gold, as commissioning of the uranium recovery plant has been postponed; in September, the Minister of Mineral Resources withdrew the mining right for the tailings reprocessing project for environmental concerns raised by the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, but First Uranium continued operation undeterred,
- in November, an uraniferous slurry spillage occured at Mintails' West Rand tailings reprocessing project in South Africa,
- in the Czech Republic, residents opposed the processing of a further waste rock pile of the former Príbram uranium mines in Western Bohemia for uranium recovery, as they are fed up with the dust and noise generated by the process for decades

Planned expansion
of existing uranium mines and mills, with licensing processes at various stages:
- Key Lake expansion project in Saskatchewan (Canada),
- processing of ore from the McArthur River at the McClean Lake mill in Saskatchewan,
- Rabbit Lake Tailings North Pit Expansion Project in Saskatchewan,
- the North Trend Expansion Area of Cameco's Crow Butte uranium in situ leach mine in Nebraska (USA), that received a state permit for construction and operation,
- Cameco's Smith Ranch/Highland in situ leach mine in Wyoming, where the Highland processing plant is to be reopened for resin stripping,
- expansion of operations at the La Sal Mines Complex in Utah,
- doubling the production of the Caetité uranium mine in Bahia (Brazil),
- Stages 3 and 4 of the expansion of Paladin's Langer Heinrich uranium mine in Namibia,
- expansion of the Rössing uranium mine in Namibia, where the Draft Social and Environmental Impact Assessment was available for comment for just two weeks,
- increase of Ukraine's uranium production above 1000 t in 2011,
- expansion of Areva/Kazatomprom joint venture in situ leach uranium mines in Kazakhstan,
- production increase planned at Inkay in situ leach uranium mine in Kazakhstan,
- altogether, Kazakhstan is ready to increase the annual uranium production from 19,900 tons up to 25,000 - 30,000 tons; for 2012, 21,346 tons are planned,
- expansion of the Turamdih uranium mill in Jharkhand (India), where the second public hearing in March was stalled after protests by villagers,
- expansion of the Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory (Australia), where the Ranger 3 Deeps exploration decline obtained government approval,
- the gigantic Olympic Dam copper/uranium mine expansion project in South Australia, that obtained government approval in spite of protest from Conservation and Aboriginal groups,
- the Beverley North project in South Australia that obtained approval for a field leach trial

Natural forces affecting operating mines and mills:
- processing at the Ranger uranium mill in Australia was suspended for 5 months due to high water levels in the tailings impoundment after heavy rainfall,
- volcanic-like activity was observed in the Arlit uranium mining district in Niger (a bad omen for Areva?),
- the yellowcake drying and packaging plant at Paladin's Kayelekera mine in Malawi had to be relocated due to a "land slippage"

Environmental issues at operating mines and mills:
- Cameco's Rabbit Lake mine in Saskatchewan still is Canada's uranium mine with by far the highest load of uranium discharged to the environment, in spite of improvements,
- Uranium One Inc. (majority-owned by Atomredmetzoloto), new owner of the Willow Creek (formerly Christensen Ranch/Irigaray) uranium in situ leach mine in Wyoming, spared no efforts to match up to the poor reputation of former mine owner Areva: the mine restarted without EPA approval, the company contested the applicability of EPA's evaporation pond regulations, the company was fined US$ 25,000 for the missed sampling of 24 monitor wells, the state issued a Notice of Violation for the spill of sodium chloride brine solution, and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) began a special investigation after an aerial release of yellow cake powder,
- Cameco's Highland/Smith Ranch uranium in situ leach mine in Wyoming - the largest mine of its kind in the U.S. - also showed a poor environmental performance: the state regulator requested an investigation of possible impacts of a long-term excursion observed, numerous deficiencies were identified during an inspection of abandoned drill holes, many compliance concerns and numerous violations were identified during site inspections, and Cameco now seeks relaxed standards for groundwater restoration at Highland Mine Unit B, after the NRC identified irregularities,
- Cotter Corp.'s Cañon City uranium mill in Colorado, although idle, produced bad news, as well: trichloroethylene was found in nearby wells, the company - a subsidiary of high-tech company General Atomics - proved to be incapable of providing safe access to monitoring locations on the tailings impoundment, and the company was cited for a spill of uranium-contaminated solution,
- Cotter Corp. moreover was ordered to build a bypass pipeline at its defunct Schwartzwalder Mine in Colorado, to stop uranium contamination of water,
- at ERA's Ranger uranium mine in Australia, the notorious water management problems that contributed to the 5-months outage of the uranium mill provoked attacks from environmentalists; the Traditional Aboriginal land owners even pressured ERA to shut the mine down, until the company in November announced the decision to improve the waste water management at the site

Yellow Cake transport incidents:
- on the way from Canada to China, yellowcake containers onboard a ship were damaged in severe weather; the incident caused cleanup costs and losses of CDN$ 19 million, leading to the ship owner going bankrupt,
- in Jharkhand (India), a truck with uranium from the Jadugoda mine was damaged in a collision,
- in the Kakadu National Park in Australia, a yellowcake truck coming from the Ranger mine got stuck in water-laden ground

Miners' health issues at operating mines and mills:
- Reliance Resources, LLC, the operator of the Pandora mine operator in the La Sal complex (Utah) was fined $92,600 for the fatal accident that happened in 2010; Reliance and Denison Mines Corp (another mine operator in the La Sal complex), however, continued to be cited for more health and safety violations by the dozen,
- in December, Areva announced it would monitor the health of thousands of workers (and residents) exposed to its uranium mine sites in Niger, bowing to pressure from advocacy groups,
- in the Ezulwini gold/uranium mine in South Africa, four miners died in separate accidents during the course of the year, three of which in fall-of-ground accidents; in December, half of the workforce at the mine was fired in response to the impact of these fatal accidents "on employee morale and productivity" (!),
- at Paladin's Kayelekera uranium mine in Malawi, a truck driver died in an accident in June,
- the workers at the Ranger mine (accounting for half of Australia's uranium workers) are not covered by Australia's new Radiation Dose Register due to inadequate legislation in the Northern Territory, a Senate hearing reveiled

Residents' health issues at operating mines and mills:
- Residents of areas near nuclear facilities in Ukraine are to receive risk compensation,
- the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented dose and risk estimates for residents from radon emissions of existing and hypothetical uranium mills and of in situ leach uranium mines, with the highest doses by far found for a hypothetical uranium mill site in Virginia

Supplies issues at operating mines and mills:
- Paladin's Kayelekera mine in Malawi suffered temporary shutdowns due to delivery disruptions in diesel fuel and sulphuric acid,
- the water supply for Namibia's uranium mines was reduced by 25% in March, in view of a water shortage in the central coastal area,
- only lucky coincidence prevented the crash of a runaway railcar with a freight train carrying sulfuric acid for the Rössing uranium mine in Namibia,
- the Turamdih uranium mill in Jharkhand (India) was halted for water shortage in March

Other issues at operating mines and mills:
- in December, Cotter Corp. announced that it plans to seek license termination for its idle Cañon City uranium mill in Colorado, rather than to rebuild it,
- in September, the Caetité uranium mill in Brazil was allowed to resume operation, which had been stopped after a spill in May 2010,
- in Malawi, a student was found dead in September, after a critical publication alleged payments of the Kayelekera uranium mine to the Malawi president,
- the Dominion gold/uranium mine in South Africa was restarted by its new owner; uranium production was to begin "shortly",
- at the Turamdih uranium mine in Jharkhand (India), landlosers stopped company officials from accessing the site in April

- while preparations for, or actual cleanup of a few smaller abandoned mines in the U.S. continued at the well-known incredibly slow pace, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at long last announced a plan to clean up the Northeast Church Rock Mine in New Mexico - which is the largest abandoned uranium mine on the Navajo Nation,
- in January, the acidic mine water flowing out of South Africa's abandoned gold/uranium mines reached the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, putting fossils at risk; seismic events almost doubled since toxic acid mine drainage water started filling the abandoned mines,
- in February, South Africa's Nuclear Regulator finally announced the planned relocation of an informal settlement from a radioactive mine waste dump in Krugersdorp, but in November the majority of these residents were still waiting for relocation; a new report found that the dangerous levels of radioactivity in Gauteng's mine dumps will take decades and billions of rands to clear

- a further extension of the completion date was requested for the clean-up of the former Earth Sciences uranium recovery plant in Calgary (Alberta, Canada),
- the U.S. federal government and the operators of the Midnite uranium mine in Washington finally reached a deal on the US$ 193 million cleanup of the site - thirty years after the shutdown of the mine,
- ExxonMobil requested grossly relaxed groundwater standards for its Highland uranium mill tailings site in Wyoming,
- Kennecott requested, and U.S. NRC staff endorsed, the fourth 5-year postponement of initiation of decommissioning of the Sweetwater uranium mill in Wyoming,
- the uranium concentration in surface water at Areva's Shirley Basin tailings site in Wyoming was found to exceed the drinking water standard,
- with stimulus funding expired, the Moab tailings relocation effort in Utah now continues at a slower pace,
- Homestake requested permission for continued crop irrigation at its Grants tailings site in New Mexico - with water heavily exceeding drinking water standards for selenium and uranium; U.S. EPA and U.S. NRC are at odds over the reclamation of the site, in particular on the applicable radon emission standards,
- uranium concentrations in groundwater at the former Bluewater mill site in New Mexico were found to exceed the standard,
- the uranium groundwater standard was exceeded further at the Grand Junction uranium mill tailings disposal site in Colorado,
- the legitimacy of the "nuisance" claim stakes found on the Maybell uranium mill tailings site in Colorado is still unclear, compromising the credibility of the U.S. long-term uranium mill tailings management program,
- in August, firefighters battled a brush fire at a former uranium in situ leach mine in Texas,
- a justice ordered the cleanup of the former Poços de Caldas uranium mine in Brazil - 15 years after it was closed,
- 200 homes had to be demolished for excess radiation at Areva's former uranium mine site in Mounana (Gabon) - 12 years after the mine closed,
- in December, Areva announced that it will compensate the families of two former employees who died of lung cancer after having worked in its Mounana mine for years; this is the first time the mining group commits to such compensation after concluding an agreement with Sherpa association in 2009,
- in June, Areva was ordered to remove illegally disposed decommissioning wastes in the former Limousin uranium mining area in France,
- in February, Wismut's water treatment plant capacity in the former Ronneburg uranium mining area in Germany turned out to be insufficient to handle the effluent volume increase after heavy rains; after a capacity increase in July, untreated mine water still had to be released occasionally,
- the federal cleanup project of Wismut's uranium mining legacy in Germany is expected to cost more and last longer (until 2020),
- additional funding was assured for the reclamation of those Wismut legacy sites that are not part of the federal cleanup project,
- the cleanup of Wismut's 1954 Lengenfeld uranium mill tailings spill was finally completed - after 57 years,
- in the Czech Republic, the reclamation of the former MAPE Mydlovary uranium mill and one of seven associated tailings ponds in South Bohemia was completed,
- in Kyrgyzstan, there still are no replacement homes available for people living on old uranium mine waste dumps in the Mailuu-Suu and Min-Kush areas,
- the World Bank provides additional financing for the tailings relocation being performed at Mailuu Suu,
- Kazakhstan plans to recover rare earth elements from the abandoned Aktau uranium mill tailings dump

- a Cameco study claims that the solubility type classification of yellow cake from in situ leaching is 100% "fast", leading to lower inhalation doses for uranium mill workers,
- a study found that the carcinogenicity of uranium might depend on its physical and chemical nature and its isotopic composition,
- the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) plan a "Prospective Birth Cohort Study Involving Environmental Uranium Exposure in the Navajo Nation",
- ICRP released Publication 115 revising the radon risk coefficient from 0.000283 to 0.0005 per Working Level Month (WLM), the new value now coming close to the one published in BEIR VI 13 years earlier

- the World Health Organization (WHO) raised its drinking water guideline for uranium from 15 to 30 micrograms per liter, based on new epidemiological studies on populations exposed to high uranium concentrations,
- the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a rule on decommissioning planning, and a final rule to ease restrictions on commencement of construction before a license is issued,
- an U.S. NRC audit identified "opportunities" for more effective oversight of uranium recovery decommissioning,
- the Utah regulator halted the practice of misclassifying blended uranium waste as "Natural Uranium",
- the new Brazilian Mining Code is to speed up uranium mining projects,
- Peru is drafting an environmental guide for uranium exploration,
- Mali aims to lure investors with a mining code review,
- the Central African Republic, Niger, and Kyrgyzstan were accepted as countries compliant to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global standard for companies to publish what they pay and for governments to disclose what they receive,
- Namibia and South Africa are not adequately regulating uranium mining, and the Central African Republic apparently is not prepared to regulate it, a WISE/SOMO report found,
- Namibia's government reserved exclusive exploration and mining rights for uranium,
- Namibia finally published Radiation Protection and Waste Disposal Regulations - 35 years after uranium mining started in the country,
- the European Commission considers long-term stewardship of uranium mine and mill tailings an open issue (!),
- Finland (which has no uranium mines) will assist Zambia in the review of its uranium mining regulations

Uranium trade

- China more than tripled its uranium imports in 2010

Proliferation issues and uranium trafficking
- four drums of uranium concentrate were stolen from Areva's Trekkopje pilot scale uranium mine in Namibia,
- Yellow Cake uranium was found stored near Sabha in Libya,
- Russia and Australia adopted a safeguarding mechanism for civilian use of Australian uranium exports to Russia,
- India is working out mechanisms with South Africa to access its uranium,
- Australia's ruling Labor party ended the ban on uranium exports to India, a non-signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

Foreign exploration and mining investment and cooperation
- Russia's Gazprom was granted a uranium exploration license in Niger,
- Russia is cooperating with Ethiopia in the assessment of potential uranium reserves in Ethiopia,
- Russia, Iran, Libya, and others competed for uranium rights in Sierra Leone, according to documents released in Wikileaks,
- Russia's Rosatom announced that is ready to mine uranium in the Czech Republic

- France signed a deal with Chile for uranium development

- India and Kazakhstan signed a nuclear agreement, including joint uranium mining,
- India showed interest in stakes in Areva's African uranium mines

- China Guangdong Nuclear's uranium subsidy made a "possible offer" for Kalahari Minerals, co-owner of the Husab (formerly Rössing South) mine project in Namibia,
- a Chinese takeover bid was made for uranium explorer Bannerman Resources, majority owner of the Etango deposit in Namibia,
- an Uzbek-Chinese joint venture plans to start uranium mining in the Navoi region of Uzbekistan

- Japan and Vietnam signed a nuclear cooperation agreement, including uranium exploration and mining

- Cameco is to finance the construction of the uranium byproduct plant at Talvivaara's Sotkamo nickel/zinc mine in Finland and to buy the uranium produced

This and that:
- In the United Kingdom, music once composed for the campaign against uranium mining on the Orkney Islands was played at the Royal Wedding in Westminster Abbey on April 29. Prince William and Kate Middleton chose to include "Farewell to Stromness" by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies in their service because it featured in Charles and Camilla's 2005 blessing. Sir Peter, who lives on the Orkney island of Sanday, wrote Farewell to Stromness in 1980 as a piano composition for "The Yellow Cake Revue" - a protest against plans to mine uranium ore in Orkney.
- In Germany, a group collected donations to substitute Areva as a sponsor for a local cultural event. Under the slogan "Poesie ohne Uranstaub" (Poetry without uranium dust), a citizens' group collected Euro 15,000 to replace the amount Areva is expected to donate for the 2012 installment of the annual "Poetenfest" (Poetry Festival) in Erlangen, Germany.
- In Canada, on the contrary, the Elliot Lake (Ontario) city council voted to return to its roots for a major municipal celebration: the council voted to change the name of the "Jewel in the Wilderness Festival" back to the "Uranium Festival". The Uranium Festival was created in the 1970s by former mayor of Elliot Lake Roger Taylor. Elliot Lake was a major uranium mining area between 1955 and 1996. Uranium mining will now return to the area with the development of the Eco Ridge rare earth/uranium mine (see above).

Archive of Uranium Mining reviews
Earlier annual mining reviews can be found in Nuclear Monitor issues 722 (2010), 702 (2009), 682 (2008), 665 (2007), 650 (2006), 640 (2005), 623 (2004), 600 (2003), 579 (2002), 560 (2001), 540 (2000), 522 (1999) and 504 (1998) or at:

Source and contact: Peter Diehl at the WISE Uranium Project.

Wise Uranium