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Nuclear power and water consumption

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The amount of water used in uranium mining is similar to that used in coal mining, and the problems of water pollution are also similar. However, uranium requires much more processing than coal to become a usable fuel for electricity production. The process of converting uranium ore to finished reactor fuel involves several steps that use water, including milling, enrichment and fuel fabrication. These additional processing steps make uranium a much more water intensive fuel than coal, per unit of electricity produced.

The above citation is from a newly released report in which it is stated that nuclear power needs large amounts of water: for example four times as much water compared to a combined cycle gas plant. Table 1 (on page 23 of the report) shows the Water Consumption in Thermoelectric Power Plants, which tells us that nuclear power plants need 2,700 liters per MWh. Conclusion of the report in short: increasing pressure on Freshwater resources will require more efficient water use in the extraction, transformation and delivery of energy.

Water is increasingly moving from an operational issue to one of strategic significance, according to Thirsty Energy: Water and Energy in the 21st Century, a new report by the World Economic Forum and Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA). The report warns, “Energy’s share of water is likely to be squeezed in the future in many parts of the world.” According to Climate of Hope (a documentary produced in 2007 by Scott Ludlam and Jose Garcia for the Anti-Nuclear Alliance of Western Australia) the Olympic Dam mine in South Australia consumes 33 thousand tons of water a day, making it one of the largest water users in the country.

’Thirsty Energy’ offers a broad perspective on water’s role in energy production, the energy used in water provision, and the new risks and opportunities inherent in the “ancient relationship” between energy and water. The report illustrates water-related challenges and potential solutions with perspectives from distinguished leaders in energy, water provision, engineering, and academia, concluding that local solutions must be found to optimize the use of both of these resources around the world. “Water availability and water stress are local issues, and the possible impact of water scarcity on the energy industry is similarly local,” according to the report.

Accidentally, water use of nuclear power is one of the arguments opposing the proposed new nuclear reactor which the government of Jordan is pushing hard for. Jordan is the 4th most water poor country in the world, "we do not have the luxury of wasting our precious resource on cooling the reactor", writes the Jordan Royal Marine Conservation Society (JREDS).

The JREDS is asking for assistance in trying to develop and launch a campaign to oppose the nuclear plans by the government of Jordan. Since Jordan has a huge potential for renewable energy production (wind & solar) there really is no justification for nuclear, writes Princess Basma bint Ali.

Although the report is commissioned by the World Economic Forum (not the most progressive forum, to put it mildly) it offers some interesting figures. Another very interested (not-nuclear related) figure on page 27 (‘Efficiency loss due to Carbon Capture and Storage at Typical Power Plant’) says that “Capturing and sequestering CO2 emissions can cost a power plant about 30% of its power.”

The report ‘Thirsty Energy: Water and Energy in the 21st Century’ is available at

Contact: Laka Foundation at

HRHP Basma bint Ali at the Jordan Royal Marine Conservation Society (JREDS) can be reached at:

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

South-Africa: PBMR Ltd. in trouble.

 According to a PBMR Ltd press release, the global financial crisis and related impact on funding – particularly on the South African electricity utility Eskom – has prompted the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor company to "consider near-term market opportunities based on customer requirements  to service both the electricity and process heat markets", as they call it. Basically it wil be a shift towards non-power options. One of the considerations is the modification of the design planned for the Demonstration Power Plant project at Koeberg near Cape Town to also service potential customers such as the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) project in the US, which is funded by the US Department of Energy, oil sands producers in Canada (to produce the temperature and associated pressure needed to extract bitumen from oil sands) and the South African petro-chemical company Sasol (to either produce process steam and/or hydrogen to upgrade coal products). Another potential application is the use of the PBMR’s waste heat for desalination.

According to Jaco Kriek, CEO of PBMR (Pty) Ltd, discussions are underway with suppliers to put certain contracts on hold "to prevent unnecessary spending", although he emphasises that no contracts have been cancelled. But is is clear that business is not running smoothly (nothing new one can argue). The development of the PBMR is way behind schedule and in December Eskom cancelled the construction of pressurized water reactors (see Nuclear Monitor 681, 18 December 2008).

Press release PBMR Ltd, 5 February 2009

Japan: Nuclear industry rebuked for misleading advertising.

On 25 November 2008 the Japan Advertising Review Organization (JARO)  sent a letter to the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan  (FEPCO) regarding a complaint concerning an advertisement placed by  FEPCO in a Japanese magazine in April 2008.

The complaint claimed that the following words in FEPCO's advertisement  were incorrect and inappropriate: "Nuclear power ... is a "clean way of producing electricity", which  does not release CO2 when generating electricity." The complaint pointed out that these words could mislead consumers.

JARO judged that the word "clean" does not fit well with nuclear   energy. It said that many consumers would have misgivings about the  claim that nuclear energy is "clean", on the sole grounds that it does  not emit CO2 during electricity generation, when there is no  accompanying explanation about safety or radioactive waste. JARO  recommended that claims that nuclear energy is "clean", without  adequate explanation of safety and the effect of nuclear energy on the  environment, should not be made in future.

For most people JARO's conclusion is plain common sense, but it is   refreshing to see the nuclear industry rebuked by an advertising watch  dog for misleading advertising. JARO's letter was supposed to be confidential, but it was reported in  the media.

CNIC, 6 February 2009

Asian Development Bank Energy Policy Paper.

The Asian Development Bank will maintain its current policy of non-involvement in the financing of nuclear power generation. That is the conclusion in the Banks's Energy Policy Paper, published in January 2009. ADB writes (page 30/31):  "Nevertheless, in spite of its sustainable and operational benefits, nuclear power development faces a number of barriers, such as public concerns related to nuclear proliferation, waste management, safety issues, high investment costs, long lead times, and commercial acceptability of new technologies. Overcoming these barriers is  difficult and open public debate will be required to convince the public about the benefits of nuclear power. MDBs have traditionally avoided financing nuclear power plants. In the context of the former Soviet Union states, the EBRD¹s current energy policy includes financing safety measures of nuclear plants, decommissioning and environmental rehabilitation, and promoting an efficient nuclear regulatory framework. In view of concerns related to nuclear technology, procurement limitations, proliferation risks, fuel availability, and environmental and safety concerns, ADB will maintain its current policy of non-involvement in the financing of nuclear power generation."

Pakistan: Khan released from house-arrest.

On February 6, a Pakistani court freed Abdul Qadeer Khan from house arrest, lifting the restrictions imposed on him since 2004 when he publicly confessed to running an illicit nuclear network. Khan, 73, considered in the West as a rogue scientist and a pariah who sold technology to North Korea, Libya and Iran, is revered as a national hero in Pakistan for his role in transforming the country into a nuclear power.

The ruling to set him free seemed as much a political decision as a legal one, intended to shore up support for the government of President Asif Ali Zardari, which has been derided in the Pakistani press as being too close to the U.S. The government has been under intense domestic pressure to free Mr. Khan, and that outweighed the backlash that Mr. Zardari knew the action would cause in Washington. The ruling was accompanied by a secret agreement between Mr. Khan and the civilian government, the contents of which were not disclosed, which may continue to place restrictions on him. It was not entirely clear whether Mr. Khan would be free to leave the country.

The Foreign Ministry said Pakistan had investigated Khan's past proliferation, shared its findings with the IAEA, and put in tight controls to prevent anything similar from happening again. "A. Q. Khan is history." The US State Department condemned the move: “He’s still a proliferation threat. We’re very troubled by this.”

The civilian government had eased the restrictions placed on the scientist in 2004. Right from the time of Khan's confession, the US has been persistently demanding permission to question him on his alleged proliferation activities. Pakistan has been equally consistent in denying this permission.

New York Times, 6 February 2009 / AP, 8 February 2009 / The Hindu, 9 February 2009

ITER could cost twice as much as budgeted.

According to the British newspaper The Guardian, the experimental ITER fusion reactor could cost twice as much as governments had planned for. The project, which absorbs almost half of Britain's energy research budget (!), will test complex machinery needed to make the world's first operational fusion power plants. ITER was originally planned to cost €10bn, but the rising price of raw materials and changes to the initial design are likely to see that bill soar. The warning came as scientists gathered in Finland to unveil the first component of the reactor, which will effectively act as its exhaust pipe. The reactor is currently expected to take nearly 10 years to build and is scheduled to be switched on in 2018.

The Guardian (UK), 29 January 2009

Ukraine to join International Uranium Center.

The Russian government has approved a request by the Rosatom corporation for Ukraine to join the international uranium enrichment project set up by Russia and Kazakhstan. The International Uranium Enrichment Centre would see uranium from member countries enriched at Angarsk in Russia under international supervision. The scheme is not yet finalised, but in theory it would offer member countries assured supplies of nuclear fuel under some sort of arbitration by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). An additional possibility is that such a scheme would take back highly-radioactive used nuclear fuel from client countries for reprocessing and recycling or for permanent storage.

The concept of an international fuel cycle has come to the fore in recent years partly due to suspicions that Iran's uranium enrichment facilities were once part of an undeclared nuclear weapons program. Countries that agree to abide by the global non-proliferation regime and within which the IAEA is confident nuclear power is only used peacefully would be guaranteed supplies of uranium fuel. The theory is that those countries would never need to develop their own uranium enrichment or reprocessing facilities, which otherwise could potentially be misused for weapons production.

The international uranioum project is only one of the several Multilateral approaches, the US GNEP (Global Nuclear Energy Partnership) and the IAEA Fuel Bank, being two other initiatives.

World Nuclear News, 10 February 2009

Spain: no new reactors. 

On January 21 Spain reaffirmed its policy of not commissioning new nuclear power plants a day after its biggest utility unveiled plans to build them in Britain, while repeating pledges to boost renewables and save energy.  "There will be no new nuclear plants," Spain Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian told journalists when asked to comment on Iberdrola's joint venture with British companies to build nuclear power stations.  Sebastian noted that Spanish energy consumption per head was 20 percent above the European average. "Saving 20 percent would be the equivalent of doubling the number of nuclear power plants. It seems easier and cheaper to me," he said. "Furthermore, it (saving) is immediate, whereas nuclear plants take 15 years. There is no controversy, no waste or security problems, nothing," he added.

Spain's government has said it may extend the working lives of the country's eight ageing nuclear power plants. Operating permits for seven of the plants are up for renewal between this year and 2011, or well within the mandate of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist government. Spain's nuclear power plants supply about 7,300 megawatts and wind farms now have the capacity to generate more than 16,000 MW due to a boom in renewable energy, (but in practice provide less).

Reuters, 21 January 2009

New Nuclear madness in Britain.

The UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has  announced that it expects to nominate land near Sellafield, Wylfa, Oldbury and Bradwell, for  consideration under the Government’s Strategic Siting Assessment (SSA) process to identify sites suitable for nuclear new build. Whilst the NDA is not proposing to develop new nuclear plants itself and will not seek planning permission, it expects to nominate land into the SSA process in order to enhance the value of its land and in turn generate income which will help fund the decommissioning programme.

NDA, 23 January 2009

Medical Isotope Production;

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Conversion from HEU to LEU based production and alternative methods

Since 1992 the US restricted its high-enriched uranium (HEU) exports to encourage other countries to convert civilian facilities to low-enriched uranium (LEU), which can’t be used directly to make nuclear weapons. Instead in mid 2005 Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which includes provisions relaxing restrictions on HEU exports for medical isotope production. The primary beneficiaries of the new law are producers of medical radioisotopes.

Last January the US Committee on Medical Isotope Production without Highly Enriched Uranium published a study that was motivated by this conflict between the non-proliferation objectives and the assurance of the supply of medical isotopes. The report is the product of a congressionally mandated study to examine the feasibility of eliminating the use of HEU in reactor fuel, reactor targets, and medical isotope production facilities. The report focuses on the use of HEU for the production of the medical isotope molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), whose decay product, technetium-99m (Tc-99m), is used in the majority of medical diagnostic imaging procedures, and on the use of HEU for research and test reactor fuel. Unfortunately the committee doesn’t seriously discuss the use of techniques without the use of reactors and HEU or LEU targets for the production of medical isotopes. Interestingly, Canada - the world largest producer of Mo-99 - is considering this option.

Research and Test Reactors
Increasing concerns about the proliferation of HEU prompted the formation of the Reduced Enrichment for Research and Test Reactors (RERTR) program by the Department of Energy (DOE) in 1978. Over the 26-year initial period of the RERTR Program, only 38 U.S.-designed research and test reactors were converted from HEU fuel to LEU fuel, and not a single Russian-designed reactor was converted. During the same period, more than 200 research reactors, the majority fueled with HEU, permanently shut down because of obsolescence, problems with aging materials and facilities. Of the new reactors commissioned during this period only one of significant power, FRM II in Munich, Germany, as well as a few Chinese Miniature Neutron Source Reactors were started up with HEU.

Presently, DOE’s HEU elimination efforts are being carried out under the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI). This initiative is focused on the minimization of HEU in civilian research and test reactor fuels and targets. Research and test reactors that have defense-related missions and naval reactors used to power surface vessels and submarines are out of the scope of this program. The committee reports that DOE National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE-NNSA), in collaboration with several other organizations, has made substantial progress in converting reactor fuels and targets to LEU through GTRI. It recommends that the GTRI Program be continued until research and test reactors worldwide have converted their fuel and targets to LEU or have been permanently shut down and their HEU fuel has been returned to the country from which it originated.

Nuclear research and test reactors have been in operation for more than 60 years. They underpin the development of power and propulsion reactors and are used for research in amongst others the fields of nuclear physics and engineering, nuclear chemistry, materials science, and biology. Currently they have been widely considered as indispensable for the production of medical isotopes to supply a rapidly increasing demand for diagnostic and therapeutic procedures based on nuclear medicine techniques. According to the committee more than 700 research reactors are known to have been commissioned worldwide, and 240 of these are currently in operation in 55 countries. Another 9 reactors are in various stages of construction and several more are planned. Since 1975 significantly more research and test reactors have shut down each year than have started up. Of the 240 operating research reactors, 203 are or were fuelled with HEU, almost all of them supplied with HEU originated from the US or Russia. GTRI has a strategic plan to convert 125 of these reactors - still planned to be operating by 2018 - and thereby minimize the commerce in HEU for research reactors.

As of December 2008, the status of the conversion program is as follows: 58 reactors have been fully or partially converted and four reactors were shut down before conversion. Between 1978 and 2004 38 of these conversions took place and 20 conversions (including those of two Chinese reactors) took place between 2004 and present, representing an  acceleration over the pre-GTRI conversion rates. 40 reactors are estimated to be able to convert using existing qualified LEU fuels; and 27 reactors are planned for conversion with advanced LEU fuels that still need to be developed and qualified. A new high-density fuel is under development that would allow the conversion of at least 19 of these reactors.

Molybdenum-99 production
Most of the world’s production of Mo-99 is carried out by irradiating HEU targets in research and test reactors that are fueled with LEU. With one exception, the US is currently the world’s primary supplier of HEU for Mo-99 production, either directly through DOE or indirectly through the Euratom Supply Agency (ESA). The US origin HEU that is used for Mo-99 production has an enrichment of about 93% U-235 and was originally produced for use in nuclear weapons. The exception is South Africa, which uses its own HEU (45% U-235) to produce Mo-99 in a reactor that is also fueled with HEU but is in the process of being converted to LEU. ESA does not publicly disclose the sources of HEU used for the manufacture of targets for medical isotope production. Most of this HEU is probably of US origin, but some may also be of UK origin.

Almost all of the Mo-99 used worldwide is produced by just four companies, all using HEU targets: MDS-Nordion (Ottawa, Canada), Mallinckrodt (Petten, The Netherlands), IRE (Fleurus, Belgium) and NTP Radioisotopes (Pelindaba, South Africa).

With the exception of the Belgian (BR2 in Mol) and the South African (SAFARI-1 in Pelindaba) reactors all of these producers use LEU-fueled reactors. According to the compilers of the report approximately 40-50 kg of US HEU are used annually for medical isotope production, including annual US exports of about 15.5 kg of HEU to Canada. The major part of this amount is used by the large scale producers named above (except NTP in South Africa). Supposing the worldwide Mo-99 production market shares of MDS Nordion (40%), Mallinckrodt (25%) and IRE (20%) are directly related to the consumption of HEU the annual US exports of HEU to the Netherlands and Belgium amount to minimally 8.9 and 7.8 kg respectively. Moreover the committee mentions that approximately 97% of the uranium originally present in the targets ends up in the process waste. Consequently, the accumulating waste from Mo-99 production contains substantial quantities of HEU. Worldwide, tens of kilograms of this HEU waste are accumulating annually from Mo-99 production. The Ottawa Citizen mentions an amount of 100 kg HEU in Chalk River (Ontario, Canada). Meaning sufficient HEU in Canada, the Nederlands and Belgium to make one or more nuclear bombs.

Probably the most important findings of the committee are: “There are no technical barriers to conversion of Mo-99 production from HEU targets to LEU targets.” [...] Production using LEU targets is technically feasible and in fact is being carried out by CNEA in Argentina and will be shortly by the Australian National Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) using CNEA technology. The committee sees no technical barriers to scaling up production for large-scale production.” [...] “To the committee’s knowledge, none of the major producers are doing much actual development work on LEU targets and process [..]”. [...] Based on the information presented to it by producers, the committee did not see any evidence that such R&D was being carried out.” Last but not least: “The committee judges that conversion within existing facilities could be carried out in as little as little as a few months to two years.”

Alternative techniques without use of a reactor
Though it has been a little step forward to use LEU instead of HEU, the committee didn’t seriously discuss the safest, cheapest and most reliable methods for the production of Mo-99. Recently a research scientist at Canada’s national particle and nuclear physics laboratory is calling on the federal government to look into ways of delivering radioactive medical isotopes without the need for nuclear reactors. According to Thomas Ruth the current system of delivering medical isotopes does not meet the demands of hospitals. Reactor closures at the isotope production facilities in Canada and the Netherlands led and leads to shortages in the worldwide supply of medical isotopes, drawing public attention to the fragile nature of the industry. “There are no near-term or even long-term solutions being implemented that could provide a reliable and adequate supply for Europe and North America,” he writes in Nature. He proposes two alternative methods the Canadian government should consider. The first method is the use of particle accelerator technology, in which an accelerator shoots photons at the relatively stable uranium-238 isotope. Scientists have concluded that such accelerators could be built. Ruth says that research has to verify those conclusions before such accelerators could become a reality. The second method is a move away from scans reliant on reactor-made isotopes and toward positron emission tomography (PET) scans. Though PET scans use isotopes with a shorter half-life than reactor-produced isotopes, these isotopes can be created in hospital-run cyclotrons. Because less than 15% of nuclear medicine installations in the US are equipped with PET scanners, Ruth expects that PET scanners and cyclotrons would have to come down in cost for this to be an attractive option. Both proposals were first made in a report produced after a task force met in Vancouver in the fall of 2008 to discuss time lines and costs. The construction of an accelerator would take three to four years and, depending on the technology used, would cost between C$50 and C$125 million to build. In a recent budget the Canadian government called for C$351 million in funding to Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. for its operations, including the development of the Advanced Candu Reactor, while there was no mention of any budget toward alternative means of producing medical isotopes. Just two days before Ruth’s announcement the Chalk River facility was again in the news as opposition members of parliament grilled the government about two separate leaks at the AECL reactor. The Nuclear Safety Commission issued a statement saying that “at no time was the public or the environment at risk” and that no radioactive material leaked into the Ottawa River. But, recently AECL (Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd) announced plans to dump radioactive water in the Ottawa River. So, after assuring the Canadian House of Commons and the public that "no radioactivity has been leaked into the Ottawa River", the nuclear establishment is planning to dump the radioactive heavy water (containing radioactive tritium) into the Ottawa River deliberately.


  • "Medical Isotope Production Without Highly Enriched Uranium" (Prepublication Copy). Committee on Medical Isotope Production without Highly Enriched Uranium; Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board, Division on Earth and Life Studies; National Research Council of the National Academies. The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2009.
  • ISBN: 0-309-13040-9, 240 pages.  / Ottawa Citizen, 28 January 2009: "Canada needs to find a safer, reliable supply of isotopes" / Sierra Club Canada News Release, 6 February 2009: "Stop Dumping Radioactive Water in the Ottawa River" / Ruth, Thomas; "Accelerating production of medical isotopes", Nature 457, 29 January 2009 / "Making Medical Isotopes", Report of the Task Force on Alternatives for Medical-Isotope Production, TRIUMF, University of British Columbia, Advanced Applied Physics Solutions, Inc., 2008 available at:


IPPNW campaign to convert Radiopharmaceutical Production to LEU

As part of their International Campaign To Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) is campaigning to convert Radiopharmaceutical Production from HEU to LEU. Together with mayors, civil society groups, NGOs, churches and citizens, ICAN demand an end to nuclear weapons through a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC) which will make nuclear weapons illegal, banning their development, possession, use and threat of use. ICAN’s priorities are the elimination of nuclear weapons in the same way comparable treaties have banned landmines and chemical and biological weapons; the immediate stop of upgrading, modernizing, and testing of new nuclear weapons; and to reduce the likelihood of nuclear weapons use.

“While it may seem like a small matter compared with the task of eliminating some 25,000 nuclear weapons from the world's arsenals,” IPPNW states “the medical profession has a proliferation problem in its own backyard.” As health care professionals they exert themselves to hasten the phase-out of medical commerce in HEU and so terminate one of the most vulnerable pathways to the much-feared “terrorist bomb”, since there are no obstacles to convert to LEU sources for these radiopharmaceuticals. Among other things IPPNW urge the governments of Belgium, Canada, France, the Netherlands and South Africa, and Euratom, to require isotope production reactors within their jurisdiction, utilising HEU fuel or targets, to promptly be converted to LEU fuel and targets. They urge the governments that supply HEU to institute compelling incentives - preferably coordinated - for radiopharmaceutical producers to convert to LEU in the near future.

More information on the IPPNW-campaign at: 


In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

German Nuclear Waste Site in Danger of collapsing.
The Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) had learned late last year that pieces of the ceiling of the 750-meter deep chamber were unstable and could collapse on top of the 6,000 radioactive waste drums below. The information about the Asse nuclear waste site  (an old salt mine) was posted discreetly on the radiation office's Web site late Wednesday, January 14. The BfS said it could not rule out damage to the waste containers should the Asse site ceiling collapse, but gave its reassurances that it would reinforce the seals of the chamber with concrete to stop any radioactive dust or air escaping. The office said the measures were only a precaution and that there was no immediate danger posed by the site. It said the waste inside the chamber contained only low-levels of radioactivity. The site has not been used for fresh radioactive storage since 1978, with environmental groups regularly calling for waste there to be removed and stored in a safer location.

Deutsche Welle, 16 January 2009

Brazil to start enriching uranium at Resende. Industriás Nucleares do Brasil (INB) has been issued a temporary licence by the Brazilian Nuclear Energy Commission (CNEN) to start enriching uranium on an industrial scale at its Resende plant.

INB has held an environmental licence to enrich uranium since November 2006, but the plant's operating permit, which is valid for one year, has been now been amended by the CNEN. Production of enriched uranium is expected to begin in February, with some 12 tons of enriched uranium expected to be produced by the end of 2009. The ultra-centrifugation enrichment technology used at the plant was developed by the Naval Technology Centre in Sao Paulo (CTMSP) and the Institute of Energy and Nuclear Research (IPEN). However, the technology is similar to Urenco's technology.

The Resende plant currently has two cascades of centrifuges. The first cascade commenced operation in 2006 and the second was expected to do so in 2008. Stage 1 - eventually to be four modules totalling 115,000 SWU per year and costing US$170 million - was officially opened in 2006. Each module consists of four or five cascades of 5000-6000 SWU per year. It is planned that a further eight cascades are installed by 2012, which will take the capacity to 200,000 SWU. By that time, INB is expected to be able to produce all the enriched uranium used in the Angra 1 reactor and 20% of that used in Angra 2. Those are the country's only operating power units at the moment, although plans to complete Angra 3 are advancing and many more reactors are expected in time.

Up until now, uranium used to fuel Brazil's nuclear power reactors has been sent as uranium concentrate to Cameco in Canada to be converted into uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas, which has then been sent to Urenco's enrichment plants in Europe. After enrichment, the gas has been returned to Brazil for INB to reconvert the UF6 gas to powder, which is then used to produce nuclear fuel pellets.

World Nuclear News, 14 January 2009

Australia/UK: Plutonium secretly dumped at sea?
Declassified UK Government files show that 500g of plutonium and about 20 kg of radioactive wastes were secretly removed from the 1950s bomb test site at Maralinga in Australia. The UK Government removed the wastes in 1978 and although there is no official record of what happened to it the suggestion in the files is that it was secretly dumped at sea.

N-base Briefing 596, 7 January 2009

Sellafield privatisation: Rushed liabilities deal
Commercial insurance companies refused to consider any policy regarding liabilities for an accident at Sellafield which might be bought in courts outside the UK which were not party to existing liability conventions. Energy minister Mike O'Brien told the House of Commons the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority approached the nuclear insurance market in 2007 when it was preparing the contract for a private company to run Sellafield. The Government and NDA eventually indemnified the private companies chosen to run Sellafield and the Drigg waste facility against any costs arising from an accident - even if it was shown to be the fault of the commercial company.

Meanwhile, documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show the lengths ministers and civil servants took to prevent MPs from having the opportunity to discuss the decision to make the contract for running Sellafield more financially attractive to private companies. The Government agreed to take over responsibility for the costs of any accidents at Sellafield after the preferred bidders, Nuclear Management Partners, said it would not sign the contract unless it was indemnified against all costs. Ministers abandoned normal procedures to ensure that by the time MPs learned of the arrangements it would be too late to make any changes.

N-base Briefing 596 & 597, 7 & 14 January 2009

Turkey: AtomStroyExport revises bid.
A consortium led by Russia's AtomStroyExport submitted a revised bid for the tender to build Turkey's first nuclear power plant minutes after the contents of its initial bid were announced. At 21.16 cents per kWh, the initial bid submitted by the consortium is nearly triple the current Turkish average wholesale electricity price of 7.9 cents per kWh. Turkish energy minister Hilmi Guller told a press conference that AtomStroyExport had submitted a revised price "linked to world economic developments". Although it would be unorthodox for a bid to be revised once submitted in the tender process, AtomStroyExport's is the only bid on the table and Guller suggested that there would be room for bargaining. The revised bid would be opened and assessed by Turkish state electricity company TETAS who would assess it before passing it on to the country's cabinet for approval. No details of the revised bid have been released.

Turkish plans call for the country's first nuclear power plant to be operational by 2014, with proposals for 10-12 reactors by 2020 but would-be reactor builders appear to be treading carefully. Although six parties participated in the tendering process for the country's first nuclear reactor, AtomStroyExport's consortium was the only one actually to submit a bid.

World Nuclear news, 20 January 2009

Australia : no nukes to cut carbon emissions.
The Australian government  will not choose for nuclear power to help tackle climate change. The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering - representing engineers and scientists – urged to do so in a report, calling the government to spend A$6 billion on researching ways to slash the carbon emissions from electricity generation. The academy's report says no single technology will solve climate change, and takes a look at everything from nuclear power to clean coal and renewable energy.
Federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson responded by saying the government was committed to meeting its greenhouse gas reduction targets without turning to nuclear power. "It is the government's view that nuclear power is not needed as part of Australia's energy mix given our country's abundance and diversity of low-cost renewable energy sources," he said. "The government has a clear policy of prohibiting the development of an Australian nuclear power industry." The report's author Dr John Burgess said he was not disappointed by the minister's comments on nuclear power. "I guess what we're slightly concerned about is that without nuclear energy the other technologies have to work," Dr Burgess said.

The statement is important as the world is starting to prepare for the crucial Climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, December this year. If nuclear power will not get the support of major players (ie. financial state aid, subsidies via post-Kyoto flexible mechanisms as CDM and the Carbon Trade schemes) it will be considered and received as a major knock-out to the nuclear industry.

Business Spectator, 16 January 2009

Russian economic crisis decreases nuclear safety.
The nuclear industry in Russia is being negatively affected by the countries economic crisis; and the situation is expected to worsen in 2009. This is according to a recently released annual report by the states nuclear regulatory body. Ongoing job cuts at nuclear facilities include the personnel directly responsible for safety control. Activists call on the Russian government to quickly adopt a plan to insure public safety and nuclear security. The deteriorating social and economic situation in Russia is likely to result in significant drop of nuclear safety' level at many nuclear facilities. Some nuclear facilities have already seen jobs cut because of reduced national income due to declining oil prices and the global recession.  It is possible that further cut jobs in Russians and may bring back the nuclear proliferation problems related to illegal trade of radioactive materials. These radioactive materials can be used for building a "dirty bomb". According to governmental report, obtained by Ecodefense, staff cuts have been underway since 2007.

According to the recently released annual report written by the Russian nuclear regulator, Rostekhnadzor,  there have been "job cuts at facilities responsible for nuclear-fuel cycle of personnel responsible for safety control and maintenance". The report also criticises nuclear facilities management for "not paying enough attention to ensuring nuclear safety". In a disturbing criticism of iteself, Rostekhnadzor reports that it doesn't have enough safety inspectors to do it's own job properly.

Press release Ecodefense, 23 December 2008

Clinton's investment in uranium

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

An article in The New York Times on Jan. 31, 2008 implied that former U.S. President Bill Clinton used political influence in Kazakhstan to allow Canadian mining magnate Frank Giustra to invest in what turned out to be a very profitable uranium venture in return for Giustra's major donations to Clinton's foundation. According to the NYT, Giustra's deal was brokered by ex-president Clinton during a so-called "philanthropic tour" of the Central Asian state in late 2005. A few months later, Clinton's charitable foundation received just over US$30 million from Giustra, followed by a whopping US$ 100 million soon afterwards.

WISE Amsterdam - Frank Giustra, heads a specialist investment bank, Endeavour Financial, which picks opportunities in the minerals sector. Previously he was president and CEO of Yorkton Securities, one of Canada's leading venture capital firms and also a major investor in mining. In late 2004, Mr. Giustra began talking to investors, and put together a company that would eventually be called UrAsia Energy Ltd.

Late on September 6, 2005, a private plane carrying the Canadian mining financier flew to Almaty, Kazakhstan. A fortune awaited: highly coveted deposits of uranium. And Mr. Giustra was in hot pursuit of an exclusive deal to tap them. Unlike more established competitors, Mr. Giustra was a newcomer to uranium mining in Kazakhstan. But what his fledgling company lacked in experience, it made up for in connections. Accompanying Mr. Giustra that day was a former president of the United States, Bill Clinton. Within two days, corporate records show that Mr. Giustra came up a winner when his company signed preliminary agreements giving it the right to buy into three uranium projects controlled by Kazakhstan's state-owned uranium agency, Kazatomprom.

A spokesman for Mr. Clinton said the former president knew that Mr. Giustra had mining interests in Kazakhstan but was unaware of "any particular efforts" and did nothing to help. Mr. Giustra said he was there as an "observer only" and there was "no discussion" of the deal with Mr. Nazarbayev or Mr. Clinton. But Moukhtar Dzhakishev, president of Kazatomprom, said in an interview that Mr. Giustra did discuss it, directly with the Kazakh president, and that his friendship with Mr. Clinton "of course made an impression."

Within 48 hours of Mr. Clinton's departure from Almaty on Sept. 7, 2005, Mr. Giustra got his deal. UrAsia signed two memorandums of understanding that paved the way for the company to become partners with Kazatomprom in three mines. The cost to UrAsia was more than US$450 million. Clinton’s foundation has a right to half of any of Giustra’s future minerals earnings.

Records show that Mr. Giustra donated the US$31.3 million to the Clinton Foundation in the months that followed in 2006, but neither he nor a spokesman for Mr. Clinton would say exactly when. In February 2007, Uranium One agreed to pay US$3.1 billion to acquire UrAsia. Mr. Giustra, would be paid US$7.05 per share for a company that just two years earlier was trading at 10 cents per share.

That same month, Mr. Dzhakishev, the Kazatomprom chief, said he travelled to Chappaqua, N.Y., to meet with Mr. Clinton at his home. Mr. Dzhakishev said Mr. Giustra arranged the three-hour meeting. Mr. Dzhakishev said he wanted to discuss Kazakhstan's intention - not publicly known at the time - to buy a 10 percent stake in Westinghouse, a United States supplier of nuclear technology.

Mr. Dzhakishev said he was worried the proposed Westinghouse investment could face Capitol Hill national security concerns that would kill the deal. Clinton first said he had not been lobbying this issue for Mr. Giustra but a few days later had to admit a meeting at his home did take place,.

Now the whole issue has been raised again as Hillary Clinton is to become Secretary of State in the Obama government. While Clinton has agreed not to take any more money from regimes that have a stake in his wife’s policies, he still can accept money from foreign business executives as long as he names them annually. That ensures, Clinton said, there won’t be “even the appearance of a conflict of interest.”

It doesn’t take a cynic to wonder if Secretary Clinton is in an impossible situation. What happens if Madam Secretary goes soft on Kazakhstan? There’s rarely hard evidence but excuse us for asking.


  • New York Times, 31 January 2008 / Judicial Watch Blog,  31 January 2008 / The Croesus Chronicles, 12 January 2009 /, 15 January 2009 /
  •, 21 January 2009

Uraniummining issues 2008 review

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Peter Diehl, WISE Uranium Project

For the eleventh 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: price, mines, exploration, environmental issues, indigenous people, production and so on.

WISE Uranium Project - During the course of the year, the uranium spot price declined from 90 to 53 US$ per lb U3O8. These are the price estimates given by Ux Consulting Company, LLC (UxC); the estimates provided by Tradetech LLC differ slightly. The year-end value represents just 39% of the unprecedented June 2007 peak of 136 US$ per lb U3O8.

World uranium production was 41279 t U in 2007 (2008 figures are not yet available), a 4% increase over the 39655 t U produced in 2006, but still less than the 41702 t U produced in 2005. Notably, U.S. uranium mine production dropped 3% in 2007.

Production continued to be lower than the actual demand, the balance being supplied by various stockholdings.

Uranium exploration projects

* In Canada, the province of British Columbia issued a ban on uranium exploration, while the Nunatsiavut Government imposed a 3-year moratorium on uranium mining on Labrador Inuit Lands. In Ontario and New Brunswick, municipalities and environmental organizations called for uranium mining bans in their provinces, as well. On the other hand, Nova Scotia considers lifting of its existing moratorium on uranium exploration and mining.
* In the U.S., activists called for a moratorium on uranium mining in Texas. In Virginia, the opinion is divided on whether a study should be conducted to determine whether uranium can be safely mined in Virginia; the study was proposed by Virginia Uranium Ltd, the company that wants to mine the Coles Hill uranium deposit in spite of the uranium mining moratorium currently in effect in Virginia.
* In Argentina, the province of Córdoba passed a law prohibiting all open pit mining, including uranium mining.
* In Greenland, parliament partially lifted the uranium mining ban: by-product recovery of uranium with mining for other minerals is now permitted.
* In Australia, the state of Western Australia lifted the existing uranium mining ban.

New policies
* In Canada, the province of New Brunswick issued non-binding uranium exploration guidelines, rather than a uranium ban.
* India is investing "heavily" in domestic uranium exploration, despite the new possibility to buy uranium on the world market (see below).
* Vietnam plans to explore for uranium to procure fuel for its nuclear power plant from domestic sources.

Indigenous people in opposition to uranium exploration
* In Canada, the Caribou Management Board opposed the uranium exploration project at Garry Lake, Nunavut.
On February 15, 2008, Ardoch Algonquin leader Bob Lovelace was sentenced to six months in jail for blocking a uranium exploration site near Sharbot Lake in Frontenac County, Ontario. Supporters held several demonstrations condemning his sentencing; he was not released until May 28, 2008.
* In the U.S., Mount Taylor got preliminary protection from an emergency listing in the New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties at the request of five American Indian communities. The action would make it more difficult for uranium mining companies to obtain state exploration permits, while protecting a mountain that is considered sacred by tribes and pueblos in the area.
In Arizona, Indian leaders opposed uranium mining near the Grand Canyon, and the Hualapai Tribe issued a ban on uranium mining.
* In Greenland, the president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council advocated against uranium mining in the country.
* In Australia, native title holders do not want uranium mines at the Angela and Pamela deposits in the Northern Territory, where exploration licences were granted to a joint venture of Cameco and Paladin Energy Ltd.

Indigenous people in favor of uranium exploration
* In Canada, Déline granted permission for two uranium exploration projects in the Northwest Territories.
The Inuit organization Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. signed agreements with two exploration companies on the Angilak property and on Inuit owned land nearby Areva's Kiggavik uranium deposit in Nunavut.
Seven Saskatchewan First Nations made agreements for uranium exploration with Triple Five Group.
Some aboriginals concluded - other than the Ardoch Algonquin (see above) - an agreement on uranium exploration in Frontenac County, Ontario.
* In Australia, aboriginal landowners - successfully (see above) - pressured the state to lift the uranium ban in Western Australia. In South Australia, the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association is happy with the benefits the Beverley mine and the planned Four Mile mine bring for its community.

Environmental opposition against uranium exploration
* In Canada, the Yukon government approved the Wind River winter road for a uranium exploration project in the Wernecke Mountains, despite vehement protest from environmental organizations.
In New Brunswick, the Tory opposition (!) raised concerns about health hazards from uranium exploration; clever landowners found a new way to repel uranium prospectors: they staked claims on their own land; in Moncton, 800 voiced their concerns on uranium exploration in the province.
In Ontario, the Peterborough City Council opposed uranium mining in the Otonabee River watershed; a coalition group demanded stop of uranium mining in Ontario until a study is done on its impact.
* In the U.S., at the occasion of the Iditarod sled dog race, protestors drew attention to concerns over a uranium mining project near an Iditarod checkpoint in Alaska.
In Idaho, residents opposed the approval of uranium exploration in the old Stanley Uranium District.
In Colorado, residents filed a lawsuit against Fremont County Commissioners for allowing uranium prospection in the Tallahassee area.
On June 25, 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee adopted an emergency resolution, to compel the Interior Department to withdraw one million acres of public land around the Grand Canyon from any new mining claims. The emergency resolution was in response to concerns about more than 3,000 uranium mining claims filed in Grand Canyon watersheds in less than three years. The Secretary of the Interior, however, has defied the resolution and continued to initiate and authorize new uranium exploration within the withdrawal area north of Grand Canyon. In response, conservation groups filed suit against the Secretary of the Interior.
In Virginia, the Halifax Town Council approved a mining and chemical and radioactive trespass ordinance; adoption was triggered by a proposed uranium mining and milling operation near Chatham.
* In Argentina, 2000 people protested in Tilcara against uranium exploration in the Quebrada de Humahuaca UNESCO World Heritage area in Jujuy Province. Subsequently, the Provincial Government of Jujuy suspended mining exploration in the area.
* In Portugal, 300 people protested against any uranium exploration in Nisa.
* In Slovakia, the winegrowers of Tokay opposed uranium exploration in the area.
* In Namibia, mining companies prospecting for uranium in the Namib-Naukluft Park pose a major challenge to this protected area, according to a senior Ministry of Environment and Tourism official.
* In Armenia, uranium exploration plans by an Armenian-Russian Joint Venture provoked fears among villagers of Lernadzor in the Syunik region.
* In Australia, landowners from Adelaide River south of Darwin (Northern Territory) called for an Environmental Impact Assessments for uranium exploration. Environmentalists demanded the formal incorporation of the Koongarra uranium deposit into Kakadu National Park. In Alice Springs, environmental activists rallied against uranium exploration at the Angela and Pamela deposits.

Violations at exploration sites
* In Canada, Sparton Resources Inc. left uranium exploration holes in New Brunswick unplugged.
* In the U.S., the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality issued a Notice of Violation to Strathmore Resources for numerous violations connected to exploration activities at its Sky in-situ leach project site; Strathmore paid an US$18,000 fine. In addition, Wildhorse Energy Ltd. was fined for violations at its Bison Basin/West Alkali Creek project.
* In Australia, Marathon Resources was penalized upon a contamination probe at its Mount Gee uranium exploration site in South Australia. The company had simply buried about 35 tons of waste in plastic and calico bags.

Uranium mine development projects

Current development projects

* In Nunavut, Areva aims at a production start in 2016 at its Baker Lake uranium mine project, after local Inuit abandoned their opposition.
* In Saskatchewan, a new groundwater inflow halted repair work at the Cigar Lake mine, delaying the startup of the high-grade mine further. In addition, Areva's and Denison's Midwest uranium mine project was postponed due to current economic conditions.
* In Ontario, Pele Mountain initiated the permitting process of the Eco Ridge mine in Elliot Lake.
* In Québec, Strateco Resources Inc. announced a positive scoping study on its Matoush project.

* In Wyoming, Strathmore acquired an option for the acquisition of American Nuclear Corp.'s licensed historic uranium mill site in the Gas Hills Uranium District.
At the Moore Ranch in-situ leach (ISL) uranium project, proposed by Uranium One Inc.'s subsidiary Energy Metals Corp., the U.S. NRC identified significant concerns regarding the proposed leaching in an unconfined aquifer, calling this "a unique setting for an ISL operation".
U.S. NRC approved the restart of the Christensen Ranch/Irigaray uranium in-situ leach mines; Areva had applied for it in view of the increase of the uranium market price.
U.S. NRC received a license application for the JAB and Antelope uranium in-situ leach projects.
* In Texas, Uranium Energy Corp. now has filed all permit applications required for in-situ leaching of uranium at its Goliad deposit.
Uranium Resources, Inc. announced that there has been a delay in the startup of its Rosita wellfield as a result of a number of aquifer related technical issues.
* In Colorado, the first production of uranium ore at the J-Bird Mine was reported.
The Whirlwind mine received a final mining permit.
Energy Fuels Inc. filed for a county permit for its Piñon Ridge uranium mill project, after having declared to willfully ignore residents' concerns on the project.
Five companies won bids for uranium mining leases offered by U.S. DOE under its uranium leasing program; environmental groups, however, filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the program clearing the way for uranium mines in western Colorado is illegal.
* In New Mexico, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center released a study that questions a major economic benefit of renewed uranium mining in the state.
* In Utah, Emery county officials signed an agreement with Mancos Resources Inc. to build a $100 million uranium mill near Green River.
The plan of operation for the Daneros uranium mine in San Juan County was open for public comment.
* In Arizona, the state Department of Environmental Quality denied Denison Mines Corp. mining permits for the Canyon mine and the Pinenut mine, for inadequate pollution controls.
* In Virginia, the City Council of Virginia Beach took stand against uranium mining in Pittsylvania County; the downstream community fears impacts of the proposed uranium mine on its water supply.

South America
* In Brazil, the state-run nuclear mining and fuel company INB chose local fertilizers producer Galvani as the private partner to mine phosphate and uranium at the Santa Quitéria deposit in Ceará state.
* In Argentina, NGOs denounced irregular granting of land for a uranium mine in La Rioja province.


* In the Czech Republic, environmental activists held several demonstrations against the proposed mining of the Osecná-Kotel uranium deposit in North Bohemia. In June, the Czech Environmental Ministry denied a request for mining of the deposit.
The company has lodged appeals against the decision.
* In Hungary, WildHorse Energy Ltd signed a cooperation agreement with Mecsekérc, a state owned privatized company, with the aim of restarting uranium mining in the Mecsek Hills, in southern Hungary; the first mine could open in 2010.
* In Spain, Berkeley Resources Ltd announced to develop uranium mining assets in Salamanca Province; feasibility studies are underway.


* In Malawi, Paladin Energy Ltd and the Malawi Government agreed on an environmental bond for the Kayelekera mining project that is currently under development in Karonga. The Commission for Justice and Peace of the Roman Catholic diocese of Mzuzu in northern Malawi has launched a project to monitor uranium mining in the country and will begin by focusing its attention on the Kayelekera mine.
* In Niger, Areva received government agreement to launch mining at the Imouraren deposit. The Imouraren site will be at the second world rank with almost 5000 tons of uranium produced annually.
China Nuclear International Uranium Corp. (SinoUranium) awarded a contract for construction of the Azelik uranium mine.
* In Namibia, utility NamPower urged a freeze on new mines over the regional energy crunch. Later, reports said the utility is planning an 800 MW coal-fired power plant (!) to supply the growing demand for electricity from uranium mines.
The Namibian government plans to build a second water desalination plant for the uranium mines.
The Chief of the desert-dwelling Topnaar community expressed concern over the ongoing prospecting and mining of uranium in areas in Namib Naukluft Park that are protected because of their unique flora and fauna.
In June, Namibia granted the license for the Trekkopje uranium mine. First yellow cake production is expected for end 2009. State-owned Chinese firm, Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation, signed a contract with Areva to buy 35% of the Trekkopje mine's uranium output; moreover, the Chinese company is planning to acquire 49% of Uramin Inc. - Areva's recently acquired subsidiary owning the Trekkopje mine.
In February, Forsys Metals Corp received a permit for abstraction of scarce local ground water for its Valencia uranium mine project. Farmers challenged the water permit, but the High Court upheld it. On April 25, Forsys issued the draft Environmental Impact Assessment for the mine project, and on June 4 (less than 6 weeks later!), Forsys received the Environmental Clearance for the project. And, on August 21, the Ministry of Mines and Energy issued the Mining Licence for the project.
In November, Forsys Metals Corp announced that the company is to be acquired by a member of the Forrest Group, a private industrial conglomerate based in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Rössing released the Final Social and Environmental Impact Assessment for Phase 1 and the Scoping Report for Phase 2 of its Mine Expansion Project.
Bannerman Resources commissioned a full feasibility study for its Goanikontes uranium mine project.
* In South Africa, the start of uranium production at the Ezulwini gold and uranium mine has been delayed due to power shortages and construction problems.
Niger Uranium Ltd plans an open pit uranium mine on the Henkries deposit by 2011.
In August, a chief headman was killed in Mgungu village, Mzamba, in what is believed to have been a dispute over land for a proposed uranium mine.
* In Zambia, Equinox Minerals Ltd announced a positive Feasibility Study for uranium extraction at its Lumwana copper mine project.
In December, the mine project received environmental approval, but Equinox postponed a decision on the mine development "due to current difficulty in international project financing as well as current market prices for uranium oxide".
Albidon Ltd and African Energy Resources Ltd announced a Pre-Feasibility Study - more or less - showing the viability of their Chirundu Uranium JV project, using open pit mining and acid heap leaching.
* Somalia invited Russian firms to develop uranium deposits in the country; prospecting for uranium deposits had been carried out during the Soviet era.
* In the Central African Republic, Areva signed a uranium mining deal on its Bakouma project.
* In Tanzania, Uranex NL announced the commencement of a pre-feasibility study on its Bahi uranium project. Uranex NL may start operating a uranium mine in Tanzania's central Bahi region within two years.
* In Botswana, A-Cap Resources Ltd released the result of a positive scoping study for its Letlhakane uranium mine project.


* In India, the Department of Atomic Energy demanded commercialization of all exploratory uranium mines in the country to fill the country's nuclear fuel supply gap. Subsequently, the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd. (ONGC) signed a memorandum of understanding with the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd. (UCIL) for cooperation in uranium exploration and development.
In the northeastern state of Meghalaya, India's central government invested in the development of infrastructure around the proposed uranium mining site, while opposition continued with protests by the Khasi Students Union (KSU) and Traditional heads organized in the Grassroots Democracy Advisory Council (GDAC). Researchers of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) found loopholes in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report on the uranium mining project.
In Jharkhand (the home of the only active uranium mines in India) the Bagjata uranium mine was inaugurated, while the Turamdih uranium mill still was on trial run. UCIL got leases for four further uranium mines in Jharkhand.
In Andhra Pradesh, the foundation stone was laid for the Tummalapalle uranium mine and mill in Cuddapah.
* In Kazakhstan, production started at the West Mynkuduk in-situ leach (ISL) uranium mine. The South Inkai uranium ISL mine was granted approval for commercial production. Kazatomprom announced the development of the Irkol, Semizbay, and Zhalpak deposits in compliance with strategic agreements concluded with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC).
* In Pakistan, the uranium mining project Taunsa 2 in Dera Ghazi Khan was approved.
* Iran announced to open a new uranium mill at Ardakan, central Iran, before end March 2009.
* Jordan announced to float an international tender to invite bids for the design and construction of the country's first uranium mine by the end of 2008, to be operational by 2012.
* In Russia, a new uranium/gold mill is to be built at the Lunnoye deposit in South Yakutia. Construction of the huge Elkon uranium mine and mill in Yakutia is to start in 2009. Atomredmetzoloto, the state holding company for Russia's uranium mining assets, plans a $7.4 billion investment in uranium mining by 2015; Russian uranium production could boost from 3520 tons mined in 2007 to 20,000 t/a by 2024.
* In Mongolia, Marubeni Corporation of Japan signed a letter of intent on the development of the Dornod uranium project.
An Environmental Impact Assessment was filed for the Gurvanbulag uranium mine project.


* In the Northern Territory, Arafura Resources Ltd commissioned a definitive feasibility study for the Nolans rare earth project that will also produce some uranium. Toro Energy Ltd commissioned a scoping study for the Napperby uranium mine project.
* In Western Australia, Cameco completed acquisition of a 70% interest in the Kintyre uranium deposit.
Mega Uranium Ltd. received a positive preliminary economic assessment of its Lake Maitland uranium resource and now hopes to advance the project through to production in 2011.
Upon Western Australia's decision to lift the state's uranium mining ban, BHP Billiton announced to reactivate the Yeelirrie uranium mine project.
* In South Australia, the Honeymoon in-situ leach uranium mine received government approval in January. In May, however, Uranium One Inc. announced the suspension of the mine development. After Mitsui & Co Ltd announced in October to acquire a 49% stake in the project, engineering services for the development of the mine were contracted in December.
Alliance Resources Ltd announced the decision to mine the Four Mile deposit by in-situ leaching, skipping a previously planned field leach trial; uranium concentrate production is proposed to commence in January 2010. The Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association is in favour of the project (see above).
Curnamona Energy Ltd lodged the Mining and Rehabilitation Program (MARP) document for the field leach trial at its Oban deposit.
The Sinosteel/PepinNini Joint Venture lodged an application for a Mining Lease for the development of a uranium mine at Crocker Well.

Alternate uranium recovery projects

* Recovery of residual uranium from uranium mill tailings deposits is proposed by Mintails Ltd for the West Rand tailings in South Africa. Residents from the Wonderfonteinspruit area raised concerns about the 300 million t Witfontein "megatailings" facility that is to receive the processed tailings from 15 existing tailings dams; the new tailings dam is to cover an area of 3 km x 4 km at a height of 115 m. In July, the company awarded a contract for the solvent extraction plant required for the processing plant; in December, however, the company conceded that the current cost and scarcity of sulphuric acid renders the uranium recovery uneconomic.
* In Kyrgyzstan, Nimrodel Resources Ltd investigated the feasibility of uranium recovery from abandoned uranium mill tailings deposits in Mailuu Suu. In October, the company announced that "in the context of the prevailing global economic uncertainty and current uranium prices" the uranium recovery is not feasible.
* In the north of Tajikistan, state enteprise Vostokredmet began research on the possibilities of uranium extraction from uranium mill tailings, as well.
* In Chile, state-owned copper company Corporación Nacional del Cobre (Codelco) plans to determine the feasibility of extracting uranium from its northern Chuquicamata and Radomiro Tomic mines.
* In Jordan, Jordan Phosphate Mines Company (JPMC) is conducting a feasibility study for uranium extraction from phosphates.
* India aims at uranium extraction from phosphoric acid, as well; the Heavy Water Board (HWB) is setting up a demonstration plant at Chembur in northeast Mumbai.
* For the extraction of uranium from sea water, India's Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) reported "significant progress" using natural and genetically-engineered microbes.
* And, Japan's Mitsubishi Research Institute (MRI) proposed uranium extraction from sea water by seaweed.

Issues at operating uranium mines and mills

Life extension of operating uranium mines

* In the Czech Republic, exploration showed that the only operating Czech uranium mine Dolní Rozínka could operate until about 2015, three years longer than expected.
* In Namibia, Rössing was granted Environmental Clearance for Phase 1 of its Mine Expansion Project. Rössing then released the Final Scoping Report for the Social and Environmental Assessment for Phase 2 of the Mine Expansion Project; this includes a new acid heap leaching facility. In August, Rio Tinto announced it may further extend Rössing's mine life beyond 2021 up to 2030.
* In Australia, Heathgate Resources released the draft Public Environment Report for the Beverley Uranium Mine Extension in South Australia.

Planned production increases at operating uranium mines

* In the U.S., Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) granted a hearing to Native opponents of the Crow Butte uranium in situ leach mine's North Trend Expansion project in Nebraska.
In Colorado, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) invited comment on the extension of uranium mining at the Sunday mine complex.
* In Namibia, Paladin Energy Ltd plans to more than double the production capacity of the Langer Heinrich uranium mine to 2300 t U per year.
And, Rössing plans to increase the annual uranium-oxide production from 3046 metric tons in 2007 to 5500 (possibly 6,500) in 2012.
* Kazakhstan plans to boost annual uranium production from 6600 tonnes in 2007 to 15400 tons by 2010.
* Russia intends to invest US$2 billion in the development of the country's biggest uranium mine at Krasnokamensk.
* In Australia, the extension of Heathgate Resources' Beverley uranium in-situ leach mine in South Australia was approved; environmentalists called this a "blank cheque licence for pollution".
BHP Billiton intends to have the first stage of the Olympic Dam mine expansion in production by 2013. Scientists denounced the location of the proposed desalination plant for the mine expansion as inappropriate. Environmentalists opposed the planned mine expansion outside BHP's annual general meeting.

Restart of idle uranium mills

During the first half of the year, the uranium industry was still hopeful that several idle uranium mills could be restarted.
* In the U.S., Cotter Corp. considered reopening its Cañon City uranium mill in Colorado; in Wyoming, Kennecott performed a restart evaluation of the Sweetwater mill, and in Utah, processing of conventional ore commenced at the White Mesa Mill that had been processing only alternate feed materials during recent years.
* In Kyrgyzstan, the Kara Balta mill resumed uranium production; moreover, a US$200 million investment is planned for the re-equipping of the mill.

Shutdown of uranium mines

As the uranium price continued its decline, poor economics led to several mine closures in the second half of the year: In the U.S., the Tony M mine in Utah and the Whirlwind mine in Colorado were temporarily closed. In South Africa, the Dominion mine was shut down.

Production setbacks experienced at operating uranium mines

* In South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti canceled outstanding uranium delivery contracts representing a 30% reduction in uranium deliveries (from uranium by-product extraction in its Vaal River area gold mines).
* In Australia, Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) halted mining at Ranger in the Northern Territory ahead of a cyclone in January; in the second quarter, Ranger's uranium output dropped 31% due to water inflow.

Environmental issues at operating uranium mines

* In Canada, seepage was discovered at the Rabbit Lake mill in Saskatchewan.
* In the U.S., the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) denounced the poor environmental compliance at the Smith Ranch/Highland in situ leach mine and issued in March a Notice of Violation to Cameco's subsidiary Power Resources Inc. (PRI - in the meantime renamed to Cameco Resources) for failure to conduct concurrent reclamation. The Notice of Violation is based on an investigation conducted in 2007, after a major spill of injection fluid went unnoticed for weeks. The Investigation Report also lists a number of further issues, such as:

    - The mine and reclamation plans contained in the permit document are out of date and incomplete in several important areas.

    - PRI's typical wellfield installation procedures result in the near total disturbance of the native vegetation and soils. This is not consistent with the regulation that allows for "minor disturbance" without topsoil stripping.

    - Over the years there have been an inordinate number of spills, leaks and other releases at this operation. Some 80 spills have been reported, in addition to numerous pond leaks, well casing failures and excursions. Unfortunately, it appears that such occurrences have become routine.

    - The reclamation cost estimates contained in PRI's annual reports are based on a scenario that is totally infeasible and unsupported by any critical path timeline or water balance. Rough calculations based primarily on PRI's figures reveal an alarming scenario. A realistic reclamation cost estimate for this site would likely be on the order of US$150 million, as compared to PRI's current calculation of US$38,772,800. PRI is presently bonded for a total of only US$38,416,500. No bond adjustments have been made since 2002. Clearly the public is not protected.

    - PRI's environmental efforts have suffered from inadequate staffing, high turnover, lack of institutional memory and a low level of corporate commitment. There has been a lack of continuity and follow-through on many issues. At this point in time, overall environmental compliance at this operation is poor.

In July, Cameco announced that a settlement agreement has been reached with the Wyoming DEQ; the agreement comprises several steps to accelerate restoration, and increases the bond for Smith Ranch and Highland to US$ 80 million, among others. Cameco agrees to pay a US$900,000 penalty, US$400,000 of which will be suspended, if Cameco satisfies the terms of the agreement. In addition, Cameco will pay US$500,000 "to fund future, unspecified Supplemental Environmental Projects".
In July, Wyoming DEQ issued another Notice of Violation to Cameco Resources for deficienies identified during an abandoned drill hole inspection at the Smith Ranch ISL site; Cameco Resources agreed to pay a US$50,000 fine.
In November, U.S. NRC issued another Notice of Violation to Cameco Resources for further deficienies identified at the Smith Ranch ISL mine.
In November, the Wyoming DEQ issued a Notice of Violation to Energy Metals Corp. for failures at its Antelope in-situ leach site.
In Nebraska, a District Court imposed a US$50,000 penalty on Cameco's subsidiary Crow Butte Resources for various violations at its Crow Butte in-situ leach uranium mine; in addition, a geologist raised concern over potential groundwater contamination at the mine.
In Colorado, Cotter Corp. pleaded guilty to poisoning migratory birds at its Cañon City uranium mill. Later, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) cited Cotter for groundwater contamination near the mill.
* In Brazil, Industrias Nucleares do Brasil (INB) released the results of groundwater monitoring near the Caetité uranium mill in Bahia state. While excessive uranium concentrations were observed in groundwater on site, concentrations met standards at the neighbouring community of Juazeiro.
* In Namibia, the Langer Heinrich uranium mine was flooded after a rainstorm in March. In April, inadequate intervention after a large sulphuric acid spill at the mine lead to explosions.
* In South Africa, excessive concentrations of radioactive substances were found in vegetables grown near gold/uranium mines.
The National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) denied water and foodstuffs in the Wonderfonteinspruit catchment area are radioactive - despite scientific reports. On Sep. 17, the Department of Water Affairs denied any health hazard from contaminated water in the Wonderfonteinspruit catchment area - despite scientific evidence presented the day before at an international conference; the scientists had concluded that an "unacceptable level of risk has been identified, primarily due to the chemical toxicity of uranium on ingestion via drinking water."
* In Kazakhstan, penalties were imposed on the Inkay ISL mine for illegal waste dumping and on the Muyunkum ISL mine for environmental violations.
* In India, a spill from a tailings pipeline burst reached homes at Jaduguda in Jharkhand in February. In June, heavy rain caused a tailings overflow into Turamdih village. In July, a uranium mill tailings spillover occurred at Jadugoda during flash floods. In August, another spill from a tailings pipeline burst reached homes at Jaduguda, again.

Other Issues at operating uranium mines

* In Canada, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) approved the license renewal for the McArthur River, Key Lake, and Rabbit Lake uranium mines and/or mills in Saskatchewan. The license renewal for Cameco's Key Lake uranium mill was issued in spite of serious deficiencies identified:

    - CNSC staff assigned C ratings ("below requirements") in four out of ten program areas assessed: operations (in particular waste management and fire protection), quality management, environmental protection, and training,

    - the measures taken to reduce molybdenum and selenium loads in the plant's effluents are not working at all (yet?),

    - the problem of pit wall sloughing in the Deilmann open-pit tailings facility (characterized by Cameco as a "world class facility for long-term tailing storage"!) remains unresolved,

    - no concept exists (yet?) for the final long-term management of the tailings stored at the site.

In February, Cameco and Areva Resources released the Environmental Impact Statement for the Rabbit Lake Solution Processing project (that is, processing of Cigar Lake uranium ore at the Rabbit Lake mill in Saskatchewan).
* In the U.S., the opponents to a license renewal for the Cameco's Crow Butte uranium in-situ leach mine in Nebraska were granted a hearing.
In Wyoming, Cameco Resources requested a license amendment for the processing of third-party resin at its Smith Ranch - Highland in-situ leach mine; however, NRC staff determined that the request is unacceptable for lack of environmental analysis (!).
* Areva received the Public Eye Award as one of "the world's most irresponsible companies" for its uranium mining operations in Niger. Niger Tuareg rebels continued their violent fight for a larger share of the uranium revenue in the country; they attacked a uranium lorry, seized four French uranium workers, among others.
* In South Africa, workers went on strike against poor working conditions at the Klerksdorp uranium mine.
* Burma is allegedly mining uranium.
* In Australia, more than a dozen workers were 'caked' in uranium in October during a clean-up operation at the Ranger mine in the Northern Territory; eight workers who were tested were all over the acceptable limit for uranium.

Abandoned mines

* In Canada, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) initiated the public participation process in the Proposed Former Gunnar Mine Site Rehabilitation Project in Saskatchewan.
* In the U.S., the New Mexico House approved in February a proposal to pay for cleaning up contamination from abandoned uranium mines and mills. The New Mexico Governor, however, vetoed the bill, since the funding level provided in the bill were inadequate.
In July, the state awarded a contract for the cleanup of a few abandoned uranium mines.
In response to a House Committee request, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a plan towards cleaning up the legacy of abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation, and the NRC issued a "strategy for outreach and communication with Indian tribes potentially affected by uranium recovery sites" (!). Navajo, in turn, demanded a comprehensive assessment of abandoned uranium mines.
In Arizona, the Park Service was to advance the cleanup cost for the abandoned Orphan Mine Site, as responsible parties ducked.
* In the Democratic Republic of Congo, smuggled ore was seized near the former Shinkolobwe uranium mine.
* In China, illicit uranium mining continued in the closed 712 Uranium Mine.
* In Kyrgyzstan, the government issued a decision on the reclamation of abandoned uranium mill tailings dumps. The country is to create a special agency for this purpose. NATO funds a study on impacts of possible earthquakes in the Fergana valley. Relocation of two tailings dumps in Mailuu-Suu is to begin in 2009.
In Australia, rare fish were discovered in a disused Kakadu uranium mine.

Decommissioning issues

* In the U.S., the long awaited relocation of the Atlas tailings in Moab, Utah, is to begin in May 2009. The relocation will be done by rail and take at least until 2025, despite a 2019 congressional deadline. The cost could exceed US$1 billion.
In Colorado, uranium mill tailings materials had to be removed during road construction in Grand Junction. The Uravan uranium mill site cleanup was completed. NRC approved natural flushing as groundwater compliance strategy for the Durango uranium mill tailings site.
In New Mexico, U.S. EPA opposed United Nuclear's request to halt groundwater treatment at its Church Rock uranium mill tailings site. United Nuclear, in turn, requested further relaxed groundwater standards at the site.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) released a Public Health Consultation that concluded the Homestake Mining Company Mill Site in Milan (Cibola County) is a public health hazard for the contaminant concentrations found in private wells in the area.
In Washington state, Newmont Mining Corp. refused in February to pay the US$152 million cleanup bill for its Midnite uranium mine.
In July, a judge held Newmont partially liable for the Midnite mine contamination. In November, U.S. EPA ordered Newmont and its subsidiary Dawn Mining Company to continue the cleanup work at the mine.
In Wyoming, Areva seeked approval for groundwater restoration at its Christensen Ranch in-situ leach site - with uranium levels still up to 27 times the target restoration value and up to 128 times the drinking water standard. Areva also requested a license renewal for restoration of the mine site.
At the Exxon Highland uranium mill tailings deposit, an offsite groundwater contaminant plume was identified. U.S. NRC demanded further assessment of the plume.
In Texas, a lawyer's report found that permission of relaxed groundwater restoration standards is a matter of habit with shutdown of uranium in situ leach facilities in the state.
* In Argentina, the World Bank approved a US$30 million loan for the cleanup of closed uranium mine and mill sites.
* In Estonia, the cleanup at the Sillamäe tailings pond was completed.
* In France, the cleanup at the former St-Priest-la-Prugne (Loire) uranium mine still is uncomplete, according to the independent radiation monitoring group CRIIRAD. Elevated radiation levels were also found at the former Rosglas (Morbihan) uranium mine site.
* In Germany, burrowing mice undermined the stability of the cover of a uranium mine waste rock pile in Aue, Saxony.
The reclamation of the former Crossen uranium mill site was completed, and the reclamation of the Dänkritz I uranium mill tailings deposit was almost completed.
* In the Czech Republic, a new treatment plant is to accelerate the groundwater restoration after uranium in-situ leach mining at Stráz pod Ralskem in North Bohemia.
The European Union is to pay for the cleanup of the former Mydlovary uranium mill site in South Bohemia.
* In South Africa, Draft Regional Mine Closure Strategies were issued for comment.

Miners' and residents' health issues

A study released by the Utah Department of Health found an elevated risk of lung, bronchial and stomach cancers among Monticello residents during several five-year time periods from 1973 to 2004. However, the study is unable to draw a direct link to uranium and vanadium processing at the former Monticello uranium mill.
In New Mexico, a study found an increased mortality among Grants underground uranium miners, but not among uranium mill workers.
The German uranium miners' study provides some evidence of increased risk of extrapulmonary cancers associated with radon, but chance and confounding cannot be ruled out.
The Spanish government declined recognition of former Andújar uranium mill workers' ailments as professional diseases.
In India, a survey performed by the Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD) found excess deformities and cancer among residents near the Jadugoda uranium mine in Jharkhand.

Regulatory issues

* In the U.S., North Dakota is developing uranium mining rules in anticipation of a uranium mining boom.
The South Dakota Water Management Board approved new rules for in-situ leaching. South Dakota also revised rules for reclamation of exploration test holes and in-situ leach mining.
The Navajo Nation Council approved legislation to establish a tribal Superfund law.
The Colorado General Assembly passed a law restricting in-situ leach uranium mining in the state. The law requires mining companies to show they will reclaim and restore groundwater to pre-mining quality or to state standards. It was initiated by residents concerned about Powertech Uranium's proposed Centennial in-situ leach uranium mine.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) approved the disposal of uranium byproduct material (including uranium mill tailings) at Waste Control Specialists' Andrews County disposal site.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) released a Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) for In-Situ Leach Uranium Milling Facilities for comment. The GEIS is meant to simplify the licensing process for in-situ leach uranium mines and drew thousands of comments.
* Germany plans to introduce a 10 microgram per liter drinking water standard for uranium. Germany has no such standard, so far.
* Twenty Slovak non-governmental organizations have filed a complaint with the European Commission over certain new pieces of legislation in Slovakia. The legislation adopted in 2007 ended the participation of civil associations in the licensing process for mining, the construction of new power plants, hazardous waste repositories and chemical factories. Current controversial projects include planned uranium mining in Jahodná (Kosice region), among others.
* The Council of the European Union adopted new statutes of the Euratom Supply Agency.
* Zambia enacted a uranium mining law.

Uranium trade and foreign investment issues

Uranium export restrictions

* On September 6, 2008, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) lifted its ban on nuclear trade with India. South Africa and Kazakhstan are prepared to supply uranium to India, and Russia and Areva already signed such agreements. Australia, however, announced that its ban on uranium sales to India stays in spite of the NSG waiver.
* Australian and Russian NGOs and an Australian parliamentary committee opposed Australian uranium exports to Russia.
* Russia signed a deal to build a uranium enrichment plant in China and supply uranium. Energy Resources of Australia signed a deal for uranium export to China; first Australian uranium was shipped to China in November.

Uranium trade, general

* The Canadian province of Saskatchewan wants climate credit for uranium exports: Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said the provincial government estimates over half-a-billion tons of greenhouse-gas emissions are displaced by uranium from Saskatchewan. He said the province should receive recognition for that within any forthcoming national protocols on credits and carbon trading.
* South Korea signed a contract to purchase 2600 tons of uranium from Uzbekistan.
* In Germany, a railcar with a yellow cake shipment destined for the Malvési conversion plant in France was overloaded in the Hamburg port. The error was only discovered when the railcar crossed the French border.
* The U.S. DOE issued its Excess Uranium Inventory Management Plan.

Foreign exploration and mining investment and cooperation

* Chinese Sinosteel entered a Joint Venture for uranium exploration in Saskatchewan, Canada.
Chinese East Nickel Mining Inc. entered a Joint Venture for uranium exploration in Manitoba, Canada.
* Russia's Rosatom offered Brazil assistance with uranium exploration.
* Venezuela and Russia signed an accord on nuclear cooperation.
* France and Libya signed an agreement for nuclear cooperation, including uranium exploration.
* France and Algeria signed a nuclear power accord, including uranium exploration and production.
* With Earthstone group, a further Indian company was granted uranium exploration permits in Niger.
* Russia's Atomredmetzoloto is to start uranium prospection in the Klein Spitzkoppe area in Namibia.
* Jordan signed deals on uranium exploration and mining in the country with France/Areva, Britain, and China.
* Russia and Armenia established a joint venture for the exploration and mining of uranium in Armenia.
* Japanese companies Mitsui and Sojitz Corp. signed accords to explore for uranium in Uzbekistan.
* Russia announced to help Tajikistan to develop its uranium deposits.
* Russia and Mongolia signed an agreement to cooperate in the production of Mongolian uranium.
* Russia's Atomredmetzoloto is considering setting up a joint venture with Areva for uranium prospecting and mining in promising areas in Russia and Africa.
* Russia and India are planning joint uranium extraction.
Atomredmetzoloto and a South Korean consortium signed a memorandum on uranium exploration and mining.
* Indonesia hopes to exploit uranium reserves in Kalimantan with Australia's help.
* India's Reliance Industries acquired a 49% interest in uranium exploration projects in South Australia.

The 2008 and all other annual uranium mining reviews can be found at:

Source and contact: Peter Diehl at the WISE Uranium Project

Wise Uranium


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(June 21, 2007) Niger is currently hitting the international headlines. Nomadic rebels carried out a series of raids on military targets and mining interests in the northern region of Niger and have killed 15 soldiers. According to market analysts their fight against the exploration of uranium could be a potential squeeze on world uranium supply.

(658.5819) Laka Foundation - Nomadic rebels in Niger have warned all foreign uranium and oil companies to end their operations unless a deal is struck with the central government under President Mamadou Tandja to give the rebels a larger share in revenues. If these demands are not met soon, the rebels have threatened to target international operations and possibly kidnap operators. Statements made by representatives of the Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ), made up largely of Tuareg and other nomadic tribes indicated that main targets will be Chinese and Western firms. In the past months the MNJ has carried out a series of raids on military targets and mining interests in the northern region around Agadez. Late June it killed 15 soldiers and took dozens hostage during a raid on a remote army outpost. In the latest attack, on 4 July, the rebels attacked a compound 22 miles (35 km) northwest of Agadez of state-controlled coal mining and power company SONICHAR, which powers Niger's two uranium firms. The MNJ says it launched its campaign in retaliation for arbitrary arrests and killings of civilians in the north of Niger, where it says 253 civilians have disappeared after a wave of detentions by government forces.

Since 2006, a number of Chinese companies have been operating in Niger, awarded licenses to explore for uranium. The Chinese group is being led by a uranium prospecting company floated in Niger by China Nuclear Engineering & Construction (Group) Corporation, called Sino-U, currently searching for uranium at two sites, Madaouela and Teguidda, in the Agadez region, about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) northeast of the capital Niamey. The MNJ accuses Chinese companies of arming the Niger government in their fight against the rebels. Official warnings have been made and Sino-U deputy general manager Zhang Guohua have already been kidnapped and was set free in the night from 10 to 11 July.

In March 2006, Canadian companies Northwestern Mineral Ventures and North Atlantic Resources, also were awarded three uranium prospecting concessions. Other uranium mining operations are controlled by Compagnie Miniere d'Akouta (COMINAK) and the remainder by the French-controlled Societe des Mines et de l'Air (SOMAIR). AREVA owns 34 percent of Cominak. Other foreign companies holding interests are Japan's Overseas Uranium Resource Development Company (25 percent) and Spain's Enusa (10 percent). Mining is currently performed by Areva and its subsidiaries only, all others are prospecting or possibly constructing mines.

The former French colony's desert north has long been a hotbed of dissent, largely beyond government control, full of disillusioned, unemployed youths and awash with arms left over from an uprising by Tuareg, Arab and Toubou nomads in the 1990s. Niger remains one of the poorest nations on earth, ranking bottom of the U.N. Human Development Index. Most of the nomadic groups involved in the uprising in the 1990s accepted peace deals in 1995. But the MNJ says the government has not lived up to its promises, leaving the north economically marginalized and rife with insecurity.

The government of president Mamadou Tandja is hoping to cash in on rising world uranium demand, particularly from China, by granting dozens of new exploration permits. Tandja's administration refuses to recognize the MNJ, saying the recent attacks have nothing to do with the insurgency of the 1990s and dismissing them as acts of banditry carried out by drug traffickers and common criminals.

Sources: 9 July, 2007. Niger's Uranium and Oil Sector Threatened by Rebels / 9 July, 2007. Uranium prices fall again, conflict in Niger / The Conservative Voice 9 July 2007. Niger Rebels Pressure Uranium Miners / Reuters 5 July, 2007. Niger rebels attack power plant in uranium area / Reuters 27 June, 2007. Niger rebels want greater steak in uranium, oil.


Uranium price

For the first time since May 2001, the spot uranium price dropped twice in two consecutive weeks. The TradeTech's Spot Price Indicator dropped to US$133 per pound U3O8, a decrease of US$2.00 (1.5 euro) from the June 30th Exchange Value. Nuclear Market Review (NMR) reported current active spot supply rose to more than 3.2 million pounds U3O8 equivalent. The active supply/demand ratio also rose - to 3.5 to the advantage of future uranium buyers. This confirms a reversal of the supply/demand ratio which favored sellers in late 2006 and early 2007. Last October, Cameco Corp's (CCJ) Cigar Lake flooding drove a rush of buyers to the spot uranium market. After a relatively quiet period, this past winter, Energy Resources of Australia announced part of their Ranger uranium operations had been flooded by a cyclone. Both events triggered a buying frenzy. Market analysts are now speculating that the next potential squeeze on uranium supply is not caused by nature, but caused by "terrorism". The world's seventh and eighth uranium producing mines are found in the Republic of Niger: the underground Akouta and the open pit Arlit. Together, they produced 3434 tons of uranium in 2006, according to the World Nuclear Association. This accounted for more than eight percent of the world's mining production last year.


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Diet Simon

(May 18, 2007) Australian uranium exports are set to leap up regardless of what government takes power in elections late this year. As mentioned very briefly in the latest issue of the Nuclear Monitor, Australia's opposition Labor Party (ALP) has just narrowly scrapped its 25-year-old opposition to development of new uranium mines.

(656.5804) Diet Simon - A motion from Kevin Rudd, the new ALP leader, supported by South Australian Premier Mike Rann, to lift the ban and allow more uranium mining passed 205 votes to 190. But Rudd told a national conference of his party that he's leaving it up to the states and the Northern Territory, all of which have Labour governments, to decide whether to license new mines. Most state governments are still opposed.

There are now three producing mines in Australia: BHP Billiton's enormous Olympic Dam in South Australia (the biggest uranium mine in the world); the Beverley mine, also in South Australia; and the Ranger mine in the Northern Territory.

The premiers of Queensland, Western Australia and NSW said their states would remain free of uranium mines, despite the policy change. Western Australia and Queensland have some of the most promising uranium prospects in the country and it's expected that ultimately there will be enough pressure on their governments to eventually force uranium mining in those states. But WA premier Alan Carpenter said uranium mining would not happen under his watch. His government could face pressure, though, from mining giant Rio Tinto which wants to develop its Kintyre deposit in the state's north.
Carpenter said while he had concerns about the environmental impact of uranium mining, he also did not want to see WA become the world's dump site for atomic waste. "We are not going to take the world's nuclear waste even though there is strong lobbying and big financial incentives (that) are talked about for our state to do that," he said.
Premier Peter Beattie of Queensland may find himself under pressure from his own party and although saying he personally doesn't want uranium mining in his state, he'll be mindful of countries like China and Japan, which buy Queensland's high quality coals and have a thirst for nuclear energy. Coal is still Australia's biggest export earner.

"Open for business"
So far the premier of South Australia, Mike Rann, is the odd man out, welcoming more uranium mining. Rann lobbied hard for the change and expects the expansion of uranium mining to create billions of dollars in revenue and tens of thousands of jobs in his state over the next few decades.
SA already has two uranium mines, BHP Billiton's Olympic Dam and the Beverley mine, owned by Heathgate Resources, and the new Honeymoon mine will begin production next year. The Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine holds about one third of the world's uranium reserves. A mining license has also been granted to SXR Uranium One for an ISL (In Situ Leach) mine at Honeymoon. Rann called the policy change a great victory for his state. He said South Australia was now "totally and completely open for business" in the area of uranium mining and export. But he also opposes having a nuclear waste dump in his state.

Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Clare Martin, is known for her anti-uranium stance, but Prime Minister John Howard's conservative national coalition government has pointedly reminded her that it's paying most of the NT's bills and she should allow more mines to open. Australia's third, and longest serving uranium mine, Energy Resources of Australia's Ranger, is in the NT, as are many advanced projects. The federal government has the power to approve new mines in the territory, leaving that option available for any future Rudd government, though the Howard government has not taken it up.

The uranium issue does not arise in Tasmania or Victoria while New South Wales has for decades banned exploration for uranium, and any change of heart would still see NSW out of contention in the race to develop new mines. NSW Premier Morris Iemma said his state would not change the ban, in place since 1980.

"More uranium into a dangerous world"
Both Iemma and Carpenter condemned Prime Minister Howard's announcement of a plan to develop a nuclear power industry in Australia. "The Prime Minister is determined to rush headlong into giving us a nuclear industry and the NSW government will oppose him all the way," Iemma said. However, a recent opinion poll found popular opposition to nuclear power in Australia had edged down from 51 to 50 percent.

The numerically insignificant Australian Greens have lambasted both the Howard government and the Labor opposition over their respective plans for nuclear power and expanding uranium mining. Greens Senator Christine Milne accused Howard and Rudd of "cozying up" to big business. "We are witnessing a new low in moral cowardice in Australia," Senator Milne said. "What Mr Rudd and the Prime Minister are doing is putting more uranium into a world market, driving the nuclear fuel cycle. History will judge them both for sending more uranium into a very dangerous world at a time when we don't need to be doing it."
The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) says Australians should be very worried by both government and opposition nuclear announcements. The ACF's Executive Director Don Henry says he is concerned that both parties are heading down the nuclear path. The Democrats, another small opposition party, also oppose expansion of the nuclear industry.

The Mining Council of Australia has welcomed the new ALP policy, but added that it must be complemented by key enabling reforms from the state governments. MCA Chief Executive, Mitchell H Hooke, said: "This is a logical first step in establishing a nationally consistent, modern policy governing the production and export of uranium for peaceful purposes. We strongly endorse Australia's strict regulatory regime governing the production and export of uranium and Australia's stringent export safeguard arrangements to ensure that Australia's uranium is only used for peaceful purposes.

"Increasing world energy demand as well as concerns over climate change and energy security have stimulated global demand for mined uranium as reflected in a significant increase in its price. With 38% of the world's economic demonstrated resources and over 60 companies currently exploring for uranium, Australia is well positioned to meet this demand from both the developed and developing world," the mining body said.

The ALP is still digesting its uranium decision, with some in the party angry at the nature of the two-hour debate and others determined to move on to attacking the government's nuclear industry plans.
Labor's environment spokesman, Peter Garrett (known to many as lead singer of rock band Midnight Oil), says despite voting against the decision, he accepts it. He says Labor should now challenge Howard over his plan for nuclear power plants. "He's taking us down a road and a path which I think is very dangerous," he said.

Howard for his part has slammed the new Labor uranium policy as "hypocritical opportunism" - and offered to arrange a tour of a Chinese nuclear power station for both the federal and South Australian Labor leaders to "see where Australian uranium actually goes". Howard's government is poised to sign a new uranium export deal with China, which could be worth billions of dollars. "You have this ridiculous situation where they have hailed themselves as apostles of the 21st century by ending their three mines policy on uranium, yet in the same breath they're saying 'but of course, we can't convert the uranium for nuclear power in Australia although we can sell it to countries overseas and they can use it for civilian nuclear purposes.'"

If Howard's Liberals stay in power after the next election, they plan to allow an increase in the quantity of uranium exports to an ever wider range of customers, and they visualize the development of a domestic enrichment and fuel fabrication industry, plus a raft of new nuclear power reactors.
Most of these are of the allegedly safe and terrorism-proof "generation 4" type, and have yet to leave the drawing board, let alone receive operational approval. Canberra would remove "unnecessary constraints on expansion of uranium mining, such as overlapping and cumbersome regulations relating to the mining and transport of uranium ore".

Predictably, support for nuclear energy comes from the Australian Nuclear Association whose Clarence Hardy says the reactors currently being developed will produce less waste and are extremely safe. "There are one or two of those designs which are literally impossible to melt down," he said.

Labor argues that nuclear energy would be far more costly for Australia than clean coal or exploiting renewable energies. "Developing nuclear reactors, constructing them, is a generation-long endeavor, these are not quickly developed facilities let alone solving the issue of where are they going to go.
"We have the ability to develop all of the technologies to make that energy useable, we can better invest in clean coal, we can better invest in renewables. Let's get on with that rather than having, what in some ways is, an unproductive debate about nuclear energy," ALP deputy leader, Julia Gillard said. Australia has abundant alternative energy resources - solar, wind, geothermal and coal.

Preparing for a boom
Australia's uranium industry is preparing for boom times ahead. Uranium mining companies are pushing ahead with applications for licenses that once lay dormant. In South Australia alone the government is fast-tracking 100 exploration licenses in the wake of the Labor policy change.

Premier Rann said 60 companies in South Australia hold 160 exploration licenses for uranium, with another 100 in the queue. "What we'll be seeing is a rush for exploration licenses," he said. Jason Kuchel from the South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy says companies that have found substantial deposits had previously been reluctant to move ahead. "Prior to the Labor conference those companies were unsure of whether or not they would be able to proceed," he said. He expects companies to apply to open new uranium mines within 12 months.

A mining industry conference in Adelaide heard that now that both sides of the political divide are aligned on uranium mining policy, judging each project on its merits, all the uncertainty in the industry is gone.

A mining executive argued that there's general acceptance that uranium mining and exploration is good, provided it translates into jobs and regional development and things for ordinary Australians.

Toro Energy, a uranium explorer based in Adelaide with projects in South Australia and the Northern Territory, says the new Labor policy will be viewed positively not only by the local uranium mining industry but also by overseas companies looking to source uranium.

There's an enormous uranium boom in Australia where more than 140 listed explorers are operating, many in WA despite the highly publicized opposing stance by Premier Carpenter. Even before the Labor conference took its decision, uranium stocks generally rose, some explorers reaching new peaks. More than 100 companies are keen to mine uranium all around the country, particularly in Western Australia and Queensland, now that they don't face blanket rejection.

Australia holds around 25% of the world's known uranium reserves, and the price of the mineral has climbed consistently since the start of 2004. Exploration expenditure in Australia has increased tenfold in three years, and the Labor switch is expected to boost investment further.
The spot price of uranium climbed from .50 a pound to in the past year and now it looks as if Australia's exports of the controversial product will be increasing whichever party wins the next national election. The value of listed uranium explorers in Australia surged 23 per cent in the first three months of the year.

Though Canada is now the dominant supplier, Australia is the second biggest exporter, with the largest and lowest-cost recoverable resources. It mines 19.1% of global uranium production compared with Canada's production of around 24.9%.
The hefty rise in uranium stocks this year is largely due to expectations of prolonged high demand.

More than enough uranium can be extracted from existing mines to satisfy all Australia's overseas customers for some time to come. New mines will simply increase the competition for existing markets.

Forty-eight new nuclear reactors are expected to be commissioned globally by 2013, including 13 in China and eight in India, these optimistic numbers seem to create strong demand for Australian uranium. A condition for allowing new mines under ALP policy will be that the buyer must be from a country that has signed the nuclear non-proliferation accord.
Although the federal government continues to claim that Australia strongly supports the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and will not sell uranium to non-adherents to it, it appears Australia now indirectly sells it to Taiwan through the United States, and is considering selling it to India.

Former diplomat, Professor Richard Broinowski at the University of Sydney, author of "Fact or Fission - the Truth about Australia's Nuclear Ambitions", commented in the "Canberra Times" newspaper: "Howard seems to be doing his utmost to weaken what remains of the treaty's credibility. If Australia sells uranium to India, it will tempt other states to walk away from their treaty obligations. If Howard joins the proposed nuclear fuel-making consortium led by the US, he will reduce the effectiveness of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and cut across its own plans to develop and control a nuclear enrichment and supply group."

There's some suggestion that Labor has made the change to avoid being attacked by the prime minister for adhering to its three-mine compromise formulated during the passionate nuclear debate at the 1982 ALP national conference.

Source: Diet Simon
Contact: Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), Floor 1, 60 Leicester St, Carlton, Vic 3053, Melbourne. Australia.


New law bans nuclear power in Queensland.


Nuclear power stations, nuclear facilities and radioactive waste dumps are now banned in Queensland. Queensland Mines and Energy Minister Geoff Wilson said the Nuclear Facilities Prohibition Act 2006 came into effect on May 1 "There is no need for Queensland to go down the path of nuclear power plants or toxic waste dumps when we don't need to." Mr Wilson said that under Queensland's new law, a plebiscite would have to be held if the federal government tried to override it to build a nuclear facility in Queensland. Banned nuclear facilities include reactors, uranium conversion and enrichment plants, fuel fabrication plants, spent fuel processing plants and facilities used to store or dispose of material associated with the nuclear fuel cycle such as radioactive waste material. Facilities for research and medical purposes and the operation of a nuclear-powered vehicle are exempt.
The Age, 2 May 2007

Olympic DamBeverleyRanger Mine


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 


(March 19, 2007) Late last year, the Bush administration delivered two big gifts to the nuclear power industry, signing deals to help India produce more energy from nuclear reactors and for Westinghouse to build four new reactors in China. Those countries are half a world away from Colorado, but the worldwide resurgence of interest in nuclear power runs risks for the state's public lands, health and safety.

(653.5790) Environmental Working Group - The nuclear industry's efforts to recast itself as a supposedly clean source of energy - a spin echoed by the US administration - has helped spark a uranium boom in the American West. Interior Department records show a sharp increase in mining claims on Western public lands since 2002, driven by a seven-fold increase in the price of uranium.

As recently as 2004, no uranium interests were among the largest mineral claimholders in the West. Now, government data show that uranium interests are among the biggest claimholders across the region - in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

According to Interior records, mining interests staked just 300 claims for uranium in Colorado in fiscal year 2004. But in the two years since, uranium interests have staked almost 3,500 claims in the state. The new claims are concentrated near the historic uranium towns of Nucla and Naturita in Montrose County, and in Rio Blanco and Moffat counties in the state's northwestern corner.

The Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety says several older uranium mines in the state could be producing soon.
The Cotter Corp. has four mines near Naturita that were active until about a year ago. The mines closed in part due to rising fuel prices for transporting the ore to Colorado's lone uranium mill in Cañon City.
International Uranium also has about three or four mines in Disappointment Valley in southwestern Colorado. The mines have permits and are being readied for production.

Beyond Colorado, public land snatched up in this new land rush includes 365 claims staked within 5 miles of the Grand Canyon, many for uranium. A company that has staked dozens of these claims, Quaterra Resources of Canada, has already proposed to drill exploratory holes for uranium just north of the canyon. The operation would include a helicopter pad to carry mining supplies and ore in and out.

The idea of helicopter flights of radioactive material near America's greatest natural treasure, already crisscrossed by dozens of tourist flyovers a day, is disconcerting. But there are broader impacts from uranium mining. Colorado and other Western states are littered with radioactive waste sites that are legacies of previous uranium booms during the 1950s and the 1970s, when nuclear power plants sprouted across the nation and the price of uranium soared.

The Department of Energy has begun a decade-long project to clean up 12 million tons of radioactive uranium mine waste near Moab, Utah, that have contaminated land near the Colorado River. The waste is a threat that could pollute drinking water for millions. Cleanup estimates range between US$412 million and US$697 million (between Euro 308-520).

In a recent series, the Los Angeles Times found that abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo reservation in the Four Corners have led to deaths from lung cancer and a degenerative disease that's come to be called Navajo neuropathy. Among other routes of exposure, the Navajo had unknowingly drunk water from abandoned mine pits and had constructed some of their homes from the radioactive mine waste.

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel recently reported that residents of Monticello, Utah, have unusually high rates of cancer they believe were caused by a now-closed uranium mill. Residents recalled replacing their screen doors because the metal mesh would become yellow and corroded. Schools used ground-up uranium waste in kids' sandboxes.

Also complicating the matter is the antiquated federal mining law, written in 1872, that governs much of the new uranium mining. Under the law, filing a claim for as little as US$1 an acre allows companies to mine on federal land - a right the government has rarely challenged despite the fact that metals mining is the nation's leading source of toxic pollution.

Mining interests routinely leave behind multimillion-dollar cleanups, yet - unlike timber, oil and gas and every other extractive industry operating on public land - they pay no royalties to taxpayers. There is no federal fund to clean up abandoned metal mines.

Mining uranium is not the only concern heightened by the nuclear resurgence. We still have no answer to the problems of disposing of the waste from nuclear reactors.
Even if the government's designated national nuclear waste dumpsite at Nevada's Yucca Mountain is opened, storing waste there will mean 50 years of cross-country nuclear waste shipments through major cities. We should ask if spending billions of dollars to subsidize the nuclear industry is a better choice than investing our tax dollars in clean renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Mining is a necessary part of a modern economy. But before permanently scarring some of our most treasured places to feed the nuclear industry, we should first dig deeper into the empty promise of nuclear power.

Source: Denver Post, January 27 2007. (re-printed with permission). See also EWG's "Uranium Fever Fuels Sharp Rise in Mining Claims" at Also see EWG's for "How Close Are You?" to a high-level radioactive waste transport route to Yucca Mountain, Nevada in the continental U.S.
Contact: Dusty Horwitt at the Environmental Working Group, 1436 U St. N.W., Suite 100, Washington, DC 20009, USA. Tel: +1-202-667-6982


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 15, 2006) During the course of the year 2006, the uranium spot market price continually climbed by 81% from 36.25 to 65.50 US$/lb U3O8 (according to UxC as of Dec. 11), or by 78% from 36.50 to 65.00 US$/lb U3O8 (according to TradeTech as of Dec. 8). The price is now 9 times its record low of 7 US$/lb U3O8 of 2000. In June, it nominally topped the 1978 all-time high of 43.40 US$/lb U3O8. (exchange rate as of Dec. 12: US$1=Euro 0.75)
The world uranium production reached 41,595 t U in 2005, a 3% increase over 2004. Production from mines thus supplied 62% of the 66,840 t U reactor-related demand in 2005.

(650.5771) Peter Diehl - The price rally was driven by an anticipated expiration of secondary supplies (in particular downblended nuclear weapons uranium), which are currently filling the supply gap, and by the plans for a major expansion of nuclear power generation in several countries, such as China, India, and Russia. An additional kick for the uranium price came from an incident at the Cigar Lake large-scale high-grade deposit in Saskatchewan, Canada, which is currently being developed for exploitation: the complete underground mine was flooded after a sudden water inflow in October, delaying the start-up of production for at least a year.
By an odd coincidence, uranium production suffered drawbacks at several existing mines, for various unrelated technical issues.

In response to the anticipated supply gap, the search for new uranium deposits was intensified world-wide and also reached various parts of Europe, now. The arrival of the uranium exploration companies was in some cases welcomed for the anticipated economic boost, but in many cases, opposition grew nearly instantly as soon as the news reached the concerned areas. The development of new mines was forced at several known deposits. In the U.S., companies even announced plans to construct two new uranium mills, although several mothballed mills still exist. In Australia, the federal government is currently undertaking strong efforts to remove all impediments to the country's uranium industry, while uranium mining bans are in force in several states, still.

In addition, countries hosting insufficient uranium deposits to meet their demand, including existing large consumers, such as Russia and Japan, or potential large consumers, such as China and India, intensified efforts to assure uranium procurement from abroad. These efforts included the resolution of political hurdles impeding uranium deliveries, conclusion of supply contracts, and investment into uranium deposits and mining and exploration companies.
The number of uranium mining and exploration companies listed on the WISE Uranium Project website increased by 60% from 361 to 570 during the course of the year, but there could also be observed first signs of some consolidation taking place, since several mergers of companies were announced.

While the frenzy around new uranium mines was on the increase, business continued as usual at the sites undergoing decommissioning: cleanup of abandoned legacy mine sites continued at an unbearably low speed (and this way will take centuries to complete); and, at most U.S. sites being reclaimed by their prior operators, authorities had to approve relaxed site standards, since the reclamation goals had not been met.
Most disturbing was the case of Western Nuclear Inc.'s Split Rock uranium mill tailings site in Wyoming, where the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) permitted the halt of groundwater treatment, with the foreseeable result of existing drinking water wells becoming unusable in the future. If this sets a precedent, uranium mining companies will have to worry about absolutely nothing any more.

New uranium mining projects
In Nunavut, Canada, the Inuit organisation Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. reversed its ban on uranium mining on Inuit-owned land, paving the way for Areva (formerly Cogéma) to start uranium mining at Baker Lake.
The Lutselk'e Dene First Nation in the Northwest Territories, however, remains opposed to uranium mining.

In British Columbia, 300 people protested in July against the proposed uranium exploration at International Ranger Corporation's Foghorn property.

In Saskatchewan, the development of Cameco's Cigar Lake large-scale high-grade uranium deposit suffered two serious setbacks: In April, a water inflow 392 metres below the surface stopped the construction of a ventilation shaft; and, on October 23, the complete underground mine was flooded from water inflow following a rock fall. Mine construction is expected to be delayed by at least a year.
Areva committed to proceed with the development of the Midwest uranium mine project and started the preparation of an Environmental Assessment.
The Fond Du Lac Denesuline First Nation optioned reserve lands to CanAlaska Uranium Ltd for uranium exploration.

In Québec, 70 people gathered at Mont-Laurier in June to protest against uranium exploration in the area.

In Wyoming, USA, Cogéma/Areva plans to restart its Christensen Ranch in-situ leach uranium mine; a final decision is expected by end 2006. The mine was shut down in 2000. High Plains Uranium, Inc., is planning a uranium in-situ leach mine at its Allemand-Ross property, and Uranerz Energy Corporation is planning a uranium in-situ leach mine at its Nichols Ranch project.
Cameco's subsidiary Power Resources, Inc., applied to include the planned Reynolds Ranch uranium in-situ leach project as a satellite facility to the existing Smith Ranch/Highland in-situ leach mine; in a draft Environmental Assessment, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) concluded that the Reynolds Ranch project would not significantly affect the quality of the human environment. Power Resources, Inc., also filed an application for commercial operation of its North Butte uranium in-situ leach project.

In Utah, International Uranium Corp. reopened its Pandora uranium/vanadium mine.

In Colorado, Energy Fuels Resources Corp. reopened the Torbyn and Sapphire uranium mines and plans to build a new uranium mill in Paradox Valley.

In Arizona, Concentric Energy Corp. plans the development of the Anderson uranium mine.

In New Mexico, Strathmore Minerals Corp. initiated the mining permit application process for its Roca Honda deposit and purchased land for a potential uranium mill site in Ambrosia Lake.

In Texas, Uranium Energy Corp initiated the permitting of an in-situ leach uranium mine at its Goliad Project, where Goliad County officials had passed a resolution against uranium mining.
The restart of Uranium Resources Inc.'s Kingsville Dome and Rosita in-situ leach mines has been delayed due to "weather problems and a shortage of available drill rigs and logging trucks". Energy Metals Corporation initiated permitting for a new uranium in-situ leach mine at La Palangana.

In Mendoza, Argentina, protests and demonstrations were held at several occasions against the reopening of the Sierra Pintada uranium mine prior to cleanup of the environmental liabilities left from former operation.
Moreover, property owners took legal action against uranium exploration in the touristic zone of Cañón del Diamante.

Uranium exploration by Canadian Mawson Resources Ltd. in Jämtland, Sweden, drew strong opposition from residents, and several communities appealed the exploration permit.

In Finland, some 200 people gathered in Helsinki in May to protest the uranium exploration planned by Areva in southern Finland; Areva already received permits for uranium exploration in Northern Karelia in eastern Finland.

In Bergamo, Italy, opposition formed against the development of the Novazza uranium deposit proposed by Australian Metex Resources Ltd.

In Slovakia, Canadian Tournigan Gold Corporation received a positive economic study for the development of its Jahodná uranium deposit, while the City council of nearby Košice adopted a resolution against uranium mining and 16,000 signatures were collected for a petition against uranium mining.

In Hungary, Australian Whildhorse Energy Ltd. plans uranium exploration at Pécs and several other locations.

Bulgaria considers re-opening of its uranium mines; Russia, as well as Canadian Cameco, showed interest in mining uranium there.

Ukraine announced plans to double uranium production by 2010; a five-fold increase is envisaged by 2020.

In Malawi, the Draft Environmental Impact Assessment for Australian Paladin Resources Ltd's Kayelekera Uranium Project was submitted for public comment. Several local NGOs oppose the uranium mining project.

In Namibia, production at Paladin Resources Ltd's Langer Heinrich uranium mine is to commence in December.
Uramin Inc. started a Bankable Feasibility Study on its Trekkopje uranium mine project. Canadian Forsys Metals Corp. initiated a Pre-Feasibility Study for its Valencia uranium mine project.
The Namibian government announced plans to introduce legislation that would demand mining companies to pay into - so far not required - decommissioning funds.

In Zambia, Australian Omegacorp Ltd. has applied for a mining license for its Kariba uranium mine project. The Zambian government, however, has announced the development of a policy prior to issuing licenses for the mining of uranium.
Australian Equinox Minerals Ltd. is re-evaluating the potential for a significant uranium by-product from its Lumwana copper mine project.

In South Africa, SXR Uranium One Inc. was granted a mining right for its Dominion uranium project. A preliminary feasibility study confirmed the viability of the Ezulwini gold/uranium mine project, owned by a subsidiary of Simmer and Jack Mines Ltd.
First Uranium, another subsidiary of Simmer and Jack Mines Ltd, considers processing of the Buffelsfontein tailings for residual uranium.
AngloGold Ashanti plans to increase uranium output from its new Moab Khotsong mine and from processing of tailings.

In Russia, the Khiagda uranium in-situ leach project in Buryatia obtained approval for capacity build-up to 200 t/a.
The Russian existing uranium mines and uranium stockholdings are nearing depletion. Within 10 years, Russia might be facing a serious uranium supply crisis. Russia is therefore planning to increase uranium production sixfold by 2020, based on a doubled production (apparently from low-grade material) at existing uranium mines and start of exploration at a number of fields in Siberia and Buryatia. For lack of alternatives, Russia now considers mining of uneconomic but large deposits in the Aldan district of South Yakutia - so far not even classified as resources. Japanese Mitsui & Co., Ltd. is to participate in the development of this mine.

In Armenia, the Greens Union of Armenia expressed concern over the environmental impacts of US-based Global Gold Corporation's proposed uranium mining at Nor Getik.

In Kazakhstan, commercial production started at the Zarechnoye, Muyunkum, and East Mynkuduk in-situ leach uranium mines.
The Akdala in-situ leach uranium mine was expected to reach full production in 2006.

In Saudi Arabia, Tertiary Minerals PLC considers by-product recovery of uranium from its Ghurayyah tantalum-niobium deposit.

In Meghalaya, India, the debate on the proposed Domiasiat uranium mine continued; protesters formed blockades to prevent the road construction work required for the mine.
In Jharkhand, the East Singhbhum district administration served a showcause notice on the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) for unauthorised mining in Fuljhari, Turamdih and two other new mines in Keuradungrui. UCIL is accused of illegally having started mining, while the applications for mining were still pending with the State Government.
In Andhra Pradesh, protests were held at the public hearing on the Pulivendula uranium mine project in Kadapa. A protest walk was held against the Lambapur-Peddagattu uranium mine project in Nalgonda; it was accorded environmental clearance in April.

In Australia's Northern Territory, Areva NC said it had no plans to mine the Koongarra deposit in the near future because it is concentrating on new projects in Canada and Kazakhstan; the project is opposed by the Traditional Owners. Pressure on Traditional Owners increased, however, to permit ERA's Jabiluka mine.

In Queensland, Laramide Resources Ltd commissioned a scoping study of its Westmoreland uranium deposit, although the state bans all uranium mining.

In South Australia, SXR Uranium One Inc. received a license for its Honeymoon in-situ leach uranium project.
After protests from residents, South Australian Premier Mike Rann ruled out uranium mining near the Myponga Reservoir on the Fleurieu Peninsula, where exploration company Marathon Resources wanted to conduct soil tests. The tests will rather be performed by state authorities, now.

Issues at operating uranium mines
In Utah, USA, the Division of Radiation Control authorized alternate feed processing of material from FMRI's Muskogee Facility at IUC's White Mesa uranium mill.

In Texas, the regulator approved the extension of the Kingsville Dome ISL uranium mine.

In Brazil, a parliamentary commission found serious deficiencies with control of Industrias Nucleares do Brasil's Lagoa Real/Caetité uranium mine in Bahia: the mine had no regular operating license, and it had failed to report several incidents, among others.

Russia plans the extension of the Krasnokamensk mine and the Khiagda in-situ leach project. In November, Russia consolidated its uranium production assets in a new company.

In Kazakhstan, Areva invests in a production increase at the Muyunkum in-situ leach mine.

Kyrgyzstan failed to find a bidder for a majority stake in the Kara Balta uranium mill.

In Australia's Northern Territory, ERA plans to mill more stockpiled low-grade ore, extending the operational life of the Ranger mill by six years.
A study found an almost doubled cancer rate among Aborigines near the Ranger mine, it is unclear, however, whether this is caused by the uranium mine.

In South Australia, Heathgate seeks a mining lease extension for its Beverley uranium in-situ leach mine. At BHP Billiton's Olympic Dam copper/uranium mine, audit reviews called for improvements of the tailings management at the site, in view of the proposed four-fold capacity expansion.

Setbacks at operating uranium mines
In Saskatchewan, Canada, Denison Mines Ltd. reported a serious production setback at the McClean Lake mine, in which it holds a minority interest (operator is Cogéma/Areva): "The McClean Lake Joint Venture produced 455,000 pounds of uranium [175 t U] during the three months ended September 30, 2006 compared with 1,532,000 pounds [589 t U] during the same period in 2005. [...] Production for the first nine months of the year has been well below our expectations due to lower grade ore feed, the absence of higher grade ore from the blind boring/jet boring operations, reduced throughput caused by variances in the arsenic concentration of the ore feed that resulted in elevated temperatures in the leach circuit and a shortage of reagents due to road closures caused by forest fires. [...] Average mill feed grade for the third quarter 2006 was 0.58% U3O8 compared to 1.73% U3O8 for the comparable 2005 period."

In Colorado, USA, Cotter Corp.'s Cañon City uranium mill remained closed. The owners are investigating possibilities for process improvements, and they are waiting for a further increase of the price of uranium, for the mill to become viable again.

In Texas, production from Uranium Resources Inc's Vasquez in-situ leach uranium mine was below expectations: "Production costs for the third quarter of 2006 were $56.92 per pound compared with $23.57 per pound in the prior year's third quarter. The higher production costs were primarily due to higher capital and operating costs compared with the prior year and also due to the change in the estimated recovery factor for the Vasquez project from 70% to 50%."

In Uzbekistan, a slight production shortfall is expected at the Navoi processing plant: "According to forecasts, uranium mining this year could fall by approximately 40 tonnes due to technical problems of an industrial nature and insufficient funding".

In Australia, ERA's Ranger mine experienced a serious production setback:
In the second quarter, "Drummed production for the quarter was 596 tonnes uranium oxide [505 t U] (2005: 1,250 tonnes uranium oxide [1060 t U]). This was lower than the corresponding period last year due to wet weather associated with cyclone Monica and unusually high rainfall throughout the wet season that prevented access to high grade ore. Production was further impacted by a reduction in the volume of ore treated due to difficulties experienced in bringing the acid plant back to full production after a planned maintenance shutdown."
The problems continued in the third quarter: "Mill head grade was 30 per cent lower than the corresponding quarter in 2005 although it was 5 per cent higher than that processed in Q2. [...] The lower mill head grade resulted in drummed production that was 31 per cent lower than the corresponding quarter in 2005 but 85 per cent higher than second quarter production. As a result of the operational difficulties experienced in the first half of the year and the impacts of the high water level, production for 2006 is forecast to be significantly lower than in 2005."

Abandoned mines
In South Dakota, USA, a new study showed abandoned uranium mines in the Cave Hills area are contaminating nearby waters, but the study did not determine if that has caused health problems downstream.

In Utah, the state began reclamation of some unsecured uranium mines in the Labyrinth Canyon area.

In Kazakhstan, the reclamation of the large Koshkar-Ata uranium mill tailings at Aktau has once again been delayed; it now is scheduled to begin in 2007. Just US$ 1 million have been set aside for this purpose from the 2007 state budget; the total reclamation cost is now quoted as US$ 8.4 million, while earlier estimates had assumed costs of US$ 76 million.

In Tajikistan, planning for management of abandoned uranium mill tailings began.

In Kyrgyzstan, the reclamation of the Kadzhi-Say uranium mill tailings was completed with foreign aid. OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) and the Kyrgyz Government moreover committed to assess and reduce the threat posed by abandoned uranium dumps in the Minkush area.
For the former uranium mining and milling area of Mailuu Suu, a radiation exposure assessment was performed, finding radiation exposures for residents of more than 4 mSv/a; much higher radiation doses would result from a supposed dam failure.
Around the decommissioned Orlovka uranium mill tailings dump in the Chui region, residents were reported to be digging for mono-silicon.

In Pakistan, concern was raised over the hazards from the radioactive waste left at the former Baghalchur uranium mine near Dera Ghazi Khan; however, no such evidence was found there.

In Australia, the clean-up of abandoned uranium mine sites in the South Alligator River area in Kakadu National Park was included in the federal budget.

Decommissioning issues
In Washington State, USA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a decision on the final cleanup plan for the Midnite uranium mine.

In Wyoming, after seven years of discussion, the U.S. NRC approved relaxed groundwater standards at Western Nuclear Inc.'s Split Rock uranium mill tailings site, allowing for continued contamination of clean groundwater by the progressing contaminant plume, and for drinking water wells becoming unsuitable for domestic use in the future.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) moreover approved:

  • the reclamation performed on the Lucky Mc uranium mill tailings,
  • a third five-year postponement of initiation of decommissioning of the mothballed Sweetwater uranium mill,
  • a relaxed Radium-226 standard for topsoil covers and relaxed groundwater standards for lead-210 at Umetco's Gas Hills uranium mill site,
  • alternate groundwater protection standards at the ExxonMobil Highland uranium mill tailings reclamation project, and
  • the groundwater restoration performed at the Irigaray in-situ leach site, although primary standards are not met.


In Utah, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a Draft Remedial Action Plan for the relocation of the Atlas Moab uranium mill tailings to the Crescent Junction disposal site. Flooding spurred new concern over the existing situation of these tailings.
At the former Monticello uranium mill site, a study found no increased cancer incidence among residents; data gaps are to be filled now to allow for the analysis of cancer incidence.

In New Mexico, the U.S. EPA settled with United Nuclear to investigate contamination at the former Church Rock uranium mine and mill site. The U.S. NRC granted United Nuclear a relaxed radium groundwater standard at the same site.
The U.S. NRC approved Rio Algom's Soil Decommissioning Plan and groundwater alternate concentration limits for the Ambrosia Lake uranium mill tailings site.
The New Mexico Environment Department requested from Sohio Western Mining Company an investigation into groundwater contamination observed at the former JJ Number 1/L-Bar Mine. The U.S. NRC approved relaxed groundwater site standards at Homestake's Grants uranium mill tailings site, although elevated contaminant concentrations were found in residential wells near the site.

In Texas, an analysis showed that permission of relaxed groundwater restoration standards is quite normal with the shutdown of uranium in situ leach facilities: An examination of 32 permits from closed South Texas in-situ leach mines showed that in each case, companies were permitted to leave behind minerals such as uranium, molybdenum and selenium at higher levels in groundwater than were listed in the original permit. In some cases, companies were able to meet the restoration target for one mineral but reported 10- and 20-fold increases in others. Older mines tended to require more drastic permit amendments than mines started later.

In Ohio, the shipment of the Congo high grade uranium tailings (aka Fernald Silo wastes) to an interim disposal site in Texas was completed. The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) issued a critical assessment of the management of these wastes.

In Germany, reclamation of the Wismut legacy continued: the relocation of the landmark Paitzdorf waste rock piles into a former open pit was completed, as well as the flooding of the southern part of the former Ronneburg uranium underground mine and the intermediate cover on Basin B of the Culmitzsch uranium mill tailings deposit. A study by Öko-Institut confirmed that there no longer exists a radiation hazard on that part of the former Ronneburg uranium mining area where the 2007 federal garden festival will take place.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a team of experts monitoring a U.N. arms embargo once again found ample signs of "artisan mining" by small groups of private individuals at the former Shinkolobwe uranium mine, although the Ministry of Mines and the National Intelligence Agency assured that the mine is secured and that no artisan mining is taking place. While the miners are interested in cobalt, uranium could also be extracted from the ore.

Miners' and Residents' Health - Science issues
In a research project to study the non-radiological toxic effects of certain radionuclides, France's Institute of Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety has investigated the effects of chronic ingestion uptakes of low doses of uranium to various biota and rats. The study showed some unexpected biological effects. It remains unclear, however, whether these effects can cause any health effects, and whether they can be extrapolated to humans.

Another research group studied the toxicity of continuous ingestion of uranium with drinking water in humans. No indicators of kidney toxicity were found, while uranium is toxic to kidneys in experimental settings.

A retrospective study among 59,001 former Wismut miners confirmed the excess relative risk estimate from radon progeny exposure known from previous studies among various other miner cohorts. However, the excess relative risk per WLM showed a maximum only 15-24 years after exposure and showed only a modest decline with time since exposure. "The results would indicate the need to re-estimate the effects of risk modifying factors in current risk models."

The leukaemia risk of former uranium miners in East Germany was investigated in a case-control study. The results suggest that an elevated risk for leukaemia is restricted to employees with a very long occupational career in underground uranium mining or uranium processing. No association was found between exposure to short-lived radon progeny and leukaemia risk.

Uranium trade and foreign investment issues
China and India both own very small and low grade uranium deposits only, but both are planning to expand nuclear power production at a large scale.

Uranium exports to China
In April, the Australian government approved deliveries of Australian uranium to China. There exist no delivery contracts yet, however, since the Australian uranium suppliers don't have free capacities in the short term. So far, Australia had refused to permit uranium deliveries to China, since civilian and military use of nuclear facilities are not separated in China, and China rejects monitoring of its facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In December, an Australian parliamentary committee approved the export of uranium to China. In September, Sinosteel Corp. became the first Chinese company to announce an investment into an uranium exploration project in Australia. China is also seeking approval for uranium deliveries from Canada. At present, China is receiving uranium from Kazakhstan and Namibia already. In April, it also became known that Australia recently gave approval to uranium deliveries to Taiwan - a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Delivery contracts have already been signed; the deliveries are to be managed via the USA, since direct exports are illegal.

Uranium exports to India
India, being not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, cannot buy uranium in the world market, after conducting a nuclear weapon test. The domestic uranium production, however, is not even sufficient to supply the presently operating nuclear power plants in the country, rather than any new plants proposed for construction. In fact, the existing Indian nuclear reactors are running at reduced output levels for several years already - for uranium supply shortage.
Therefore, development of a thorium-powered nuclear power plant line is being considered; but this can solve the problem only in the long term (if at all), since uranium is first required to irradiate natural thorium to obtain the fissile isotope of uranium-233.
Mining of very low-grade uranium deposits is being planned in several parts of the country - facing stiff opposition from residents and indigenous groups living in those areas (see above). Based on the nuclear co-operation treaty to be concluded with the U.S., India now hopes to be able to buy uranium in the world market soon. In fact, U.S. based WM Mining International Ltd already has agreed on a contract with India's Nuclear Fuel Complex to sell 500 metric tonnes of uranium a year and is waiting for the Indo-US civil nuclear deal to go through to execute it. India pressed Australia to export uranium, and Australia no longer appears to be opposed to uranium deliveries to India now, although India still refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Further, Nuclear Power Corp. of India announced to spend US$ 1.2 billion on stakes in Canadian and Australian uranium mines.
India also announced to continue uranium mining, even if imports for civilian purposes would become possible; the imports obviously would set the domestic uranium production free for military purposes.

Uranium exports to Russia
Given the looming uranium supply crisis from domestic sources, Russia attempts to re-establish uranium trade with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan; Russia signed a US$ 1 billion uranium supply contract with Kazakhstan, and Russia plans to invest US$ 746 million in CIS uranium mining by 2020. In addition, Russia is seeking uranium imports from Australia.

Uranium imports from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan
Given the tightening supply situation on the world uranium market, several consumers are now looking for uranium deliveries from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, where uranium in-situ leach capacities are being expanded at a very large scale. Given the extremely poor standing of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in dealing with the legacy of former uranium mining, and given the unresolved problems with decommissioning of in-situ leach mines elsewhere (for example in the U.S., see above), these deals might result in an environmental disaster waiting to happen. The European Union and Japan plan to procure more uranium from Kazakhstan, and Kazatomprom forms a joint venture with Japanese companies for the development of the West Mynkuduk deposit by uranium in-situ leaching. Japan signed an agreement for the development of the uranium industry in Uzbekistan, deliveries to Japan are to start in 2007. South Korea signed a deal with Uzbekistan for uranium deliveries, and Korea Resources forms a uranium joint venture in Uzbekistan.

Source and Contact: Peter Diehl, 12 December 2006. WISE Uranium Project


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 15, 2006) Since 1998 the Nuclear-Free Future Award, the "world's most prestigious anti-nuclear prize", has annually honoured the visionaries and architects of a nuclear-free world. The Awards were presented on December 1, 2006, in Window Rock, Arizona USA, during the Indigenous World Uranium Summit. Among the 2006 winners of the Awards were: Gordon Edwards (Canada), Ed Grothus (USA) and Phil Harrison (Navajo Nation). The special Award for Resistance went to Sun Xiaodi, China, for his moral courage to petition for an end to the toxic mismanagement corrupting Chinese uranium mining and milling.

(650.5770) Nuclear Free Future Award - The Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in China's Gansu Province, once a region of green fields and pristine waters, its woodlands thriving with wildlife, is rich with uranium reserves. One of the largest uranium mining and milling installations to operate there was Project 792. Opened in 1967, Project 792, run by the military, annually milled between 140 and 180 tons of uranium-bearing rock until it was officially shut down in 2002 as bankrupt owing to 'ore exhaustion and obsolete equipment.' Secretly rising from its radioactive ashes was a private mine operated by Longjiang Nuclear Ltd. - its shareholders a brotherhood of politicians and members of the nuclear ministry.

Today, large sweeps of Gansu Province - dotted with sacred sites - appear to have succumbed to an overdose of chemotherapy. The Chinese have taken no preventative measures to protect local human and animal life from uranium contamination. Tibetan medical workers report that an assortment of radioactivity-related cancers and immune system diseases account for nearly half of the deaths in the region - a statistic that goes unrecorded because patient histories are routinely manipulated in order to safeguard 'state secrets.'

Tensin Tsultrim, spokesman of the Central Tibetan Administration exiled in India, explains that, "Tibetans from the region complain about their helplessness to stop the uranium mining". He adds that, "Tibetans have no say on such projects, since natural resources are the property of the State and protests relating to environmental issues by Tibetans have led to persecution".

One man who has constantly spoken out despite state repression is Sun Xiaodi, a former Project 792 worker. Since 1988 this whistleblower has repeatedly traveled to Beijing to petition the government to end the corruption that saturates China's nuclear industry. In answer, public officials stripped Sun Xiaodi of his job and subjected him, his wife and daughter to a host of indignities. But Sun continued his petitioning.

Last year on April 28th, Sun met with foreign journalists and told them about the frequent discharges of radioactive waste into Gansu waterways. He also told them about the Tibetan hitchhikers who climb up on trucks transporting uranium ore, happy to get a ride. He also told them about the contaminated machinery and equipment from Project 792 that had not been - as proscribed by state regulation - encased in lead, covered in concrete to a thickness of fifty centimeters, and then buried two to three meters beneath the earth, but merely hosed down and sold to naïve buyers from Gansu, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Zhejiang, Hunan and Hubei. "These officials have blood on their hands", Sun said.

The next day plainclothes police officers bundled Sun into an unmarked car, and 'disappeared' him. Sun was not heard from for months. Mounting international pressure finally forced his release from Lanzhou Prison on December 27, 2005. On March 20th, under the condition that Sun not leave his home village, the state security officer posted outside his house was finally removed.

Days later Sun was back in Beijing, petitioning. In a radio interview conducted at the end of March or beginning of April, Sun spoke of the bribes nuclear industry officials had taken, pocketing for themselves some 12.5 million dollars allocated by the central government to relocate mine workers. Asked whether uranium ore is yet mined and milled at the Project 792 site, and to whom it is sold, Sun Xiaodi replied: "I will tell you about the bankruptcy of the 792 Uranium Mine. All of the written reports are false. They simply changed a military enterprise into a civilian enterprise, and continued with large-scale mining. They are still mining the uranium on a large scale.... Who is their trading partner? Who do they sell the uranium to? ...Was it used to promote peace or violence?" These were all questions Sun Xiaodi could not answer.

Sun was detained again in April 2006. He was released soon afterward, but remains under constant police surveillance, and is now forbidden even to talk on the telephone, much less leave China to attend an award ceremony. Sun sent a short recorded message to the ceremony, in which he says: "Breaking through fear to fight for a nuclear-free environment requires a person to take a path full of hardship, bloodshed and tears, which could end up in either life or death. However, I firmly believe that if all people who are peace-loving and concerned with human destiny and upholding justice can come together and take action as soon as possible, a nuclear-free tomorrow can become a reality."

Source: Nuclear-Free future Award at nuclear and website of Human Rights in China,
Contact: Craig Reishus at the Nuclear-Free Future Award, Ganghoferstr. 52, München D-80339 Germany.
Tel.: +49 (0)89 28 65 97 14 . Fax: +49 (0)89 28 65 97 15


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(June 9, 2006) The twentieth anniversary of the worst nuclear accident to date has been observed around the world and reported by all sections of the media yet it would appear that, on the whole, we are still unable to fully grasp its significance or the impact it continues to have on our lives and our environment.

(645-646.5753) WISE Amsterdam - Reports have been released by various global agencies reassuring us that fears of widespread contamination, deaths and long-term illnesses linked to radiation released from Chernobyl have been greatly exaggerated by hysterical environmentalists. We have been told that there is no longer any need to be wary of Chernobyl or indeed nuclear power plants, which we are now expected to believe are safe and clean enough to be re-branded as renewable sources of electricity. We are now being encouraged to view nuclear power as our greatest ally in the war against climate change and if some reports are to be believed, the majority of us are now willing to accept new nuclear capacity in order to maintain our unsustainable lifestyles.

In such a climate, it is more important than ever to re-tell the story of the Chernobyl disaster from the perspective of those who experienced the accident at first hand, and those who continue to live with the consequences on a daily basis. It is more important than ever to remember that two decades on, millions of people still continue to suffer the consequences and will continue to do so for the remainder of their lives. April 26 marked the twentieth anniversary of the explosion but the disaster did not end on that date, there is no end.

The "Chernobyl - 20 Years, 20 Lives" project conceived by Danish photographer Mads Eskesen is a photo documentary journey through the experiences of twenty people whose lives have been forever altered by the devastating nuclear explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on April 26, 1986. The project documents the activities undertaken by people in order to adapt to the reality of life after the Chernobyl disaster. From villagers in Belarus soaking mushrooms in water and vinegar to reduce the amount of radiation they contain to a Welsh farmer whose sheep must be scanned before they can be passed fit for slaughter and human consumption. We are introduced to a Belarusian professor who measures the accumulated radiation in school children in the South of Belarus and also to the former director of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant who believes that a positive attitude has stopped him from becoming sick. Each person interviewed expresses their own views on the importance of the explosion and its impacts, some believing that Chernobyl ruined their lives, while others still believe that the health effects are negligible. Each was given the same opportunity to have their perceptions recorded.

An exhibition based on the stories of the twenty has been travelling around the world in an effort to offer some insight into the fate of a few of the many victims and reveal some of the impacts of the continuing catastrophe. The stories of these 20 people from all walks of life can help us to absorb the significance of the accident and its impact on humanity.

The personal stories brought to life in this project took three years to compile and took Eskesen on a journey through the Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Latvia, Sweden, France, and the UK. The following is a snapshot of each of the twenty stories featured.


Hanna Kozlova
Housewife, Founder of the organisation 'Marked by Chernobyl Atom', Kiev, Ukraine.


  • "I realised that nobody was concerned about us and nobody would take care of us after the disaster. It was our own problem and we were the only ones who could deal with it. At that point I felt very lonely. It was only through me that my child could be heard."


Hanna Kozlova bursts into tears as she tells of her family's misfortune. She clearly is marked by Chernobyl.

In the early 1980s Hanna lived in Pripyat and her husband worked at the nuclear power plant three kilometres away. Right after the explosion on April 26, Hanna went outside with their four-year-old son Viktor, ignoring a man on the street who had advised her to stay indoors. She noticed that men wearing masks were washing the streets and wondered what was going on. There was a strange metallic taste in her mouth. Iodine pills were handed out but Hanna did not take any. She simply could not believe that anything serious could have happened.

Hanna belatedly came to understand the events of that night when her son developed thyroid cancer. "When I heard my son's diagnosis the first time I did not believe it. It could happen to anyone else but me. I screamed at the top of my voice. When I was told that there was nothing they could do, I refused to believe it. When my child had an operation I was told that the result was not yet certain. I refused to believe that too."

Hanna fought courageously in order to get the right medical treatment for her son and decided to form the organisation 'Marked by Chernobyl Atom'. The name referred to the post-operative scars the children have on their necks. Many similarly disheartened mothers contacted her for advice. Hanna and the other women demonstrated in front of government buildings in Kiev demanding radioactive iodine treatment and medicine for all children. The group also organised rehabilitation trips abroad for the kids but with time it became more difficult to obtain money for all the activities and eventually the organisation was disbanded.


Grigoriy Sorikov
Pensioner, Bartolomeevka village, Belarus


  • "The day after the accident there was an old aeroplane, an E2 I think, flying very low, about 300 metres above ground, to and fro, to and fro. It seeded something on the clouds and then it rained here. I myself saw how it did it. The plane flew to and fro. First there was a cloud and then it disappeared. The clouds fell down to earth as rain and the sky cleared."


Grigoriy rolls a cigarette from a piece of torn newspaper and his homemade tobacco, leans back and looks out over his radioactive garden. He is a born optimist, and despite the lack of electricity he loves living in his peaceful place. "It costs nothing to live here and there is water in the well nearby. All the food is grown in the garden." In the forest there are mushrooms and berries to be picked and sold to people passing by on the main road.

Bartolomeevka is a village situated in southern Belarus. It is just as contaminated as the area around the Chernobyl plant 200 kilometres away. In contrast to the closed zone around the nuclear power plant, access to the village is not restricted.

Since 1986 there has been much secrecy and mystery concerning the reason why the area is so contaminated. Grigoriy story could offer one explanation as he tells of the morning in April 1986 when he noticed that the water in the puddles was green - a fighter plane had shot chemicals into the air so that the radioactive cloud from Chernobyl rained down, thereby preventing it from continuing on its way to populous Moscow.

The radioactive cloud was heading for a city with millions of inhabitants therefore urgent action was necessary. The people who would instead suffer the consequences were neither warned nor offered any explanations. At that point nobody knew that the Soviet Union would disintegrate some years later and leave the huge challenge of clearing up to a small totalitarian country with limited economic means.

It was not until 1989 that the scientific community in the West received information about how serious the contamination of southern Belarus was. For many years no one concerned themselves with the people living there, nobody was analysing the soil and no human rights organisations arrived to complain about how radioactive rain had been allowed to fall on the local population.


Igor Komisarenko
Director of the Komisarenko Institute for Endocrinology and Metabolism, Kiev, Ukraine


  • "If you visit different medical institutes here, they will tell you that they have noticed an increase in some disease or other. Why is there such an increase? You can assume whatever you like. Chernobyl is just like a big laboratory in the Ukraine, where people were used as guinea pigs."


For Igor Komisarenko time is split into two periods, before and after Chernobyl. Before Chernobyl there were one or two cases of thyroid cancer per year but by 1989 the number had increased to up to seven per year. In 1991, he saw 21 new cases and by 1994, there were around 41 new cases.

"It was the endocrine organs, e.g. the thyroid gland and reproductive system, that were affected first," Igor remembers. "Also the mucous membranes, stomach and bowel, blood and other organs are influenced by radioactivity. We will continue to be affected out here in this country because we still have many radioactive elements that are active and influence our bodies."

The thyroid gland produces vital hormones that regulate the body. They affect the brain of the foetus, the development of the skeleton, human intelligence and so on. After birth the hormones continue to control all the body's processes. The hormones produced by the thyroid gland controls fundamental aspects of a person's life. They contain iodine but iodine is also found in a radioactive form, which affects the development of the cells in the thyroid gland - and this can cause tumours. "Several million curies of radioactive iodine escaped into the atmosphere. We failed to take preventive measures with supplementary iodine. The thyroid gland is the very first to be affected" says Igor.

Before Chernobyl thyroid cancer did not appear in the statistics and the few cases that occurred were registered under 'other types'. Today it has its own column heading. The latent period is three to four years for children and seven to ten years for adults. Therefore the illness manifests itself only several years after the exposure.

In 1981 there were 0.05% children with cancer cases, in 1996 this proportion increased to 0.5%. 50% of all the cancer patients came from the regions closest to Chernobyl. A significant rise that is due to the fact that those who were children and teenagers at the time of the accident are now adults. Igor expects the figure to continue rising as the group ages.

In order for society to be able to respond to the conclusions of the scientific community, you first have to 'adapt science to politics', as Igor expresses it. The increase in the number of cases of thyroid cancer was not officially recognised as a consequence of Chernobyl until 1996.


Georgiy Reichman
State Inspector for Radiation Safety, Ukrainian Committee for Nuclear Regulation, Slavutich, Ukraine


  • "When people say that the operators were not good enough, it is not true. They were experienced enough to work at the plant under normal conditions. But the reactor was in such a state that it was difficult to predict anything. They did not have enough information to foresee events and make decisions. It would not be decent of me to say that I would have done things differently. It is not decent towards those who died that night."


In 1986 there were four reactors at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The fifth reactor was supposed to start operating by the end of the year. At that time Reichmann was responsible for training new employees in the control rooms.

Looking back at the accident, he says that the reactor should have been constructed so that it could not explode irrespective of the operators' actions. "I believe that the reason for the accident lies in the design defects. Since such a situation was not predicted, the operators did not have any chance."

As a vice-manager of the fourth reactor Reichman coordinated the construction of the concrete encapsulation of the damaged reactor. The project has been described as one of the most difficult construction tasks ever undertaken. First a tunnel was made under the ruined reactor, where a square concrete slab was built. Afterwards, an inner wall separated the third and fourth reactors.

The high radiation levels impeded detailed inspection of the stability of the existing structures. Concrete constructions were lifted into position by remotely controlled cranes. All efforts were put into finishing the 'sarcophagus' as soon as possible. The monstrous task was completed in a record time of seven months. All the equipment used was then transported and dumped with other highly radioactive waste.

A concrete lid was laid over the reactor, but the discussions in the international community raged on. Chernobyl became a discussion forum where passions ran high and accusations were exchanged back and forth. Some pointed out that the sarcophagus was not built well enough. Others accused the Ukrainians of using it as a money machine. In 1997 the 'Chernobyl Shelter Fund' was established with the purpose of building a more permanent containment. With the budget of 870 million Euros, the plan is to build a gigantic self-supporting bow-shaped construction that will contain both the destroyed reactor and the concrete sarcophagus.

Reichman's next task is to ensure radiation safety for the employees working on this mega project. "If one includes all the systems, I believe it will cost about 1-1,5 billion dollars. Who knows whether it is the right decision? All the constructions that we built in 1986 were finished in seven months and expected to last 30 years. The quality could have been better, but after 20 years I can say that they were better than nothing."


Glyn Roberts
Sheep farmer, Betws-y-Coed, Wales, United Kingdom


  • "We were very surprised at the idea that Chernobyl could influence us here. The first year was awful. We could not sell any of our lamb. Everything came to a standstill. I was terrified, as I had started breeding sheep only three years earlier. We did not get any compensation until the end of the year. I was furious. If the government wants to have that nuclear energy, then it had better have some kind of backup-plan for when something like this happens."


Six days after the Chernobyl accident a radioactive cloud reached the British Isles, where it rained its contents over Wales, Cumbria and southern Scotland. At first the officials believed that the level of contamination was low. Farmers continued at their own steady pace and the Welsh sheep kept on eating the grass that had been showered with a solution of radioactive caesium. It was the end of June before it was discovered that in the mountains there were areas where contamination exceeded the permitted levels. "I was in the market, when the announcement from the agricultural secretary came." says Glyn. "We were not allowed to move or sell our animals due to the possibility of our sheep being contaminated".

The restrictions were applied to an area of 4,100 km2 in northern Wales in order to prevent further spreading of radioactive elements into the food chain. However no information about the Government's long-term plans was forthcoming.

Sheep farmers were used to selling lambs when they were ready to be slaughtered but in 1986 they were forced to keep all their animals and apply for additional bank loans to keep businesses going.

Following a meeting between 300 angry sheep farmers and a representative of the Welsh Government on September 3, a system was established allowing farmers to scan sheep before selling them. However the consumers' faith in Welsh lamb had been shaken and the prices fell by over 50%.

Still, 20 years on, selling or slaughtering sheep is a complicated procedure for farmers. "I ask for a permit and people from the Ministry come to count and scan the animals," Glyn explains about the process. "We use red paint to mark the sheep that should be slaughtered. Afterwards we scan them. If the sheep is fine and can be eaten, it gets tagged in the ear." "The problem is the type of soil that we have here," says Glyn. "It contains a lot of peat. Due to some scientific reason caesium tends to circulate in that kind of soil."


Vasiliy Nesterenko
Director of the Belarusian Institute for Radiation Safety, Minsk, Belarus


  • "I could see that this technology was very risky. It is not possible to combine nuclear power with modern set of ethics. In truth it is a technology of the future for people with higher morals. It was painful for me to acknowledge that. I had to revise everything I believed in and occupied myself with up till then. I decided to work towards protecting children from radioactivity. They were the ones who suffered most back then."


Vasiliy Nesterenko has endured constant pressure from authorities because of his efforts to help the Belarusian people live with radiation.

When the Soviet government began gathering all its specialists to attempt extinguishing the fire at the Chernobyl reactor, Nesterenko was taken to the site of the catastrophe. His institute was given the task of compiling the first map on the contamination of Belarus. Just like other documentation, the population only got to see it after 1989.

"We had around 3,700 contaminated villages. There were 2,500,000 people living in them. 500,000 of them were children," says Nesterenko.

In the early 1990s Nesterenko established the independent Belarusian Institute for Radiation Safety (BELRAD). Its aim was to create a network of public centres that could monitor foodstuffs, measure the accumulation of radioactivity in children and educate people on how to protect themselves. 370 centres were opened however in 1993 the government cut their number to 160. Today only 40 remain and western donors now finance all those.

Although the Belarusian government has expressed the desire to deal with the situation in the country it lacks the capacity. It has been calculated that the damage inflicted due to Chernobyl is almost 32 times the national budget over a period of 30 years. According to Nesterenko the government spends up to 20% of its annual budget on various Chernobyl-related programmes, but this is equivalent to just 10% of what is necessary.

Since the population of Belarus is forced to live with a permanently higher radiation level, BELRAD recommends a specific diet to help improve the health in the region. The Institute developed a dietary supplement powder, based on apple pectin, which it claims cleanses the body of heavy metals and radioactive nuclides. A child on the diet is advised to take pectin for 15-20 days every month. BELRAD states that on this regime 50-80% of the radioactive nuclides can be eliminated from the body. The whole treatment cycle costs no more than 110 Euros annually per child.


Sergey Volkovs
Liquidator - clean-up worker at Chernobyl, Jecabpils, Latvia


  • "In the Soviet Union humans counted for nothing. They were zero to the officials. They could have recruited people in their middle age, who already had families and children. One should not have sent young people like me to Chernobyl. The government put an end to our lives. It destroyed our future."


Sergey's anger about the way the Soviet system treated its people has turned against Russia nowadays, even though his family has Russian roots.

After the Chernobyl accident young people from the entire Soviet Union were mobilised to help. It is still unclear how many people participated in the clean up, but estimates suggest several hundreds of thousands. Many of them came from the Baltic countries situated near to Chernobyl.

In May 1986 Sergey became a driver of an armoured vehicle transporting 'reactor guards'. They were military engineers who monitored the processes in the reactors. In between these transport tasks Sergey patrolled the town of Pripyat to prevent looters from robbing the abandoned houses.

After one week in Chernobyl, Sergey began feeling disoriented. "We understood everything but reacted very slowly," he says. When they parked cars, their feet would not press the break pedal at the right time and they would bump into other cars. Many drivers experienced the same difficulties and it became quite dangerous with the intensive traffic in the zone.

Sergey says that the officers he transported calculated the radiation level that he accumulated as well above permissible levels. Unfortunately, his superior was not interested in hearing about the high radiation dose or about his deteriorating reaction capabilities. All the documents registering radiation levels were discarded.

Initially the soldiers were promised financial support, holidays and shorter military service upon their return from Chernobyl. Sergey got free telephone installation, but otherwise received no special benefits when he returned home.

Today he is 38 years of age with the physique of a 55 year old. He used to be a strong young man, but now he gets nosebleeds several times a month and suffers from serious migraines. Occasionally his breathing stops during a migraine attack. According to Sergey's doctor in Riga, Chernobyl liquidators age 10-15 years earlier than other people.

Sergey cannot get any government jobs. It is never stated directly, but as soon as he reveals that he worked at Chernobyl, his applications are declined. Private companies underpay him, because they think that he gets money from the state and many extra benefits.


Constantine Checherov
Nuclear Physicist, Kurchatov Institute, Moscow, Russia / Slavutich, Ukraine


  • "Nobody orders me to do this, nobody forces me to do it. When I enter the fourth reactor nobody and nothing can disturb me. There are no people around checking the radiation dose that I get there. I am in another world, a world of freedom - of pure euphoria and joy. I was the very first person in the world to see the reactor from the inside."


Checherov is one of the very few people in the world who make expeditions into the exploded reactor encapsulated in concrete at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. In April 1986 he and his colleagues from the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow were asked to de-activate the buses used to transport the first victims from Moscow airport to the hospital in the city. The sick people had made the buses radioactive. In June Checherov arrived at the scene of the accident, which was to become his working place for many years on.

Based on his own observations of the destroyed reactor Checherov maintains that some of its parts simply melted and turned into plasma. When the plasma flowed out there was an explosion of such a force that it blew the reactor's uppermost plate off 15-17 meters upwards. But it was not the only thing to fly out. In contrast to the more 'official versions', Checherov is convinced that most of 'the active zone' was blasted out of the reactor and exploded while it was in the air. According to him, about 95% of the fuel and the products of the nuclear fission came out and were spread across the entire planet.

Checherov's version is a 'worst case scenario' and many environmental organisations disagree. They believe that more than 97% of the radioactive materials are still inside the reactor and that only 3% are dispersed outside.


George Lepin
Nuclear Scientist, International Ecological Academy, Minsk, Belarus


  • "It was a political decision to re-start the third reactor. It was possible to do so only because there were some people, who did the hazardous work. Someone tried to prove that nothing dangerous happened in Chernobyl and that our country could manage everything. There was even a military leader who gathered his staff after the accident and inquired how much time they needed to re-build the fourth reactor. If it had been physically possible, I don't think anyone would have spared human lives to do it."


Delivering results and following plans without deviation, no matter what, were most important to the Soviet system. While Lepin worked as a liquidator at Chernobyl, he came across a poster showing when various parts of the power plant were built and put into operation. Everything was finished much earlier than planned. The fourth reactor was started three months earlier than expected. Three months that could have been used to check the safety of the plant.

In those days Lepin was still a patriot. He heard of soldiers - called 'bio-robots' - working on the roof of the reactor. In some areas people were only allowed to work for very short periods of time but even then they still received doses that were much higher than permitted. This hazardous and foolhardy work was done manually. Soldiers were given a lead apron and a shovel. During one minute they were supposed to shovel as much rubble as possible from the roof into the open reactor. Most of them got sick and were taken to the hospital.

Lepin proposed to mechanize the soldiers' work, but few robots could function due to high radioactivity. His team managed to install some machines but they were never used. The project was stopped, because there was a rush to report the completion of the work. Those places that were still contaminated were covered with a thick layer of concrete. Nevertheless the radiation level in the building did not decrease and many people were still working there.

Lepin worked in the zone for six years and can relate many stories. He says that even before the accident people occasionally noticed that the streets of Pripyat were suddenly washed with soapy water or that new asphalt would be put on the roads. Later on the asphalt was examined and found to resemble a layer cake, consisting of 'clean' and contaminated layers.

"Everything points towards other accidents at Chernobyl before April 1986" concludes Lepin. "Some years ago a newspaper published a story that there was an accident in Chernobyl in 1982. It was revealed that the KGB controlled the nuclear power plant and wrote regular reports on the state of the plant. There were indications that one should have been especially careful regarding the plant. But since everything was secret, no actions were taken."


Galina Bandazhevskaya
Paediatrician, Minsk, Belarus


  • "Every scientist must be able to publicise the results of his/her work so that it can be debated. It is important that there are those who agree or disagree with the work. One should enter into a good scientific dialogue in order to reach the truth. Unfortunately this is not possible for us."


Galina has an ambitious project in mind - to set up an independent research laboratory in Belarus. Even though it would be a modestly sized laboratory, it is a courageous initiative in a country, where everything is managed by the State. She wants to continue with the work for which her husband, Yuriy Bandazhevsky, was imprisoned.

In 1989, while most of the doctors were moving away from the contaminated area in the south of Belarus, Yuriy and Galina moved there in order to study the effects of radioactivity on the human body.

In a few years their research produced evidence that international norms for radiation exposure were deficient. Their research revealed that the prolonged influence of low dose radiation on a human body is much more dangerous than previously believed and that the heart and the kidneys were especially affected by radiation. They found that a contamination level of as little as 50 Becquerels of radioactivity per kilo of body weight could cause a child serious health problems. The research was critical of the official response to radioactivity contamination.

Shortly after the research was published, Galina's husband Yuriy, in his capacity as Director of the Gomel Medical Institute, was arrested. He was charged and sentenced to eight years imprisonment for supposedly accepting bribes from students.

Amnesty International took up his case, classifying him as a 'prisoner of conscience', the EU Commission visited to check on his well being and the Council of Europe lobbied for his release. He was transferred to a cell with only three other prisoners after sharing with 80.

"Now that my husband and I have been through our system I can say that there is no justice in this country." Galina laments. "If a person does not fit into the system and he says something different, then his freedom can be taken away with no justification. He can be accused of anything at all and will never be able to contradict it or find any kind of justice."

On August 5 2005 Professor Yuriy Bandazhevsky was released after serving half his term. He and Galina are now working on establishing their own independent research laboratory.


Volodimir Usatenko
Energy Engineer, Kiev, Ukraine

  • "We have a problem - but nobody tries to understand its essence. If you have a destroyed reactor to deal with, you need money - lots of money. 'We can solve the problem only over 20 years' one would say. But then it is important to revive the problem at appropriate times. If someone came along and solved the problem at once in a very simple way then only few people would be grateful to him, because he might do away with thousands of jobs."


Before Chernobyl Usatenko was a chief engineer at a Ukrainian energy company. The Soviet energy sector was a high government priority and nuclear power was seen as the ultimate solution to the problem of energy supply.

At the beginning of May 1986, Volodimir heard that an accident had occurred at Chernobyl but that the radioactive leak was insignificant and that the reactor had not been destroyed. However, when he looked through his manuals and found out which type of reactor was involved he immediately realised that it must have been completely destroyed.

The Chernobyl reactor had a layer of protection around the fuel elements, but the protection around the reactor itself was very vulnerable and not suited to a powerful increase in pressure.

In October Volodimir was called in and ordered to go to the accident area. His team was to build a separation wall between the third and fourth units. "I was a bio-robot who did all sorts of work," says Volodimir. "It was interesting how the body reacted to high doses of radiation. First and foremost the metabolism was stimulated enormously. When there was a lot of beta-radiation we felt it in our eyes. It felt like they were being cut. In that way we had a sense of the doses we were getting." There were many immediate illnesses in Volodimir's team - intestinal, stomach, heart, eye and tooth problems. It took six years before he himself felt well again.

As a member of the National Radiation Safety Commission he became involved in the discussions on what to do with the radioactive waste at Chernobyl. Volodimir thinks that all the clearing up work could be done over the course of about 12 years. In his opinion all the processes should be carefully prepared and then the work should be brought to an end. But if that was done it would also mean the introduction of new norms for the entire nuclear industry and that would be impossible to get support for.

He suspects the people responsible for clean up of stretching the process in order to keep on receiving funding from both national and international investors. "They know that if they finish the work there will be no more money. So we hear of various miracles they are performing over there. The Chernobyl problem has been turned into one fantastic business venture."


Natalia Ivanova
Deputy Director, Vesnova Orphanage, Mogilev region, Belarus


  • "It was terrible having to knock on the door or window in the middle of the night to tell the parents that their children should be evacuated the next morning. We said it was because of the radioactivity, which could have bad consequences for all of them. We arranged a place for everyone to gather to be put on buses. It was a dreadful sight."


On April 26 1986 Natalia was working in the garden. It was not until the evening that the news reached her about the accident 27 kilometres away. Natalia was not worried because neither she nor her family knew anything about nuclear power and they did not realise there was any danger.

At midnight two or three days after the accident, all the employees of the school were gathered together. The director told them to go round warning people in the villages. The children were to be evacuated the next day at 6 a.m.

During the night they managed to assemble most of the children. They were put on buses and driven away. Nobody really understood the gravity of the situation. "People were panicking. It was just like wartime," Natalia remembers. "We also evacuated pregnant women, but that was just the first evacuation." The last residents were evacuated from the village six months after the accident.

Natalia got a job in an orphanage for mentally and physically handicapped children in the town of Vesnova. There were 15 nurses and teachers for 150 children, of who 87 required constant care. Approximately 30% of the children came from the contaminated areas but there was no record kept of what connection their family had to the accident.

Today there are more institutionalised children in Belarus than after World War Two. The strong increase in congenital deformities after the Chernobyl accident has meant an increase in the number of children in orphanages, partly because of the rejection of deformed children and partly because the economic situation makes it practically impossible for families to look after sick children.

Sergei Parashin
Former Director of the Chernobyl Power Station, Kiev, Ukraine


  • "You can reduce the consequences if you do not give people negative information about radioactivity. It is a fact that the workers at the power station who began working there before the disaster do not get sick as often as those who came after the accident. There are consequences caused by the radioactivity but most of the consequences are psychological."


In 1986 Parashin was second in command at the Chernobyl power plant. Since then he has had many years to analyse what happened. He is convinced that such an accident cannot happen again and that society has learnt from its mistakes. As if to convince himself, he repeats over and over that there are only a few long-term effects and that they can be overcome with a positive attitude towards the future.

"The most crucial thing for a person's health is their psychological state, which also affects the immune system," says Parashin. "The positive and optimistic people whom I knew in Chernobyl could tolerate high doses of radioactivity and remain in good health. People with a negative attitude died much quicker than others."

Right after the explosion on April 26, all the managers gathered in a bunker from where the decisions were taken. It gradually became apparent that the reactor was destroyed, but the extent of the disaster did not become clear to Parashin until daylight when he was able to see the enormous crater revealing the radioactive reactor.

For those who had been there that night, the question arose how things could have gone so wrong. "There were many factors at play. The power station had many construction faults. Furthermore, we prioritised financial profit over safety," says Parashin. "It was a problem of the whole Soviet Union. Quantity was prioritised over quality".

In 1994 Sergey advanced to the position of director for the entire power plant complex. He set out to improve Chernobyl's image and had the place spruced up and painted. The workers' canteen got napkins and stainless cutlery replaced the old Soviet aluminium. The staff received nicer clothing, flowers were planted and a fountain was built. Parashin also modernised the railway line, which ran to the new town of Slavutich, where the workers then lived. Cultural events were arranged in the town. Staff moral improved and productivity rose slightly. In 1995 the Ukraine agreed to close down the remaining Chernobyl reactors and that was achieved in 2000.

It is Parashin's view that Chernobyl affected safety at power stations in the West. "After Chernobyl many countries stopped the construction of new nuclear power stations and instead improved the safety of existing reactors. I think more money was invested than was necessary, but as a result nuclear energy has become safer. So countries in the West owe thanks to the Ukraine".


Danilo Vezhichanin
Mayor of the village of Yelno, Rivne Oblast, the Ukraine


  • "What is it you need if you live in a village? You need land, water and roads. Then it is a good life! In our village you do not complain of having no gas or the like. Here you hope at least to get some good land so that you can plant potatoes and get some 'clean' hay. Our children must be able to drink 'clean' milk. Now it is contaminated with radioactivity. Without Chernobyl our land would have been 'clean'. It would have been easier for people to live here."


The village of Yelno, where Danilo lives, is 300 km west of Chernobyl and was among the places hardest hit by the radioactive fallout. Danilo explains that the village is surrounded by sand and peat bogs, resulting in a high mobility of radioactive elements from the soil into the plants. Scientists believe that 97% of the radioactivity circulates between the peat soil and the plants.

The 700 people living in Yelno were not informed about the accident in 1986. A whole year passed before the information reached them. Not until people began getting headaches and pains in their joints during the winter of 1987 did they contact the health authorities. There was an attempt to evacuate the population, but most inhabitants soon returned. It is typical of people in Polesie that they are intimately connected with the rhythms of nature and the land.

Most of the villagers live off their own production of milk, potatoes and vegetables. 80-90% of the contamination reaches people through their food. Just 5-20% comes from external radiation. Milk is eight to ten times more contaminated than permitted. The same goes for meat and potatoes.

The cows graze in meadows of grass with high caesium content. The radioactivity lies in the upper layers of the soil where the roots of the grass are. The IAEA runs a project in Yelno, where fields are ploughed so that the radioactive elements in the upper 5 cm are instead spread over 20 cm. As a result the concentration of radioactivity is diluted threefold and the food is less radioactive.

In radiobiology there is a rule of thumb that it takes about 10 half-life periods before a radioactive element is safe. The half-life period of caesium is 30 years. Applying this rule of thumb suggests that it will take 300 years before the problems of Yelno have dissipated.


Marita Stinnerbom
Reindeer farmer, Klimpfjäll, Lapland, Sweden


  • "Reindeer farming is our life. We have lived off it for hundreds of years. I believe we shall continue reindeer farming no matter what. But we also think about what has happened and what the future will bring. After we began feeding our reindeer with the special forage, the taste of the meat had changed. It did not have its natural taste anymore."


Marita drives a cross-country vehicle in the mountain valley. She throws her lasso into the reindeer flock that has been driven down through the valley. "We have managed to keep our traditions because we live them. I got my first reindeer from my parents, when I was small. It is impossible to start reindeer farming at the age of 20. One has to build up the flock when still a child."

Lapland, the country of the Samies, stretches from northern Russia, over Finland, Sweden and Norway. In Sweden, where Marita lives, there are approximately 20,000 Samies, 10-15% of whom work with reindeer. They do not own the land, but have the right to use it.

In spring 1986, a few days after the Chernobyl accident, it rained over Scandinavia and large areas got contaminated with radiation. Lichen, which comprises the main part of the reindeer's nutrition, became radioactive and so did the animals. They were all slaughtered and buried in a dump.
"The Swedish Government paid us for the reindeer as it is responsible for the well-being of the population of its country." The Samies were compensated for the loss and could buy new reindeer in the North. However it was not just an economic loss that they suffered. Their indigenous culture was at stake.

Samies' life had always been centred on the reindeer. After 1986 slaughtering could only happen at a certain point in the year. The animals were scanned for radiation and given special forage to prevent them from absorbing too much caesium. Everything was to be planned according to a totally new pattern.

The problem with radiation has not disappeared. In 2003 the amounts of caesium in Lapland valleys increased suddenly and many Samies had to bury their reindeer again but on that occasion no compensation was given. The scientists believed that the reason for the sudden increase was due to the vast number of mushrooms that accumulated radioactive elements but the Samies point out that fish were also affected, even though fish do not eat mushrooms.
"We could always eat reindeer meat, but now we have to bury them sometimes and that hurts," says Marita. "I cannot stop thinking that caesium is in our bodies and that we pass it over to our children. In 2003 we were very worried and we are still concerned about what awaits us in the autumn. It can come back any time."


Alexander Filippov
Retired school teacher, Babichi village, Belarus


  • "Today school children only get four hours of lessons in radioactivity. Who teaches these four hours? It is usually general class teachers, who are normally not specialists in the subject. They can be very specialised in mathematics, biology or a million of other things. But there is a high degree of ignorance about radioactivity among them and even amongst people who have high positions in society, which never ceases to surprise me."


For many years after the accident nobody in the affected areas knew what they should do in their everyday lives. Courses on radioactivity safety were arranged in the schools, but there were no teaching materials. Filippov wrote five manuals on agriculture and radioactivity aimed at teachers in rural schools. The books were published in a limited edition and the government did not provide any additional materials.

He set up an 'ecological centre' in a small room at the school with apparatus that could measure the level of caesium in foodstuffs. He acquired some instruments to measure nitrates, pH values, potassium and phosphorus. In this way he was able to get a rather detailed idea of what foods were most dangerous to eat. PICTURE - pg 60

The pupils were involved in identifying the cleanest and the most contaminated zones around the village. Radioactivity levels of the local forest and nearby fields were charted on maps. By knowing where the invisible pollution was located, they could recommend where berries and mushrooms could be gathered more safely.

"All our recommendations were geared towards teaching children how to get 'completely' clean food from 'relatively' clean food using technology," says Alexander of the teaching project, which was closed after he retired. No other teacher was willing to take over this important education.

In southern Belarus radioactivity has been a fixed part of everyday life for the last 20 years. Alexander thinks that if people in the ministries knew more about the subject, then their knowledge would spread downwards in this authoritarian country. "We obey the law. We do the things we are expected to do."

In agriculture, attempts are made to prevent radioactivity getting into foodstuffs by spreading calcium, dolomite and potassium on the fields. This serves to block strontium and caesium but, on the other hand, these elements remain in the soil. Alexander's opinion is that the soil can be completely rid of radioactive elements through the use of plants.

An experiment that lasted four years has proved that plants from the legume family almost completely clean the soil. The problem is that it is not profitable to cultivate legumes and no extern funding is available therefore the local population continues eating radioactive food.

"Nobody tells us anything and it is difficult to prove anything. People die of ordinary illnesses. If the authorities admit that a person dies because of radioactivity then they have to award compensation afterwards. Who wants to do that?"


Boris Sorochinskiy
Researcher, Institute for Cell Biology and Genetics, Kiev, the Ukraine


  • "After Chernobyl I studied biochemical, physiological, and cytological changes in human beings and plants. In official reports from WHO and IAEA there were only accounts about Chernobyl causing an increase in cataracts and thyroid cancers. All other possible consequences were rejected due to the lack of statistic data or information about the health situation prior to the accident and thus the absence of a basis for comparison."


Sorochinskiy ventures into the unknown in a somewhat messy office in the outskirts of Kiev, where he explains about his research. When scientists research something new, it can be compared to a trip to outer space. Everything is so different that before the trip, one cannot imagine what one will encounter.

"To be able to do genetic studies it is necessary to examine several generations. Right now we have only a second generation of people since the Chernobyl accident. For a long time there was a popular opinion, which was almost regarded as official, that there were no genetic consequences of the catastrophe and that one should stop regarding Chernobyl as a possible source of danger."

When Boris came to the Chernobyl zone for the first time, it was exciting for him to study the subject of his master's thesis directly in the field, beyond the limiting laboratory environment.
He noticed deformed and yellowish plants. "Deciduous trees had bigger leaves," he reports. "Some oak tree leaves were ten times bigger than normal and pine tree needles - three or four times smaller. I do not have any doubts that Chernobyl caused some genetic changes. The question is how to find them." According to Boris the scientists can only say that the problem of genetic mutations exists but are not able to point out the specific ones. It is possible to examine several generations of plants in the course of a relatively short time. Therefore they serve as a good model for researching some processes that are difficult to study among people and animals. "People want to see the results at once, but mutations take some time to manifest. It took billions of years for these processes to happen on Earth."

Another issue for Sorochinskiy is the connection between chronic radiation and health. He believes that the effect of long-lasting low doses can sometimes compare to that of high doses. "If a person experiences a chronic dose of one roentgen, it can be equal over time to a radiation dose of 100-120 roentgens received at once. If there is funding, it is possible to study the genetic consequences and the risks associated with chronic radiation. If there is no money for that, then one can only say that there exist no problems."


Svetlana Polganovskaya
Activist, Chechersk, Belarus


  • "The administration was 'laundering money'. They were funded to decontaminate the area and evacuate people but they had their own agenda. Instead of removing the contaminated villages the money was spent on something else. The local authorities tried to put me in jail because I invited an independent commission to examine what was going on. It revealed that four clean villages with new houses had been evacuated to Chechersk and other places nearby while the authorities transported all the houses to the Black Sea and sold them as holiday cottages."


After the accident at Chernobyl, the inhabitants of Chechersk noted that puddles of rainwater were green in colour. They were told that it was pollen from the trees, but did not believe it. They had never seen anything like it. Svetlana went to the local administration office to get an explanation but she was told to keep her mouth shut.

That was the beginning of a war she has been waging for 20 years. She arranged a sit-in in Moscow and pointed out to international humanitarian organizations that people in the contaminated areas of Belarus were being ignored. She revealed documents proving that although the town was supposed to be evacuated, people continued living there. Her flat was burnt down and she was arrested several times.

It was only two years after the accident that it was prohibited to eat food from Chechersk district. The military officials coming from Russia to decontaminate the area were very surprised to find a lively town still functioning.

Svetlana approached the regional administration to ask why the neighbouring region of Vetkovsk had been recognized as contaminated, whereas there was no recognised problem in Chechersk. She organised a group of the locals to measure the area for radiation.

In 1990 Svetlana participated in an international Chernobyl conference in Kiev and even though Svetlana was not due to make a speech, she took the microphone and declared that only three regions in Belarus had been evacuated and that many people still lived in contaminated areas. People in the West had believed that all the population evacuation had been done.

The same year she arranged a demonstration in front of the Parliament in Minsk. For two months they protested with posters demanding the evacuation of the zone, better medical treatment and vitamins for children.

Svetlana managed to bring an IAEA delegation to the town but the visit it turned into a farce. People had been gathered in the community centre and given lots of vodka - villagers played the accordion and danced in the square. By the time the IAEA delegation arrived, everyone was partying and no one brought forward any complaints.

Today, Svetlana cooperates with an Irish humanitarian aid organization. When the lorries filled with aid arrive, Svetlana distributes the aid to the village people who need it, but the bureaucracy makes it difficult.


Valentina Smolnikova
Paediatrician, Buda-Koshelevo, Belarus


  • "It is very lucrative for the authorities to hide information from the public. If nobody knows about the problem, one does not have to invest any money into solving it. We gathered lots of data on radiation level in people's thyroid gland. The authorities said that our data was incorrect and should be destroyed. Afterwards the scientists invented new figures. This is the crime committed by our government."


Smolnikova heard the news about the accident only in the beginning of May 1986 on the forbidden radio station "Svoboda". As a Soviet medical worker Valentina was liable to be called up for military service in case of war. If the enemy had dropped nuclear bombs, her team would be the first in the area to deal with the situation. They were equipped with Geiger counters and various military instruments.

Only after the official announcement of the accident could the medical team travel to the local villages to examine people for radiation. Many of these villages were later demolished and buried because the radioactivity levels were too high.

The official scientists never requested the results of the examinations - instead the results were destroyed and the team's instruments were confiscated.

While the authorities were busy concealing the scientific results Valentina was busy as a paediatrician, working with the medical complications that appeared in the years following the accident. Next to her daily duties she continued gathering as much statistical data as she was capable of.

She found out that 40% of young men had illnesses preventing them from doing military service. A further 30% were declared partly fit for the service. Since 1986 there has been a constant increase in the number of invalids among the people. In 2003 there was a total of 477,000 invalids in Belarus, which equated to 4.8% of the population.

"Children should not have contamination of the body greater than 20 becquerels per kilogram. And that is a high figure," says Valentina. "If you accept a larger dose the numbers of sick and dying children will increase. We have a large proportion of children who are invalids. Previously we have never had children aged 14 and 15 being declared invalids."

As opposed to many of her colleagues Valentina constantly tries to get the public interested in the real problems of the country. In August 2004 she ran for Parliament to have a chance to debate the problems that are otherwise not discussed in the country's media.

"Chernobyl was the reason for the USSR falling apart," says Valentina. "It was the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union. We knew nothing for five years, even though we were living on contaminated soil. Nobody said we were living in an affected area, despite the fact that the government knew it."


Chantale Garnier
Housewife/activist, Jura, France


  • "In some ways France is 20 years behind other countries. There are still many censored things here. Even in the medical system. In order to see a specialist I need to first visit the family physician. We have the right to vote but we're not free. In 2001 my organisation went to court. We reported that we had been poisoned. We complained that our thyroid cancers were Chernobyl collateral damage"


When it became known that an accident happened in a nuclear power plant in the USSR, people in many European countries were advised to stay indoors. In southern Germany cows were not allowed to graze outside. But not in France.

"When we heard it on television, they said there was no danger. We wondered why the neighbouring countries took precautions, while we did not have to do anything." Garnier recalls thinking at the time that those precautions elsewhere were an over-reaction. Only when she developed thyroid cancer one year later did she understand that something was wrong.

After her thyroid operation it took Garnier 5 years to regain control of her life. She wanted to find out why she got sick at all. She was told that 90% of cases of the kind of cancer she had were caused by radiation. Therefore she was convinced that the cause of her disease was the rain with radioactive particles from Chernobyl.

To find evidence of a cover-up Garnier and her colleagues from the Association of Thyroid Patients filed a complaint with the French Courts in 2001. "We do not accuse politicians, we accuse the scientists, who were aware of the consequences of the accident but who would not say anything."

A contingent of policemen searched ministries and public offices for the documents that could identify people who knew the degree of contamination after the accident and yet failed to warn the public. The court wanted to learn about the decisions that lead to France not taking any fallout precautions in 1986.

"These documents showed that there was a falsification of weather forecasts right after the accident" says Garnier. "The system denied Chernobyl. All the information about the real levels of contamination was classified." It was revealed that the contamination map France submitted to the EU was falsified, claims Garnier. It showed 0.5 Becquerel in those places where real contamination was 500,000.

Garnier makes the point that it is difficult to accept that a country like France, with its fine food traditions, produces its raw products in fields with a high content of radioactive caesium. It is even harder to understand that one of the largest countries in the democratic European Union functioned in ways similar to the Soviet system that made the Chernobyl catastrophe possible.

"We are still continuing with our work since we have not achieved our goal. Right now we have only been to the local courts, but we are ready to go to the final French court of appeal or to the EU if necessary. We will prove that the state lied to us."


For information about how to bring the exhibition to your town or city or to order the book (published in Danish and English) please contact Mads Eskesen - profits from the book will be donated to the BELRAD Institute of Belarus.

Contact: Mads Eskesen
Tel: +45 28880257


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 23, 2005) The spot market price of uranium climbed from 20.70 to 36.25 US$/lb U3O8 (as of December 19) in 2005, a 70% increase and five times the record low of 7 US$/lb U3O8. And, after a long period of decline, world production reached 40251 t U in 2004, a 13% increase over 2003.

(640.5741) WISE Uranium Project - The increase in the price of uranium is driven by fears that the secondary resources and stock holdings (currently supplying nearly half the demand) may soon expire leaving a supply gap, even if demand remains unchanged. At the same time, several countries have announced plans for a massive expansion of nuclear power capacities.

The recovery of the uranium price has led to more companies entering the uranium business; the number of uranium mining and exploration companies listed on the WISE Uranium Project website doubled from 180 to 361 during the course of the year (after having already increased by nearly 50% the year before).

Most of these companies are restarting exploration efforts where work was halted some 20 years ago due to poor economics. It is, however, not yet clear whether the next uranium boom will really resemble the first with a large number of small underground mines working many dispersed low-grade deposits (particularly in the U.S.).

Kazakhstan is concentrating its efforts on boosting uranium production from in-situ leaching from the current 3719 t U (2004) to 16,000 t U in 2015.

BHP Billiton, the new owner of the Olympic Dam copper/uranium mine in South Australia, has also announced plans to increase production from the current 4000 t to 30,000 t U per year (three quarters of the current world production!).

It is not certain that the new uranium boom will be as welcome as the first mostly was. In countries, such as Sweden, opposition is already growing, even against exploration.


As in 2004, WISE Uranium Project takes the opportunity to award its order of merit, this time in the following categories:

The 2005 Gold Award for Carelessness goes to… the Australian Commonwealth authorities for securing insufficient decommissioning funds for ERA's Ranger mine trust fund.

The 2005 Silver Award for Carelessness goes to the Namibian authorities for accepting Paladin Resources' absolutely flawed Environmental Assessment for the proposed Langer Heinrich uranium mine.

The 2005 Award for Forwardness goes to Areva/Cogéma for postulating a "moral obligation" for uranium mining countries to take back spent fuel.


Newly discovered uranium deposits
Just one discovery in 2005 has the potential for a new high-grade deposit, the first in about 20 years - Cogema Resources intersected 27.4% U3O8 over 8.8 metres during drilling at its Shea Creek property in Saskatchewan. Other new uranium finds were reported from central India, six Nigerian states, and Zimbabwe, although no details were made available.


New uranium mining projects
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) approved the mining license for the McClean Lake Sue E project in Saskatchewan, Canada, thereby introducing the new public service of withholding the Record of Proceedings from public disclosure. Approval was also given for the expansion of the JEB Mill at McClean Lake to receive and process ore from the new Cigar Lake mine. The licensing process for the proposed processing of uranium-rich solutions from Cigar Lake at the Rabbit Lake mill is still underway.

In the U.S., Cameco's subsidiary PRI filed a license application for its Reynolds Ranch in-situ leach (ISL) project in Wyoming. Plans were also announced for several idle uranium mining sites, such as the Sheep Mountain mines in Wyoming, the Tony M Mine in Utah, and the Whirlwind Claim mine in Colorado, among others, to resume mining. Further, a license was requested for the reopening of the mothballed Shootaring Canyon uranium mill in Utah. The license for the Crownpoint ISL project in New Mexico is still on hold after NRC judges tightened the groundwater restoration standard.

Namibian authorities issued a mining license for Paladin Resources' Langer Heinrich uranium mine project - at breath-taking speed. Paladin released the related environmental assessment report after the mining license was obtained. An evaluation by external consultants later showed the report to be full of inconsistencies and serious flaws that should have stopped it being accepted by the Namibian authorities. For accepting the thoroughly flawed Environmental Assessment, the Namibian authorities clearly deserve the 2005 Silver Award for Carelessness. The Langer Heinrich groundbreaking ceremony was accompanied by protests from environmentalists and Paladin's next project, the Kayelekera uranium mine in Malawi, has already become the subject of serious environmental concerns raised by a local Human Rights organization.

Kazakhstan continued its efforts to expand the uranium production from in-situ leaching from the current 3719 t U (2004) to 16,000 t U in 2015. The Inkay ISL project received its first construction permit with the Munkuduk ISL project due to start uranium production in 2006 and the Korsan project in 2009.

In India, Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL) faces serious opposition everywhere it plans to develop new uranium mines. In Jharkhand, resident opponents kept the State Pollution Control Board from holding a hearing on the proposed Mohuldih uranium mine project. In Andhra-Pradesh, overwhelming opposition was voiced at a public hearing against the new site proposed for the uranium processing plant for the Lambapur-Peddagattu project; a demonstration was also held in Nalgonda. In Meghalaya, activists temporarily sealed off the Domiasiat uranium mine project site.

Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) and Traditional Owners signed a long-term deal, obliging ERA (and its successors) to secure Mirarr consent prior to any future mining development of uranium deposits at Jabiluka.

Cogéma revived efforts to mine its Koongarra deposit in Kakadu National Park, after a five-year moratorium ended in April. The Northern Territory Government had blocked the Koongarra uranium mine, however, in August the Federal Government overruled the ban on new mines declaring the territory open for uranium business.


Issues at operating uranium mines
According to press reports, Areva/Cogéma will invest Euro 500-600 million (US$ 600-720 million) in doubling uranium output from its mines by 2010 (from 6125 t U in 2004).

The Supreme Court of Canada upheld the license of the McClean Lake uranium mine in Saskatchewan quashed by a Federal Court at the request of local environmentalists. Cogema Resources was able to continue operation of the mine during that time, since it was granted stay and an Appeals Court had overruled the Federal Court decision in 2004.

In the U.S., the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and residents continued their struggle with General Atomics' subsidiary Cotter Corp. on its Cañon City uranium mill in Colorado. Rejecting Cotter's appeal, a judge denied the company the right to dispose of 24,000 tons of contaminated soils from Maywood, New Jersey. This did not deter the company, however, from applying for the disposal of other contaminated soil (from the AMAX Research and Development site in Colorado) at its mill site. In other developments, CDPHE invited public comment on the planned remedial action of the Old Ponds Area at the mill site, and cited Cotter for two contamination incidents at the mill. In November, Cotter Corp. announced the closure of six uranium mines and the lay off of most of its Cañon City mill workers due to poor economics.

In Argentina, a judge ordered a halt to the restart of the Sierra Pintada uranium mine at San Rafael, Mendoza province after several organizations, including the local Chamber of Commerce, had called for a cleanup of old uranium mining activities at the site before reopening.

In the Czech Republic, the lifetime of the country's last active uranium mine at Rozná could again be extended, given the recent rise in the uranium price.

In Niger, environmental issues at the uranium mines of Cogéma's subsidiaries at Arlit and Akouta received wide publicity. In April, two studies found several deficiencies and concluded that permissible dose rates may have been exceeded in certain cases. In response, Cogéma launched a health study at the sites but in November received a poor rating for environmental issues at its Niger uranium mines.

In Namibia, the life of the nearly depleted Rössing uranium mine will be extended to 2016. In June, elevated uranium concentrations were detected in groundwater (used for irrigation) downstream from the Rössing mine.

In South Africa, Aflease Gold and Uranium Resources Ltd is preparing to construct a processing plant at its Dominion Reefs mine where uranium is to be recovered as a by-product from gold mining from 2007.

In Afghanistan, illegal mining of uranium and gold reserves in Kohistan district of the northern Faryab province continues unabated.

In the Indian state of Jharkhand, an enquiry committee was set up to probe alleged illegal mining of uranium in the State.

At WMC's Olympic Dam copper/uranium mine in South Australia, a state government taskforce was set up to investigate a huge spike in the number of birds killed at the mine's 400 ha tailings dam. In June, BHP Billiton became major shareholder of WMC and began preparing plans for an expansion from the current uranium output of 4000 t/a up to 30,000 t/a. Ironically, a large geothermal resource has been identified at Olympic Dam, with a potential for 1000 MW's of renewable geothermal power, which could be used to run the expanded mine.

Energy Resources of Australia's (ERA) Ranger mine in the Northern Territory will soon be depleted and is due to close in 2008. Processing of stockpiled ores will keep the mill operating until 2014, rather than 2011 as previously planned, due to the increasing uranium price allowing for the processing of lower cut-off grades. In June, ERA was fined AU$150,000 (approx. US$112,000) having plead guilty to charges related to water contamination in 2004.

In July, ERA disclosed that the Ranger mine closure is to cost AU$176 million (US$131 m), of which only AU$65 million (US$48 m) is covered by guarantee - AU$41.4 million (US$31 m) in a government-administered trust fund, and AU$23.6 million (US$18 m) through a bank guarantee. For evidently failing to secure sufficient decommissioning funds for ERA's Ranger mine, Australian Commonwealth authorities deserve the Gold Award for Carelessness. Should ERA go bankrupt, the taxpayer would have to fund the cleanup. Such fears were further fuelled, when on December 6, Cameco, Cogéma, and Japan Australia Uranium Resources Development Co Ltd. (JAURD) sold their combined 25% stake in ERA at a steep 27.6% discount. The former shareholders apparently lost confidence in the possible development of the Jabiluka deposit in the foreseeable future and, considering that the Ranger deposit will soon be depleted, cut their loses.


Abandoned mines
The Canadian Federal Government finally provided funding for the cleanup of the former Port Radium mine (operated 1931-1960). A new report recommends immediate remediation.

The Governments of Canada and Saskatchewan announced a cost-share for the remediation of the Gunnar and Lorado uranium mines in Saskatchewan, active from the 1950s until the early 1960s.

The reclamation of the White King and Lucky Lass mines in Oregon, U.S., active from 1955 to 1959, began this summer. The reclamation will be paid for by the successors of the previous owner companies.

The U.S. Forest Service released a cleanup plan for the abandoned Juniper uranium mine in California.

Funding was awarded for the restoration of the Uravan mill and mine site in Colorado.
The hazard cleanup at some abandoned uranium mines in Harding County in South Dakota could cost US$20 million, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Beginning in the late 1940s, more than 200 uranium mines were dug in South Dakota.

The Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute (JNC) started paying a fine of 750,000 yen (US$7,210) a day to local residents in the town of Yurihama on March 11, for its failure to meet a deadline to remove 3000 cubic metres of uranium-contaminated soil left from the former Ningyo-Toge uranium mine. In October, JNC shipped the most contaminated 290 cubic meters of the material to IUC's White Mesa uranium mill in Utah, USA, for recovery of the uranium and disposal of the remaining material - at cost of about 660 million yen (US$6 million). The resulting cost of US$20,700 per cubic metre of soil probably represents a new world record for the management costs of uranium mining waste. No decision has been made yet on the fate of the remaining 2700 cubic metres...


Decommissioning issues
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) issued a Waste Facility Operating Licence to Cameco Corporation for the Beaver Lodge uranium mine and mill site located in Northern Saskatchewan. The decision was taken despite the relatively high incidence of deformities observed in fish in the vicinity.

CNSC also renewed Rio Algom's license for its Elliot Lake tailings in Ontario, withholding the Record of Proceedings.

In the U.S., relaxed groundwater standards were requested and/or approved for the following sites: Umetco's East Gas Hills uranium mill site (Wyoming), Pathfinder's Shirley Basin uranium tailings site (Wyoming), United Nuclear's Church Rock uranium mill tailings site (New Mexico), and at Homestake's Grants uranium mill tailings site (New Mexico).
Western Nuclear withdrew its request for permission for the cessation of active groundwater restoration at its Split Rock uranium mill tailings site in Wyoming; the company had intended to supply residents in the area with an alternate potable water supply, rather than cleaning up the groundwater but apparently could not convince the NRC on this plan.

For the Atlas Moab uranium mill tailings pile in Utah, DOE released a Final Environmental Impact Statement stipulating a preferred alternative to relocating the tailings to Crescent Junction. On September 14, DOE signed the long-awaited historic decision to move the Moab tailings away from the banks of the Colorado River, where they threaten the drinking water supply to millions of downstream residents.

In Germany, a local environmental group raised concerns regarding the environmental impact of the flooding procedure currently in progress at Wismut's Thuringian underground mines and regarding the rather high permeability of the cover applied to certain waste rock piles.
Meanwhile, Wismut is preparing the relocation of the conical landmark waste rock piles near Ronneburg, Thuringia, to a former open pit. Since this relocation will remove the most visible signs left from Wismut's vast uranium mining operations in Eastern Germany, the environmental group now calls for some memorial site commemorating the consequences of Wismut's uranium mining.

In France, after six years of legal evasions, mining company Cogéma was forced to appear before the Criminal Court of Limoges for alleged pollution at its former uranium mine sites in the Limousin area. The Criminal Court, however, cleared Cogéma of the pollution charges.

In South Africa, groundwater contamination from abandoned gold/uranium mines raised increasing concern.

In Kazakhstan, the rising groundwater table in the Aktau area increases the hazard of contaminant dispersal from the Koshkar-Ata uranium mill tailings to the region and to the Caspian Sea. Scientists called for efforts to isolate the tailings.
The reclamation of the closed Zharkent uranium mine is scheduled to start in 2006.


Miners' and Residents' Health
A Canadian report has concluded that scientific data collected could not show a definitive link between cancer rates in the community of Deline and the Port Radium mine. Local men were hired to carry sacks of uranium ore from the mine, which opened in 1929 and operated for decades. Cancer cases started occurring and the community became known as the "Village of Widows". But, the report says those employees' exposure levels were not high enough to cause cancer, contradicting widely held opinions.

In the U.S., a National Academy of Science committee recommended that a determination be made as to whether Cold War era residents of uranium mills should be eligible for radiation exposure compensation. So far, compensation has been applicable only for former uranium workers and down-winders of nuclear weapon tests.

In Spain, parliament demanded medical tests for former workers at the now closed Andújar uranium mill, after high cancer rates had been observed.


Other Developments, Policy Issues
On April 29, Navajo Nation President Joseph Shirley Jr. signed the Diné Natural Resources Protection Act of 2005 outlawing uranium mining and processing on the Navajo reservation. The bill was passed by the Navajo Nation Council on April 19, in a 63-19 vote; it could, however, be overturned by U.S. federal legislation.

In China, uranium mine employee Sun Xiaodi disappeared at the end of April after reporting contamination from the Gansu No. 792 Uranium Mine in the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. The organization Human Rights in China (HRIC) fully supports the efforts of Sun Xiaodi's family and friends to ascertain his whereabouts and secure his release. HRIC urges the international community to press the Chinese authorities to conduct an in-depth investigation into Sun's allegations of corruption, severe human health impacts and environmental degradation at the Gansu No. 792 Uranium Mine.

Australia conducted an inquiry into the future role of its uranium industry. While the inquiry was still ongoing, Australia began formal negotiations on uranium exports to China. China refuses to commit to IAEA inspections of its nuclear power facilities as a condition of buying uranium from Australia, though. China even announced that it wants to explore for uranium in Australia. Meanwhile, Rössing became the first Western producer to export uranium to China (see above).

Uranium exporting countries are not alone in rethinking their role in a future uranium boom. There also appears to be an about-face in some areas of the (formerly?) ethical investment community; the Anglican Church's investment fund in Australia removed its ban on uranium mining shares.

So, while it seemed that morals are on a deplorable but inevitable decline in these days of a looming uranium boom, it was rather surprising to learn that Areva/Cogéma, of all companies, is apparently attempting to uphold standards stating that uranium exporting countries have a "moral obligation" to take back spent fuel! Cogéma, the company that showed no scruples when it came to leaving behind a dangerous and damaging mess when it closed its uranium mines in Gabon (see 2004 Review). For this outrageous statement, Areva/Cogéma clearly deserves this year's "Forwardness of the Year Award".

While Cogéma's comment was meant for Australia, it was later adopted by Canada's Nuclear Waste Management Organization who said that the uranium mining province Saskatchewan has a "responsibility" to take back spent nuclear fuel.


The full review is available at

Contact: WISE Uranium


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(Juny 15, 2005) A panel from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) charged to investigate the dangers of low-energy, low-dose ionizing radiation has concluded, "that it is unlikely that a threshold exists for the induction of cancers... Further, there are extensive data on radiation-induced transmissible mutations in mice and other organisms. There is therefore no reason to believe that humans would be immune to this sort of harm."

(632.5701) NIRS - In addition to this, the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation Report VII (BEIR VII) also made the following conclusions:

  • That background radiation, excluding radon, is responsible for 1 cancer incidence in 100 of us. That equals 60 million people worldwide.
  • That the risk from exposure to radiation allowed at the regulatory limit would also induce approximately one cancer in 100 members of the public exposed over a 70-year lifetime. For workers the allowed risk is 1 in 4 at the allowable limits over a 50 year occupational life.
  • That the risk of getting cancer is about 35% higher than current official risk figures used in the united states predict.
  • That x-rays may be 2-3 times more dangerous than other forms of radiation, meaning that CT scans would generate about 1 cancer per 300-400 procedures.

The panel was given its charge in 1999 and in june of that year, over 120 groups and individuals signed a letter to the academies voicing concern about the composition of the BEIR VII committee.


The letter warned that the composition of the panel was unbalanced and, in fact, contained many individuals who had prejudged the issue of radiation and health to conclude that radiation was less damaging than current regulatory assumptions stated. Many of these individuals were either employed by the nuclear industry in some capacity or had loudly proclaimed their views.

None of the panel members had advocated making radiation standards more protective and NAS had failed to invite any individuals who had been recommended by citizens' groups to participate up to that point. Because of this imbalance, the letter warned of potential Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) violations committed by the Academies.

Some of the more ardent and publicly pro-nuclear individuals were removed from the panel, but many individuals who felt low doses were less harmful, and that a threshold was possible, remained ensuring that the panel was still unbalanced. Even with this questionable panel composition, the committee could not ignore the current body of scientific studies that are now recognizing harmful and hitherto unpredicted effects at very low doses of radiation.

Citizens groups reminded the panel of these study results and presented persistent, relevant but yet unanswered questions regarding environmental, human, animal health and low-dose radiation exposure.

The panel report falls short in two key areas: first, since there is no safe dose, why should we allow any exposure at all except in cases of individual consent? to allow such exposures dooms a certain number of people to disease, a number of people much higher than allowed for other pollutants. The panel concludes that this one cancer case will hardly be noticed in a sea of "normal" cancer cases.

Which brings us to the second flaw: when pressed, the panel admitted that synergistic radiation effects are barely studied in scientific literature. Therefore our knowledge about how dioxin, cigarette smoke (or other poisons) and radiation interact in the body, are woefully lacking. How, then do we really determine which cancers radiation helps to cause as opposed to the ones caused solely by radiation? In an increasingly polluted world, this becomes a necessary question.

For a copy of the full BEIR VII report online, visit, or see 4-page summary at

Thanks to Daniel Hirsch, Committee to Bridge the Gap, for providing information used in this article.

Contact: Cindy Folkers at NIRS,


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(March 4, 2005) In time-honored tradition, the WISE Uranium Project is pleased to presents the annual summary of occurrences in the world of uranium mining for the year 2004.

(623.5665) WISE Uranium - During the course of the year 2004, the uranium spot market price climbed from 14.50 to 20.70 US$/lb U3O8, nearly three times its minimum level. The price for long-term contracts reached 25 US$/lb U3O8.

When the uranium spot market price reached the magical figure of 20.00 US$/lb U3O8 at the end of September, a frenzy of acquisitions of innocent tracts of land began, involving many exploration companies previously not involved in the uranium business.

This year, for the first time, WISE Uranium Project would like to award its order of merit in the following categories:
The 2004 Gold Award for Impudence goes to: Cogéma for the way it manages (or rather doesn't…) the legacy of decades of uranium mining in Gabon,The 2004 Silver Award for Impudence goes to: Rössing Uranium for using the mine's decommissioning fund to keep the mine operating, andThe 2004 Award for Negligence goes to: Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) for a potable water incident at its Ranger mine.

New uranium mining projects

The following new uranium projects received government approval and/or commenced operation in 2004:
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved PRI's Gas Hills uranium in-situ leach mine project in Wyoming, and Uranium Resources Inc. (URI) commenced uranium production at its Vasquez in-situ leach mine located in Texas. URI further plans to resume in-situ leach (ISL) mining at its Kingsville Dome mine, also in Texas.

Development began, or continued, on the following uranium mine projects:
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) issued a construction license for the Cigar Lake high-grade uranium mine project in Saskatchewan, after an assessment found no significant adverse environmental effects. CNSC further announced public hearings on the planned expansion of the JEB Mill at the McClean Lake mine site to receive and process Cigar Lake ore.

Argentina's atomic energy commission, CNEA, issued an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the revival of the Sierra Pintada uranium mine, located in San Rafael district of Mendoza province, although the environmental legacy from previous operation has not been dealt with.

Near Karkhu in Karelia (Russia), an ongoing exploration project at a uranium deposit raised environmentalists' concerns on radioactive pollution in Lake Ladoga.

During hearings held on the Langer Heinrich uranium mine project in Namibia, promoted by the Australian company Paladin Resources Ltd, the public raised concerns regarding the need for the project, its water supply, and its impacts on the Namib Naukluft Park.

For Kazakhstan, the development of a number of uranium mine projects was announced:
Cameco and the National Atomic Company of Kazakhstan (Kazatomprom) revealed plans to develop the Inkai Uranium ISL mine, while Areva/Cogéma and Kazatomprom announced the development of commercial production at the Moinkum uranium deposit, currently the site of a pilot plant. The construction of the Zarechnoye ISL uranium mine, a Kazakh-Russian-Kyrgyz venture, has already begun; part of the pre-concentrates recovered from the mine will be sent to the Kyrgyz Kara-Balta mill for processing. Kazakhstan also disclosed its ambition to become the world's leading uranium producer by raising its annual production from the current 3000 t to approx. 16,000 t by 2015.

In India, proposals were made for the development of four new uranium mines - two located in Jharkhand, the home state of India's only existing uranium mill. The Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board cleared the way for the Bandugurang uranium mine project with a statement of "No Objection". Although a public meeting was held for the Baghjanta uranium mine project (also in Jharkhand), environmentalists complained of incomplete access to project documents and of being hindered in their efforts to raise concerns during the meeting.

The Lambapur-Peddagattu uranium project in Andhra Pradesh had its ups and downs: while the Union Government excised tracts of the Rajiv Gandhi Tiger Reserve and a reserve forest for uranium exploration, the Andhra Pradesh State Pollution Control Board rejected the site proposed for the associated uranium mill. Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL) later conceived a new proposal for a mill site.

The Domiasiat uranium mine project in Meghalaya was at the center of much controversy. While the Meghalaya State Government remained undecided, strong opposition from several NGOs culminated in a protest march through the State capital Shillong and coupled with other issues, gave rise to two 1-day general strikes. A local UCIL official even resigned from his post after being threatened by militants. Simultaneously, landowner gave consent to UCIL and an organization of village headmen held a rally in favor of the uranium mine.

The development of the following uranium mine projects was delayed or abandoned:
In New Mexico, the license for the Crownpoint uranium in-situ leach project was once more on hold at the request of interveners SRIC and ENDAUM - this has been ongoing for over 4 years now.
In Western Australia, WMC commenced remediation works at its Yeelirrie trial uranium mine site.
In Australia's Northern Territory, Traditional Owners signed an historic agreement formally terminating the controversial development of the Jabiluka uranium mine.

Southern Cross Resources Inc. announced its decision to delay the development of the Honeymoon ISL project in South Australia, following the completion of leach tests.

Issues at operating uranium mines
CNSC approved the license renewals for Cameco's McArthur River high-grade uranium mine in Saskatchewan and the Key Lake mill (where the McArthur River ore is milled), despite serious water inflow problems experienced at the mine in 2003 and the continuing pit sidewall sloughing into the tailings disposed at Key Lake. Cameco moreover released an Environmental Assessment Study Report for the proposed production increase at the McArthur River mine and Key Lake mill.

An Appeals Court overturned the Federal Court's decision to quash Cogéma's operating license for the McClean Lake uranium mining and milling facilities in 2002 at the request of the Inter-Church Uranium Committee (ICUC). A stay had already been granted to Cogéma shortly after the initial court decision. Moreover, the public involvement process for the proposed Sue E extension of the McClean Lake mine was initiated.

Environmental monitoring revealed a sharp increase of uranium loads in lake sediments near the operating Rabbit Lake mine in Saskatchewan. While natural uranium levels in the lake sediment are below 3 µg/g (3 micro grams per gram), levels in Hidden Bay had reached approx. 25 µg/g in 2000, and have more than doubled each year since, to approx. 250 µg/g in 2003. It is reassuring, though, that... "This has been recognized by the company and they are looking into ways of reducing uranium in the effluent."...

In the U.S., Cameco now plans to expand in-situ leach operations at Crow Butte in Nebraska, a property it had written off in 2000...

In the second half of the year, Cotter Corp. reopened several uranium/vanadium mines in Southwestern Colorado. The mines had been idle for decades.

At Cotter Corp.'s Cañon City uranium mill in Colorado, the struggle continued, at Cotter's request, to accept contaminated waste from Maywood, N.J., for disposal at its uranium mill tailings site. In the end, the State renewed Cotter's mill license, but prohibited waste acceptance from other sites, and moreover required transition to a dry tailings management scheme. It is not clear yet whether Cotter Corp. will appeal this decision.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality granted hearing requests on the license renewal and the extension of URI's Kingsville Dome in-situ leach uranium mine.

Following the late 2003 announcement that the mine life of the Rössing uranium mine in Namibia would likely end prematurely in 2007, the company, in financial dire straits, used the mine's decommissioning fund to continue operating in 2004. Decommissioning funds are purposely set up to ensure money is set aside for cleanup in case companies collapse before meeting their liabilities; if this money is used to maintain day-to-day operations, no money will be left for cleanup once the company ceases to exist. And, the Rössing mine (with the associated uranium mill tailings pile) is probably by far the largest single uranium mining-related liability in the world. In addition, Rössing's parent company, Rio Tinto, is a member of the International Council on Mining & Metals - "dedicated to economic progress, environmental protection and social responsibility". This blatant misuse of the decommissioning fund represents a major blow to Rio Tinto's credibility, and makes Rössing Uranium deserving the "2004 Silver Award for Impudence". Meanwhile, Rössing has prepared a plan to continue mining until 2017, which is yet to be approved by Rio Tinto.

The Kara Balta uranium mill in Kyrgyzstan had contracted to process 1800 t of uranium-contaminated waste material originating from the BNFL Springfields (UK) nuclear fuel plant. The intention was to extract the uranium contained (90 t) and return it to the UK, while the majority of the material would remain in Kyrgyzstan. An expert commission had voiced supported for the deal, but the Kyrgyz government decided to prohibit the import of the waste material. Meanwhile, metal thieves continue to dig out contaminated scrap metal buried at the Kara Balta mill, to sell to scrap yards.

The Navoi uranium mill in Uzbekistan nearly regained full uranium output, after refurbishing its processing plant with a US$6 million loan received from Nukem Inc. (USA).

For the potable water incident at its Ranger uranium mine, Rio Tinto's subsidiary Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) clearly deserves to win 2004's "Award for Negligence" - a temporary hose connecting the mine's process water system to the potable water system, which was meant to increase supply to the process water system, had the opposite effect. Workers unwittingly drank the uranium-contaminated water and showered with it. Further incidents at the mine, such as the spillage of contaminated water into nearby creeks, and the distribution of yellow cake via the mine's compressed air system, among others, did not exactly reestablish trust in the safety culture at the mine.

Abandoned mines
In Canada, the deadlock between Saskatchewan's provincial authorities and federal authorities over who is responsible for the reclamation cost for the abandoned uranium mines remained unresolved. Only in one case, out of the 42 abandoned uranium mines of concern, had a current owner been identified who acknowledged responsibility for its cleanup.

In Colorado, the U.S. Forest Service plans to cleanup of the abandoned Graysill uranium mine, only one of hundreds of abandoned uranium mines in the Western U.S. presenting hazards from unsecured ground openings and waste dumps, etc.

In Portugal, environmental activists exposed the use of radioactive materials from the abandoned Quinta do Bispo uranium mine for ground works in the city of Mangualde. On several occasions, activists protested the lack of security at the 56 former uranium mines in central Portugal; at one mine they also observed illegal fishing. They also blocked transports of residual uranium ore concentrate, calling for the environmental restoration of the former mining area.

In the Democratic Republic (DR) of Congo, illicit mining at the former Shinkolobwe uranium mine raised health, security and proliferation concerns. The mine had once been the source of the infamous, and extremely high grade, "Belgian Congo Ores" processed for the U.S. nuclear weapons program in World War II, among others. After the deposit had been mined out, the mine was flooded and abandoned. Now, up to 15,000 illicit miners, mainly looking for cobalt, dig in a new open pit nearby but the ores produced possibly also contain some uranium. In July, at least eight miners were killed when a mine collapsed. Only in November could UN investigators confirm that there were no longer any mining activities on site.

In Madagascar, high radiation levels were found at the abandoned Vatovory open pit uranium mine, formerly mined by Cogéma's predecessor CEA between 1937 and 1954.

Kyrgyzstan is still seeking foreign support for the urgent stabilization of the abandoned uranium mill tailings deposits inherited from the Soviet era in the south of the country. The World Bank and Japan already gave offers of assistance. The OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) launched an information campaign to raise local public awareness on the hazards of the Mailuu-Suu uranium mill tailings, and IAEA collected environmental samples there. In November, a landslide threatened the uranium tailings deposit near Min-Kush in the Naryn province of Central Kyrgyzstan.

Tajikistan is also seeking foreign help to cleanup of the waste legacy from Soviet era uranium mining on its territory.

In Japan, the Supreme Court finalized an order for a nuclear institute in Tottori to remove approx. 16,000 cubic meters of uranium-contaminated soil, left over from uranium mining trials at Ningyo-Toge between 1958 and 1962. The material had been left abandoned for about 40 years.

In South Australia, authorities are now planning the cleanup of the abandoned Radium Hill uranium mine and Port Pirie uranium treatment plant.

In Queensland, people were observed swimming in the pit lake and tailings dam of the old Mary Kathleen uranium mine.

Shutdown and decommissioning of uranium mines
In July, CNSC (Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) issued a decommissioning license for the Cluff Lake mine in Saskatchewan. In August, the Clearwater First Nation in La Loche held a one-week road blockade against Cogéma's hiring policy for decommissioning work at the Cluff Lake mine.

The follow-up of the decommissioning of uranium mill tailings sites in the U.S. was impossible after October 25, when the U.S. NRC shut down its document library due to a "Security Review".

In Colorado, the New Rifle uranium mill tailings site has been cleaned up and the property transferred to the City of Rifle. This was the last of eight uranium mill tailings sites reclaimed in Colorado under the Uranium Mill Tailings Reclamation Control Act (UMTRCA) of 1978.
Former Uravan (Colorado) residents sued Umetco over suspected radiation-related illnesses claiming the firm had failed to protect them from radiation when they lived near the uranium mine operated by the company from 1928 to 1984.

In New Mexico, the Navajo EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) raised concerns over the migrating groundwater contaminant plume at the Shiprock tailings site.

Homestake was granted a 9-year extension of reclamation milestones for its Grants uranium mill tailings site, while residents living near the former Grants uranium mill are seeking damages from Homestake for a "variety of physical, emotional and financial injuries" allegedly suffered as a result of exposure to radioactive and other hazardous substances.

United Nuclear's request to halt groundwater treatment at its Church Rock uranium mill tailings site gave rise to U.S. EPA concerns. United Nuclear has now also submitted reclamation plans for its former Church Rock uranium mines.

The U.S. NRC license for the Sohio L-Bar uranium mill tailings site was terminated.

For the Monument Valley, Arizona, uranium mill tailings site, U.S. DOE issued a Draft Environmental Assessment Document for groundwater restoration for public comments. The proposed compliance strategies are mostly based on natural flushing and passive remediation through phytoremediation.

In Utah, U.S. NRC approved relaxed groundwater standards for the Lisbon uranium mill site.
At the Atlas Moab uranium mill tailings site in Utah, a decision between the options of in-situ reclamation and relocation to an offsite disposal site has still not been taken. U.S. DOE released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the management options for comment but failed to indicate a preferred alternative.

The U.S. DOE Inspector General criticized DOE's oversight on the reclamation of the Monticello uranium mill tailings site, where funds provided to the City of Monticello for long-term maintenance of the mill site were apparently used for unrelated purposes.

In Wyoming, the U.S. NRC approved a further weakening of Pathfinder's Shirley Basin uranium mill tailings cover specifications.

Reclamation of ANC's Gas Hills Tailings Pond No.1 was delayed further.

Western Nuclear requested permission for cessation of active groundwater restoration at Split Rock site, though the standards were not met.

In Ohio, cleanup began of Fernald Silos 1 and 2 containing tailings left over from the processing of Belgian Congo high-grade uranium ores for World War II nuclear weapons programs. It is not yet clear, however, where the material will be shipped to for disposal: to the Nevada Test Site, or to a Low-Level Waste site in Texas.

In France, authorities tried to locate disseminated material from the former St-Priest-la-Prugne (Loire) uranium mine by issuing questionnaires to residents of the area, since some of the material had obviously been used for construction purposes.

At the decommissioned St Pierre du Cantal uranium mine site, elevated radiation levels in excess of the applicable regulatory limits were found by the independent laboratory CRIIRAD.

In November, an Appeals Court finally decided that Cogéma must appear in Criminal Court on charges alleging pollution at its old uranium mine sites in the Limousin region (Haute-Vienne) in central France.

In Eastern Germany, Wismut began with the relocation of the Ronneburg landmark uranium waste rock piles (100 m high) in Thuringia into a former open pit mine. In Schlema, Saxony, a golf course is to be built on the reclaimed parts of one of Wismut's uranium mine waste rock piles.

In Gabon, Cogéma's subsidiary COMUF completed the decommissioning of its uranium mine and mill at Mounana, where it had produced nearly 28,000 t of uranium from 1961 to 1999. During the first years of operation, COMUF had simply released a total of over 2 million t of uranium mill tailings into an adjoining creek. This creek, the Ngamaboungou, then carried the tailings several kilometers to the Mitembe River. Rather than cleaning up this mess and transferring the tailings dispersed along the creek into an engineered tailings disposal facility, COMUF simply covered the dispersed tailings with an erosion-prone soil cover. The funds for this very strange reclamation work were taken from aid money provided by the European Union. Cogéma thus clearly deserves to win the "2004 Gold Award for Impudence".

In Kazakhstan, a scientific study on the Aktau tailings was completed. The reclamation of these tailings is to start from 2005.

Regulatory and policy issues
The World Health Organization (WHO) once more revised its provisional guideline value for uranium in drinking water, now from 9 µg/l to 15 µg/l, while the original value had been 2 ìg/l. The change once again is not based on new toxicity data, but on a revision of the allocation of the tolerable daily intake to drinking water, now from 50% to 80%.

The U.S. NRC approved the intentional mixing of contaminated soil to meet License Termination Rule (LTR) release criteria in limited circumstances, on a case-by-case basis.

A review report on the environmental impacts of the acid in-situ leach uranium mining process commissioned by the South Australian government backs acid ISL uranium mining.

In Germany, the Federal Social Court (Bundessozialgericht) in a landmark ruling decided that uranium miners should be able to claim compensation for cancers other than lung cancer. In two cases, filed by former Wismut uranium miners and/or their surviving families, the Court found that the larynx cancer developed by the miners must be seen as caused by their former occupation and therefore had to be compensated by the employers' liability insurance. The insurance company had maintained that no epidemiological evidence had ever proven such causation, while only the dosimetric model by Jacobi (1995) had so far been used to support such claims. The court decisions are relevant for approx. 2000 other former Wismut miners who have contracted cancers other than lung cancer.

For more information check the website:

Source and contact: WISE Uranium