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Sillamäe: Studies on the waste depository

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(June 25, 1993) The Swedish Radiation Protection Institute (SSI) commissioned a report on the Sillamäe Plant in Estonia (see WISE NC 391.3812). The 10-page report was issued 15 March 1993. It is titled, "Studies on the Waste Depository of the Sillamäe Plant, State of the Art Report from the project group.

(393.3829) WISE Amsterdam - The summary reads, "The studies on the waste material in the Sillamäe depository indicate that the wall material of the depository is typical mill tailing from chemical enrichment of uranium ore. The results from the sea sampling show that the impact from the depository on the marine environment is obviously close to the shore-line. However, the concent-rations of radioactive elements decrease very rapidly as the distance from the shore increases. The farthest distance where elevated radionuclide concentrations were observed was 300 meters from the shore-line. The results on the ground water used as tap water in Sillamäe indicate that the waste depository does not contaminate the local ground waters."

The report states that the facility, now run by the Estonian government, is operating at about 20% of its capacity (though this number is not given). The plant is processing loparite, which is a mineral shale from the Kola Peninsula rich in niobium, tantalium and other rare earth metals. In addition, the loparite contains 0.03% uranium. This a level which is mined in many parts of the world. Even worse, is that 0.6% thorium is also present. The report notes that no uranium has been processed there since 1977.

The recommendation of SSI is, "In order to perform remedial actions, the present deposition of waste must be changed and localized to some other area in order not to stop production. The group therefore proposes that a special project for the waste management for the facility is established."

Contact: The report may be ordered from: SSI, Box 60204, S-10401 Stockholm, Sweden; tel: + 46-8-729 71 00.