Reducing the long-term environmental impact of wastes arising from uranium mining
Uranium mining and milling produces significant quantities of solid and liquid wastes. Solid wastes include waste rock arising from the mining activity and tailings produced by processing of the ore through the millin circuits. Of these, tailings have the most pronounced impact on the environment as they represent almost the entire mass of material processed in the milling circuits and also contain over 85% of the original radioactivity present in the ore. Modern rehabilitation schemes for tailings impoundments include a number of layers designed to prevent infiltration of water, oxidation of minerals, capillary rise of salts, and release of Rn, thereby minimizing the impact of the disposal of tailings on the environment. Although the effectiveness of these engineered barriers may degrade with time, it is possible, using evidence from natural systems and archaeological constructions, to provide evidence of the long-term isolation of the contaminants contained in the uranium tailings from the environment.
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This book provides incentives for further development of sustainable fuel cycles through a novel and interdisciplinary approach to an Earth science-related topic. The main focus is on geochemical concepts in immobilizing, isolating or neutralizing waste derived from energy production and consumption. The book also addresses the issue of using some types of energy-derived waste as alternative raw materials. Moreover, it highlights research on how certain wastes can be used for energy production, an increasingly important aspect of modern integrated waste management strategies. The main objectives are to: (a) identify the most serious environmental problems related to various types of power generation and associated waste accumulation; (b) present strategies, based on natural analogue materials, for the immobilization of toxic and radioactive waste components through mineralogical barriers; (c) discuss modern procedures for reuse of waste or certain waste components; and (d) review the importance of geochemical modelling in describing and predicting the interaction between waste and the environment.