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Radiation Exposure for Uranium Industry Residents

(last updated 18 Mar 2009)

Contents:

> see also:


Residents: General Standards

The general radiation dose standard for the public is 1 mSv/a, and the fatal cancer risk for the public is 0.05 per Sv, according to [ICRP60].

Exposure to 1 mSv/a over a lifetime of 70 years results in an excess fatal cancer risk of 0.35% (1 : 286). (see Radiation Dose to Risk Converter)
In some cases, regulators apply fractions of the 1 mSv/a standard for doses caused from single facilities.

U.S. EPA standard for drinking water [40 CFR 141.15] - excerpt:
Combined radium-226 and radium-2285 pCi/l (0.185 Bq/l)
Gross alpha particle activity (including radium-226 but excluding radon and uranium)15 pCi/l (0.555 Bq/l)
uranium30 g/l

WHO guideline for uranium in drinking-water [WHO2004]
  • 15 g/l

U.S. EPA recommendation for radon in homes (EPA )
  • 4 pCi/l (148 Bq/m3)


Residents at Uranium Mine

Source Term

The release of radon-222 from the mine as well as the specific emission per tonne U3O8 produced shows high variations:
Total Annual Radon Emission [TBq]Specific Radon Emission [GBq/t U3O8]
Ranger Mine (Australia)13022
former Panel Mine (Canada)96110
former Ronneburg Mine (Germany)690210
former Denison Mine (Canada)1100540
Rabbit Lake Mine (Canada)1600760
former Aue Mine (Germany)650 (?)2000
GBq stands for 109 Bq, TBq stands for 1012 Bq
1 t U3O8 is equivalent to 0.848 t U
[UNSCEAR1993], all figures for 1989

U.S. EPA effluent limitations for mine drainage from open-pit and underground uranium mines [40 CFR 440.32] (excerpt):
Maximum for any one day30 day average
Ra-226 (dissolved)10 pCi/l (0.37 Bq/l)3 pCi/l (0.111 Bq/l)
Ra-226 (total)30 pCi/l (1.11 Bq/l)10 pCi/l (0.37 Bq/l)
U4 mg/l2 mg/l

Exposure of Residents

(see also Health Impacts for Residents)


Residents at Uranium Mill

Source Term

Annual airborne emissions of uranium mills
U3O8 producedAnnual emission
Rn-222Ra-226Th-230U-238
[t][GBq][GBq][GBq][GBq][kg]
Ranger (Australia)400054,0002161
Olympic Dam (Australia)120016,0000.10.10.216
Nabarlek (Australia)170021,0000.756
Key Lake (Canada)5832?0.0240.0410.8569
Rabbit Lake (Canada)19009,200
GBq stands for 109 Bq
1 t U3O8 is equivalent to 0.848 t U
[UNSCEAR1993], all figures for 1989 (Nabarlek: 1987)

The release of radon-222 from the mill per tonne U3O8 produced is typically 13 GBq/t U3O8. (GBq stands for 109 Becquerels.) [UNSCEAR1993]

Annual emissions in liquid effluents of uranium mills
U3O8 producedAnnual emission
Pb-210Ra-226Th-230U-238
[t][GBq][GBq][GBq][GBq][kg]
Amok (Canada)7410.050.010.0297.6613
Key Lake (Canada)58320.070.170.070.756
GBq stands for 109 Bq
1 t U3O8 is equivalent to 0.848 t U
[UNSCEAR1993], all figures for 1989

U.S. EPA effluent limitations for discharges from uranium mills and in-situ leach mines [40 CFR 440.32]:
Maximum for any one day30 day average
Ra-226 (dissolved)10 pCi/l (0.37 Bq/l)3 pCi/l (0.111 Bq/l)
Ra-226 (total)30 pCi/l (1.11 Bq/l)10 pCi/l (0.37 Bq/l)

U.S. EPA standard for cleanup of land contaminated with residual radioactive material from inactive uranium processing sites [40 CFR 192.12]; concentration of radium-226 in soil:
  • 5 pCi/g (0.185 Bq/g) for the top 15 cm of soil;
  • 15 pCi/g (0.555 Bq/g) for soil deeper then 15 cm.

A radium-226 concentration of 0.185 Bq/g corresponds to an uranium concentration (before eventual extraction) of 15 ppm.

U.S. NRC standard for soil containing radionuclides other than radium [64 FR 17506 , April 12, 1999]:
  • the dose must not exceed the dose from cleanup of radium contaminated soil to the 5 pCi/g (0.185 Bq/g) standard for the top 15 cm, excluding the dose from radon

The dose from soil contaminated with radium-226 at 0.185 Bq/g, that is used as a reference in the above standard, seems to be a mystery, however:

All these calculations exclude the dose from radon.

Exposure of Residents at Uranium Mill

U.S. EPA dose limit for uranium fuel cycle facilities (excluding radon) [40 CFR 190.10]:
  • 25 mrem/a (0.25 mSv/a) to the whole body,
  • 75 mrem/a (0.75 mSv/a) to the thyroid, and
  • 25 mrem/a (0.25 mSv/a) to any other organ

> See also [NRC1982]


Residents at Uranium Mill Tailings

Source term

A rule-of-thumb value for the Specific Radon Exhalation Rate from the bare surface of unsaturated tailings is 1 Bq/m2s per BqRa-226/g [EPA1986]; this applies for "infinite" (in terms of radon exhalation) thickness of the tailings, that is more than 4 meters.
In case of bare tailings from ore with an ore grade of 0.1% U, the radon exhalation rate would be approx. 12 Bq/m2s.
U.S. EPA standard for radon-222 emission rate from surface of inactive uranium mill tailings piles [40 CFR 61.222, 40 CFR 192.02]:
  • 20 pCi/m2s (0.74 Bq/m2s)

U.S. EPA design standard for effectiveness of cover on inactive uranium mill tailings [40 CFR 192.02]:
  • 1000 years to the extent reasonably achievable,
  • at least 200 years in any case

Exposure of Residents at Uranium Mill Tailings

> See also [NRC1982]


Residents at Uranium Conversion and Enrichment Plant

Source term

Annual emissions of uranium conversion plants
CapacityAnnual emission
airborneliquid effl.
U-238U-238
[GBq][kg][GBq][kg]
Blind River refinery (Ontario)18,000 t U as UO30.9730.18
Port Hope UF6 plant (Ontario)10,000 t U as UF60.756*2.6210
* 1998 figure was 143 kg (AECB BMD 99-123)
GBq stands for 109 Bq
other non-radioactive emissions include fluorine, among others
[UNSCEAR1993], all figures for 1989

Annual emissions of uranium enrichment plants
CapacityAnnual emission
airborneliquid effl.
uraniumuranic alphauranic beta
[GBq][kg][GBq][GBq]
Capenhurst (UK) 0.02?1.71.7
GBq stands for 109 Bq
other non-radioactive emissions include fluorine, among others
[UNSCEAR1993], all figures for 1989 (Capenhurst 1988)

Annual emissions of nuclear fuel fabrication plants
CapacityAnnual emission
airborneliquid effl.
uranic alphauranic betauranic alphauranic beta
[GBq][GBq][GBq][GBq]
KNFC (Korea) 0.30.10.030.013
Springfields (UK) 12400114,000
GBq stands for 109 Bq
other non-radioactive emissions include fluorine, among others
[UNSCEAR1993], all figures for 1989

Exposure of Residents at Conversion and Enrichment plants

U.S. EPA dose limit for uranium fuel cycle facilities (excluding radon) [40 CFR 190.10]:
  • 25 mrem/a (0.25 mSv/a) to the whole body,
  • 75 mrem/a (0.75 mSv/a) to the thyroid, and
  • 25 mrem/a (0.25 mSv/a) to any other organ


References

[EPA1983] U.S. EPA: Final Environmental Impact Statement for Standards for the Control of Byproduct Materials from Uranium Ore Processing (40 CFR 192), Vol. 1, September 1983, Report No. EPA/520/1-83-008-1

[EPA1986] Final Rule for Radon-222 Emissions from Licensed Uranium Mill Tailings. Background Information Document, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Radiation Programs, Washington, DC, August 1986, 226 p. Report No. EPA/520/1-86/009

[FGR12] U.S. EPA: Federal Guidance Report No. 12: External Exposures to Radionuclides in Air; Water; and Soil, EPA 402-R-93-081, September 1993
> download full text (1081k - PDF format)
> online lookup of FGR 12 dose factors for external exposure
> download database DFEXT of FGR 12 dose factors, contained in the DFACT package
[The FGR 12 dose factors are based on ICRP26. The DFEXT software also allows computing of the effective dose according to ICRP60: these values have been used here.]

[Goldschmidt1999] Radiological Impact Assessment Of A Uranium Mill Tailings Repository, by Frédéric Goldschmidt and Jean Marc Peres, IPSN/Environment Protection Department, paper presented at Eurosafe in Paris, Nov. 18-19, 1999
> Download full text (207k, PDF format)

[ICRP60] 1990 Recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protection, ICRP Publication 60, Oxford 1991

[Mudd2008] Radon Releases From Australian Uranium Mining and Milling Projects : Assessing the UNSCEAR Approach, by Gavin M Mudd, in: Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, Vol. 99 (2008) No. 2, pp 288-315.

[NRC1982] U.S. NRC: Regulatory Guide 3.51, Calculational Models for Estimating Radiation Doses to Man from Airborne Radioactive Materials Resulting from Uranium Milling Operations, 1982
> Download full text (2.3M PDF)

[UNSCEAR1993] Sources and Effects of Ionizing Radiation, United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, UNSCEAR 1993 Report to the General Assembly, with Scientific Annexes, United Nations, New York, 1993, 922 p. (see also [Mudd2008])

[WHO2004] World Health Organization: WHO Guidelines for drinking-water quality, third edition, 2004

[xx CFR yyy.zz] U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, xx = title, yyy = part

[xx FR yyyy] U.S. Federal Register , xx = volume, yyyy = page

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