Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

20 December 2013

Tanzania: Plea for Safety in Uranium Mining

TANZANIA'S scientists have called for strict adherence to safety standards as the country seeks to move towards uranium mining.

At a meeting in Dar es salaam on Thursday by Tanzania Academy of Sciences (TAAS), dubbed 'Uranium Mining: Is Tanzania ready?" scientists have stressed on the need to manage radiation risks and other uncertain consequences of exposure to radiation, the effects of which may remain latent for long periods.

In his presentation, titled 'Uranium Mining (Safety and Security),' Mr Dennis Mwalongo of the Tanzania Atomic Energy Commission (TAEC) said there is need to make certain consideration in the uranium mining life cycle, which comprises all the activities involved in the production of natural uranium.

"All these stages create radiological and non- radiological waste, health, safety and environment. There is need to manage radiation risks," he said "Also uranium is unique and differs from, for example, coal, copper, gold or iron because it is raw material from which nuclear weapons are made," he said.

He said uranium export control and accountancy is essential for reasons of good governance to protect the public and companies against theft and other criminal activities, to protect government revenue, including royalties and taxes.

He noted that there was need to maintain international confidence in the security and safety of the nuclear industry, adding that independent assessment of the regulatory preparedness is vital for sustainable uranium mining.

He called for considerations of nuclear safety to protect people and environment from harmful effects of ionizing radiation and nuclear security, to protect persons, property, society and the environment from harmful consequences of a nuclear security event.

Other calls were for protection of employees and the public from all conventional mining hazards to airborne contaminants, ground stability and structure, geological and hydro-geological conditions, storage and handling of explosives and mine flooding.

He asked those in the industry to ensure compliance with the occupational and public dose limits laid down in Atomic Energy Act.No.7 of 2003. "The regulations classify, according to risk, site personnel and work areas that are subject to radiation exposure," he said.

TAEC Director General, Prof Iddi Mkilaha called for planning and carefully monitoring of employees and contractor doses, radioactive discharges and emissions as well as resulting environmental concentrations and exposure rates.

On water quality, he called for developing and implementing of site-specific water management practices that meet defined water-quality objectives for surface and ground waters focusing particular attention on potable water.

On environmental protection, he urged for overall avoidance of the pollution of water, soil and air, optimise the use of natural resources and energy and minimise any impact from the site and its activities on people and the environment.

"The obvious risk is theft or unauthorised removal of UOC - from the mine/mill or during subsequent transport and storage," he said. On illicit trafficking incidences, he said Tanzania joined IAEA Illicit Trafficking DataBase (ITDB) in 1996.

Between 1999-2009: African member states which reported significant number of uranium incidents to ITDB were Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria, Algeria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Namibia and Kenya.

Tanzania was on top on the list with 14 reported incidents followed by Kenya and Namibia. In the last quarter of 2012, illicit trafficking incidents involved radioactive materials in a natural form either as processed uranium concentrate (yellow cakes) or NORM related materials.

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