The nuclear fuel cycle begins with the exploration and mining of uranium-containing ores. Although few active mining sites are currently in operation, there are numerous closed mines throughout the world. Many of the facilities in the United States, built and operated under contract to the DOE, have not been properly remediated. The proliferation of sites occurred during a period in the 1970s when uranium prices skyrocketed. Ores containing as little as 0.2% U3O8 were processed during this period.
A simplified schematic of a typical uranium mill is shown in Figure 11.25.1. Closure of mining and mill sites is strictly regulated by the NRC and its agreement states. Detailed criteria for closure can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR Part 40). The mining and milling of uranium ores produces large quantities of contaminated rock, sludge, gases, and liquids. These materials contain varying concentrations of the radioactive ore and its daughters such as radon, radium, lead, thorium,
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