Radioecology around a closed uranium mine

Abstract

The uranium mine and mill at Žirovski vrh, Slovenia, operated from 1982 to 1990. After processing, the uranium mill tailings were deposited onto the Boršt waste pile lying close to the mine. Radioecological studies focused on assessing the mobility and bioavailability of deposited radionuclides were initiated some five years ago. The mobility of 238U, 234U, 230Th and 226Ra in soil was studied by applying sequential extraction protocols. The highest activity concentrations were found at the bottom of the waste pile. Uranium isotopes were the most mobile, followed by 226Ra whose mobility appeared to be suppressed by high sulphate concentrations and 230Th. The wetland plants grown in soils contaminated with seepage waters from the tailings contained higher levels of 238U, 226Ra and 230Th compared to plants from a control site. The activity concentration of 226Ra was the highest in all studied plant species. The radiological risk to wildlife around the mine area as assessed by the ERICA Tool was negligible. Activity concentrations in bovine milk from the area of Žirovski vrh were comparable to the reference location, except for uranium where the content was higher. The combined annual effective dose for adults consuming milk from the Žirovski vrh area is 13.0 ± 1.7 μSv a−1.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank the staff of the Rudnik Žirovski vrh company for their cooperation and assistance. The financial support of the Slovenian Research Agency (Grant No. P2-0075) is highly appreciated.

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Correspondence to Borut Smodiš.

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Smodiš, B., Štrok, M. & Černe, M. Radioecology around a closed uranium mine. J Radioanal Nucl Chem 299, 765–771 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10967-013-2697-2

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Keywords

  • Uranium mine
  • Natural radionuclides
  • Mobility
  • Sequential extraction
  • Wetland plants
  • Milk
  • ERICA Tool