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Occupational Radiation Protection Aspects of Alkaline Leach Uranium in Situ Recovery (ISR) Facilities in the United States

Brown, Steven H.1

doi: 10.1097/HP.0000000000001062
OPERATIONAL RADIATION SAFETY
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In situ recovery or in situ leach (ISR/ISL) uranium facilities, also referred to in the past as “uranium solution mining” have operated since the late 1960s in the US and in recent years have accounted for over 70% of US production and, internationally, approximately half of worldwide uranium supplies. Note that throughout this paper, the uranium in situ recovery process, also known as in situ leach, will be abbreviated as “ISR.” This paper presents a summary of the occupational radiation protection aspects of typical ISR processes being employed in the United States today that have traditionally used alkaline-based uranium recovery solutions known as lixiviants. The paper describes the health physics and associated monitoring programs necessary to adequately measure and control radiological doses to workers based on the radiological character of these processes. Although many radiological characteristics are similar to that of conventional mills, conventional-type tailings as such are not generated. However, liquid and solid by-product materials may be generated and impounded, which can result in sources of occupational exposure. Some special monitoring considerations are required due to the manner in which 222 Rn gas is involved in the process. The major aspects of the health physics and radiation protection programs that have been developed at these facilities over many years are discussed and listed in the Conclusion section of the paper.

1SHB Inc., Centennial, CO.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Steven Brown is a board certified health physicist and Fellow of the Health Physics Society with over 45 years of nuclear industry experience. He has worked as a licensee of the US AEC/NRC and Agreement States in the commercial nuclear fuel cycle and for large nuclear decommissioning/decontamination and radioactive waste management projects as a contractor to the US Department of Energy in the US nuclear weapons and environmental management programs. He has been the designated Radiation Safety Officer under numerous US Atomic Energy Act radioactive material licenses, including several for in situ uranium facilities. He has been president of the Central Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Health Physics Society twice, a member of the Board of Directors of American Academy of Health Physics and twice a member of the Panel of Examiners of the American Board of Health Physics. He has recently been appointed by the Governor of Colorado to the State’s Radiation Advisory Committee. His email is shb12@msn.com.

Online date: April 24, 2019

© 2019 by the Health Physics Society