Thursday, May 27, 2010

Uranium Mining and Radiation Exposure

Alabama Attorney General informs veterans of radiation exposure compensation

May 26, 2010 12:05 PM EDT

MONTGOMERY, AL (WAFF) - Attorney General Troy King informed veterans and family members of benefits available to compensate for certain illnesses that may have been caused by radiation exposure from the development and testing of nuclear weapons.

The Radiation Exposure Compensation Program is administered through the U.S. Department of Justice.

During World War II and continuing through 1962, the United States conducted nearly 200 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests to bring about a conclusion to the war and while building the arsenal that became the cornerstone of the nation's Cold War security strategy.

Essential to the development of nuclear weapons was the mining and processing of uranium ore, conducted by tens of thousands of workers.

"Unfortunately, these tests did not come without a cost to the veterans and workers who bravely served our nation," said Attorney General King.

"But many veterans and their families may not be aware that federal law provides partial restitution to the individuals who developed serious illnesses after exposure to radiation released during atmospheric nuclear tests or after employment in the uranium industry."

The Radiation Exposure Compensation Program serves individuals who contracted certain cancers and other serious diseases following their exposure to radiation released during above-ground atmospheric nuclear weapons tests or, following their occupational exposure to radiation while employed in the uranium industry during the build-up to the Cold War.

Veterans are not required to prove that their cancer was caused by this radiation exposure. Instead, all they have to do is prove that they were diagnosed with one of the diseases on the list of compensable diseases after working or residing in a designated location for a specific period of time.

The program provides lump sum compensation awards for individuals who contracted specified diseases in three defined populations: individuals present at atmospheric nuclear weapons tests, who receive $75,000; uranium miners, millers, and ore transporters, who receive $100,000; and individuals who lived downwind of the Nevada Test Site, who receive $50,000.

Acceptance of this compensation does not affect Veterans Administration benefits. However, if a veteran is receiving medical payments specifically related to one of the qualifying diseases, that veteran's lump sum award might be reduced by the amount of payments already received.

"Sadly, many of the veterans who bravely served our nation during this period are no longer with us, but their family members are still eligible to receive this compensation," said Attorney General King.

"Family members include spouses, children, or next of kin. If you qualify for this program, then I encourage you to quickly apply for this compensation.

If you know of any veterans or families of veterans who are not aware of this program, please spread the word."

More information is available through the U.S. Department of Justice's Radiation Exposure Compensation Program toll-free number at 1-800-729-7327, or on its web page at

Uranium miner dies in rock fall

Safety » Worker, 28, pronounced dead at hospital in Monticello.
By Mike Gorrell

The Salt Lake Tribune
Updated: 05/27/2010 08:58:29 AM MDT

A 28-year-old uranium miner from Moab died Wednesday morning after he was hit by falling rock in the Pandora mine near LaSal, San Juan County.

County Sheriff Mike Lacy identified the victim of the 7:30 a.m. accident as Hunter Diehl. The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) was notified of the accident and sent an inspector Wednesday to investigate.

Ron Hochstein, president and CEO of Denver-based Denison Mines (USA) Corp., which owns the mine, said Diehl was working with a partner, using an 8-foot-long crowbar-like tool to break loose rocks from underground tunnel walls and roofs expanded by blasting.

"There was a rock fall, from the mine's roof or perhaps the wall, we're not sure," Hochstein said.

Sheriff Lacy said Diehl's co-worker saw the victim blinking his head-lamp light, came to his aid and talked to Diehl before going for help. When the co-worker returned, he found Diehl unconscious.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation failed to revive the victim underground. He was transported to San Juan County Hospital in Monticello, where he was pronounced dead.

Operated by a company called Reliance Resources Inc., the mine had six lost-time injuries in 2009, an incidence rate (11.92) more than five times the national average (2.10) for metal/non-metal mines. (In compiling incidence rates, MSHA classifies mines as coal or metal/non-metal.)

Despite the high rate, Hochstein said "our safety record is actually pretty good. But it's got room for improvement."

One of the five injuries last year involved a rock fall. On June 10, 2009, a rock that broke loose after use of explosives rolled over a miner's foot, fracturing it.

Other accidents occurred working with machinery, operating transport equipment and dealing with parts in the warehouse, MSHA records show.

The Pandora mine received 13 citations for safety violations in 2009 and eight so far this year. MSHA's last inspection of the mine was conducted April 20-28. Seven citations were issued.

Two were classified as the more serious "significant and substantial" citations, issued for allowing miners to work alone and not keeping working areas "clean and orderly." The others largely were for exposing miners to excessive noise, MSHA records showed.

Tribune reporter Bob Mims contributed to this article.

About Pandora mine

Owned by Denison Mines (USA) Corp., operated by Reliance Resources Inc.

In the first quarter of 2010, it had 31 miners working underground, 26 on the surface.

Work in the mine increased to 84,000 cumulative hours in 2009, after being about 2,000 hours for each of the previous three years. So far this year, 34,000 hours have been logged.

Six injuries at the mine in 2009 resulted in an accident incidence rate of 11.92, compared to the national average of 2.10 for all mines other than coal mines.

Source: Federal Mine Safety & Health Administration

Stringent Water Monitoring Needed at Uranium Mine: Greens

By Rich Bowden:

The Australian Greens have called for better water monitoring methods to be implemented in the wake of allegations that contamination of creek systems has occurred near the Ranger Uranium Mine in the Northern Territory.

Recent data released by the Environment Centre NT outlined significant sulphate contamination of nearby water systems outside of the mine’s zone, reigniting fears that the mine’s owners, Energy Resources of Australia, were continuing to have difficulty in controlling contamination.

Dr Stuart Blanch, head of the Environment Centre NT, said the results had been received by the organisation from an anonymous source and he asked why the information was not included in the supervising scientists’ report.

“The supervising scientist did not report this information on its website,” he said. “It did provide it to a committee of interested folks, but this sort of information should be on its website.”

“The information that it does have there completely masks and excludes the peak that shows that two times the reporting level of salt escaped from Ranger on around 10 April this year, but they did not report it.”

Under questioning from Greens Senator Scott Ludlam at Senate estimates in Canberra on Wednesday, Supervising Scientist Alan Hughes acknowledged deficiencies in current methods of water monitoring, saying real time water monitoring was the most efficient way to monitor contamination of waterways downstream of the Ranger Uranium Mine and promised to push for this method.

“It is time the Supervising Scientist stepped in to make sure that real-time water quality data is made public by the company so that we can all be confident that events like this don’t ever go under the radar,” Senator Ludlam said at the hearing.

Senator Ludlam referred to the recent contamination of water sources and said that, while no regulatory guidelines were broken by the company, this was not difficult as none had been set.

“The recent contamination spike into the Magela Creek system in Kakadu wasn’t picked up by the routine ‘grab’ monitoring that downstream communities rely on,” said Senator Ludlam.

It’s hard to breach a limit if you haven’t capped it,” Senator Ludlam said.