In the past decade, alternative techniques such in-situ leach mining, in which solutions are injected into underground deposits to dissolve uranium, have become more widely used. Conventional mining techniques generate a substantial quantity of mill tailings waste during the milling phase, because the usable portion is generally less than one percent of the ore.(In-situ leach mining leaves the unusable portion in the ground, it does not generate this form of waste).This process, known as radioactive decay, generally results in the emission of alpha or beta particles from the nucleus.It is often also accompanied by emission of gamma radiation, which is electromagnetic radiation, like X-rays.If inhaled or ingested, however, its radioactivity poses increased risks of lung cancer and bone cancer.Uranium is also chemically toxic at high concentrations and can cause damage to internal organs, notably the kidneys.After several more alpha and beta decays, the series ends with the stable isotope lead-206.
Conversion and enrichment facilities have had a number of accidents involving uranium hexafluoride. military to fabricate armor-piercing conventional weapons and tank armor plating.Moreover, the half-lives of the principal radioactive components of mill tailings, thorium-230 and radium-226 are long, being about 75,000 years and 1,600 years respectively.The most serious health hazard associated with uranium mining is lung cancer due to inhaling uranium decay products.Uranium-238 decays by alpha emission into thorium-234, which itself decays by beta emission to protactinium-234, which decays by beta emission to uranium-234, and so on.The various decay products, (sometimes referred to as “progeny” or “daughters”) form a series starting at uranium-238.
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The principal goals of federal regulations are to limit the seepage of radionuclides and heavy metals into groundwater and reduce emissions of radon-222 to the air.