Working in a uranium mine can ensure a decent pay package. However, there are often concerns about associated health risks. That’s because it has been shown in studies that exposure to radioactive substances can lead to various types of diseases such as lung cancer. It makes us wonder if it is safe to work in a Uranium mine. What precautions you need to take when working in a uranium mine? To answer such questions, here are some important things to consider.
Safety regulations and implementation
How safe you are when working in a uranium mine will depend on the safety regulations and how strictly they are enforced. Some of the best safety standards related to uranium mining have been deployed in countries like Canada and Australia.
Updated safety standards
Across the globe, there have been significant improvements in safety standards. Early uranium miners from the 1940s and 1950s were not so lucky, as safety standards were quite poor. Radiation exposure was as high as 750 mSv per year, which is several times more than the existing regulated limit of 20 mSv per year.
It explains why thousands of early uranium miners were diagnosed with diseases like lung cancer. If you are working for a company that strictly follows prescribed safety norms, you can work in a uranium mine without any worries.
Uranium decay products
Uranium ore is not particularly dangerous. In most mines, uranium is mined as uranium oxide concentrate – U3O8. Uranium ore will be harmful only if you accidently inhale it or if it enters the body via a cut or open wound. What is really dangerous is the uranium decay products that are usually found in a high-grade ore. It includes isotopes of bismuth and lead that emit gamma radiation. Another hazard is radon gas that may leak from the rocks. It eventually releases alpha particles, which if inhaled in large quantities can lead to lung cancer.
Open vs underground uranium mining
The risks are less when working in an open uranium mine, as compared to deep underground mines. The reason is obvious, as enclosed spaces may trap harmful substances in the air and increase the level of radiation exposure. However, safety regulations need to be strictly followed in open mines as well.
Adherence to safety guidelines
Every uranium mine will have its own set of safety guidelines for miners. It is important to ensure that these are being followed strictly by all miners. Make sure the uranium mine you are working in has proper dust control systems. Dust is usually the primary source of exposure to radiation.
Another important thing to do is continuous monitoring of radon level inside the mine. Having powerful ventilation systems can effectively control radon levels. Last but not least, miners need to follow strict hygiene standards. Protective clothing, masks, etc. should be used wherever applicable.
It is apparent from above points that it is largely safe to work in a uranium mine. As long as you and your company follow safety protocols, working in a uranium mine will be quite the same as working in any other industrial setup.