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Fields under irrigation with center-pivot sprinklers of the type Powertech would use to spray radioactive waste water at their project site, according to the NRC draft Environmental Impact Statement (2012).
Potato fields under irrigation with center-pivot sprinklers in Idaho, USA Army Corps of Engineers
Photo by US Army Corps of Engineers

Strange and undiscussed is that the Dewey Burdock Powertech (Azarga) In Situ Leach (ISL) uranium mining project intends to do a “land application option” for their proposed South Dakota mine. While according to the NRC draft EIS (Nov. 2012) Powertech prefers to inject the waste water-sludge into the ground – why bother? They plan to spray it around too, it seems. The NRC will legally allow them to dilute and spray radioactive wastewater on the surface of the ground in amounts that exceed the EPA safe drinking water limit! Yep, there it is all in the 10 CFR Ch. I, Pt. 20 App B, which they say they will follow. (See bottom of this post for some relevant pages of the rule.) They claim they will filter the water, but again, why bother when they can simply follow the NRC dilute and deceive model and are being given large amounts of clean water from the Madison aquifer, source of drinking water for Rapid City. So, they can just mix the clean and dirty water, as per NRC rules – what we call dilute and deceive. Then they can just spray it on the ground!

From the NRC EIS Draft document. Page colored so that the waterways can be better seen. Red boxes added to legend.
NRC EIS Powertech Dewey Burdock Land App Fig. 2.1, Nov. 2012
The NRC Draft “EIS” for the Powertech Dewey Burdock Project further points out that several waterways pass through the property, as can be seen on the map above! Some are surrounded by the spraying areas seen above! “By letter dated January 14, 2009, USACE documented the presence of 20 wetlands within the project area and determined that 4 were jurisdictional waters; these are Beaver Creek, an unnamed tributary to Beaver Creek, Pass Creek, and an unnamed tributary to Pass Creek” (NRC, draft EIS for Dewey Burdock, p. 1-16). Pass Creek and Beaver Creek feed into the Cheyenne River just upstream from the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary. The Cheyenne feeds the Missouri River which feeds the Mississippi River.

One thing which they intend to spray is radium. They are allowed by 10 CFR Ch. I, Pt. 20 App B to spray 2.2 Becquerels (radioactive emissions per second) per liter and they intend to spray the area at the rate of 1,124 liters per minute from March 29 to May 10; 2,472 liters per minute from May 11 to September 24; and approximately 1,124 liters per minute from September 25 to October 31. So, for radium only they intend and will be allowed to spray up to around 2,472.8 Becquerels (radioactive emissions per second) of radium per minute for part of the year and 5,438 Becquerels per minute for 4 1/2 months. That is of only radium 226, a dangerous alpha emitter with a half life of 1600 years. Radium 226 and Radium 228 combined of 0.185 becquerels/liter is considered safe drinking water by the EPA. http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/rulesregs/sdwa/radionuclides/basicinformation.cfm Note that the NRC uses microcuries per milliliter in the 10 CFR Ch. 1, Part 20 App B, which needs to be multiplied by 1,000 to convert from milliliter to liter and then microcuries are converted to becquerels, which is radioactive disintegrations (emissions) per second. (See relevant pages below at bottom of this post.)

How bad is radium? It’s a dangerous calcium mimic. Remember the “Radium Girls” who ingested and breathed in radium at work? Whereas calcium “strengthened and added to the mineral content of the skeleton, radium did the opposite – it bombarded skeletal material with alpha radiation, blasting it full of tiny holes, and then larger ones, and then larger. It irradiated the blood-forming marrow in the bone’s center. No wonder that the dial painters’ jaws literally rotted away, hips broke, ankles crumbled away, anemias and leukemias bubbled in the bone marrow…. Radon gas was produced in the skeleton as the radium there decayed; the gas diffused into the bloodstream, was carried to the lungs, exhaled to drift away“. http://blogs.plos.org/speakeasyscience/2011/03/25/life-in-the-undark/Life in the Undark“, By Deborah Blum, Posted: March 25, 2011 (Emphasis added. This is a wonderful 3 post series on the case of the Radium Girls.) For the US EPA position on radium see bottom of the page.

According to the aptly named Madville Times 18 Aug. 2014, even Powertech proponents admit that radium is dangerous upon ingestion. Beware so-called “organic” (bio) meat from the area if this thing comes on line. Grass or hay may be contaminated, and the livestock that eat it. Will nearby cows burp and fart radon and not just methane? What would the repercussions be on the environment of radioactive cow burps and farts? This spraying of radioactive water is dangerous for wildlife, too.
South Dakota cattle NRCS USDA gov
South Dakota cattle. Photo by NRCS-USDA

Powertech (and anyone else) is also allowed to spray natural uranium at the rate of 0.0000003 microcuries per milliliter, which is 0.0003 microcuries per liter or 11.1 becquerels, under the 10 CFR Ch. I, Part 20 App B, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2012-title10-vol1/pdf/CFR-2012-title10-vol1-part20-appB.pdf This, of course must be multiplied by liters of water sprayed per minute and 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours a day. This will be as high as 27,448 Bq/minute, 1,646,884.8 per hour and 39,525,235 Bq per day directly on the ground and at more than one location! Only for uranium! The problem here isn’t even Powertech but rather the US government which would allow this! Uranium is natural and somewhat in balance in the ground, but it is not natural to spray it on the surface of the ground or in the streams and rivers! It is radioactive and it is dangerous (See from the EPA below). As a heavy metal, uranium is very hard on the kidneys. As such we suggest that all promoters of uranium mining and the nuclear industry donate both kidneys to needy people and do dialysis themselves, since kidneys don’t matter. Can animals do dialysis?

3.7 Becquerels per liter is also allowed for Thorium 230 and Lead 210 (Pb) is allowed at 0.37 Bq/liter. The lead has the shortest half-life of 22 years, meaning it will be radioactive for over 352 years, but non-radioactive lead is extremely dangerous! Lead is also “natural”, but its place is in the ground. Uranium eventually becomes lead, so they are generally found together. Uranium poisons as a heavy metal as well as a radionuclide. It can get into the body through inhalation, eating and drinking, as well as be absorbed through the skin. Natural uranium has half lives ranging from 4.47 billion years for uranium 238 to 246,000 for uranium 234. The vast majority (99.27 percent) of natural uranium is 238. http://www.epa.gov/radiation/radionuclides/uranium.html

From the “Environmental Impact Statement for the Dewey-Burdock Project in Custer and Fall River Counties, South Dakota, Supplement to the Generic Environmental Impact Statement for In-Situ Leach Uranium Milling Facilities , Draft Report for Comment, Chapters 1 to 4“, November 2012; public record; available online in its entirety:
NRC EIS Powertech Dewey Burdock Land App Option, 2-25
NRC EIS Powertech Dewey Burdock Land App Fig. 2-27
Clearly ISL Uranium mining doesn’t jibe with the following US government statement, made 7 years ago before fracking and drought became such a problem: “Our ground water resources are in serious need of attention. Abundant, high-quality, low-cost ground water resources are fundamental to the long-term growth and vitality of our nation, yet this most important resource is often overlooked, if not neglected. Attention to the protection and management of ground water has consistently lagged behind that given to surface waters, meaning that historic and current water resource laws and policies deal primarily with the protection and management of our more visible lakes, rivers, and wetlands.http://www.gwpc.org/sites/default/files/GroundWaterReport-2007-.pdf

EPA on Radium

Radium emits several different kinds of radiation, in particular, alpha particles and gamma rays. Alpha particles are generally only harmful if emitted inside the body. However, both internal and external exposure to gamma radiation is harmful. Gamma rays can penetrate the body, so gamma emitters like radium can result in exposures even when the source is a distance away.

Long-term exposure to radium increases the risk of developing several diseases. Inhaled or ingested radium increases the risk of developing such diseases as lymphoma, bone cancer, and diseases that affect the formation of blood, such as leukemia and aplastic anemia. These effects usually take years to develop. External exposure to radium’s gamma radiation increases the risk of cancer to varying degrees in all tissues and organs.

Radium-226, the most common isotope, is an alpha emitter, with accompanying gamma radiation, and has a half-life of about 1600 years. Radium-228, is principally a beta emitter and has a half-life of 5.76 years. Radium-224, an alpha emitter, has a half life of 3.66 days. Radium decays to form isotopes of the radioactive gas radon, which is not chemically reactive. Stable lead is the final product of this lengthy radioactive decay series
“. http://www.epa.gov/radiation/radionuclides/radium.html (Emphasis added).

Note that the EPA gives micrograms rather than microcuries or becquerels.
EPA on Uranium

How are people exposed to uranium?

A person can be exposed to uranium by inhaling dust in air, or ingesting water and food. The general population is exposed to uranium primarily through food and water. The average daily intake of uranium from food ranges from 0.07 to 1.1 micrograms per day. The amount of uranium in air is usually very small. People who live near federal government facilities that made or tested nuclear weapons, or facilities that mine or process uranium ore or enrich uranium for reactor fuel, may have increased exposure to uranium.

How does uranium get into the body?

Uranium can enter the body when it is inhaled or swallowed, or under rare circumstances it may enter through cuts in the skin… When uranium gets inside the body it can lead to cancer or kidney damage.

What does uranium do once it gets into the body?

About 99 percent of the uranium ingested in food or water will leave a person’s body in the feces, and the remainder will enter the blood. Most of this absorbed uranium will be removed by the kidneys and excreted in the urine within a few days. A small amount of the uranium in the bloodstream will deposit in a person’s bones, where it will remain for years.

Health Effects of Uranium
How can uranium affect people’s health?

Intakes of uranium exceeding EPA standards can lead to increased cancer risk, liver damage, or both. Long term chronic intakes of uranium isotopes in food, water, or air can lead to internal irradiation and/or chemical toxicity.
Since uranium is known to cause kidney damage, special urine tests are often used to determine whether kidney damage has occurred.
… people who live near uranium mining areas, or near government weapons facilities or certain industrial facilities may have increased exposure to uranium, especially if their water is from a private well.
http://www.epa.gov/radiation/radionuclides/uranium.html (Contrary to what the US EPA alleges uranium does penetrate intact skin, though at a decreased rate.)
10 CFR Ch. I, Pt. 20 App B, Radium 226
10 CFR Ch. I, Pt. 20 App B, Uranium
10 CFR Ch. I, Pt. 20 App B, Thorium 230
10 CFR Ch. I, Pt. 20 App B, lead