Uranium - Development a Sham
What is this ore called Uranium? Why is almost everyone keen to be the Agent of UCIL? Why is it that, even the educated, knowing its danger to life, try to fool the illiterate with deception? This shows their greed for power and money.
I never knew any thing about Physics but since my inception into social work I had to know about Uranium in lay man terms. Uranium is said to be the heaviest metal. To extract this material, sulphuric acid has to be used and from an approximate one tonne of this rock, only 2 pounds of uranium can be extracted. The rest is waste which in fact is 85% still radioactive.
Whenever uranium disintegrates, it turns into a material called Protactinium which is radioactive and this in turn, turns to Thorium (Emits Gamma Rays). Then Thorium turns into Radium which then turns to Radon gas which is also radioactive and produces the Radon Daughters which are also radioactive. These multiply and are decay products.
Marie Curie named one of the elements she discovered as polonium after her homeland Poland. She further wanted to experiment what was discovered by Henri Becquerel in 1896, which was called radioactivity, where he put a piece of uranium rock in his drawer on top of a photographic plate wrapped with paper, and after a few days the plate emanated rays of light. She gathered uranium rocks from the Erz Mountains of Canada and separated all the chemicals gradually by using sulphuric acid (It is still used now to extract uranium). After extraction of uranium she found the waste was still 85% radioactive. She went on separating by evaporating it, till a little was left in a beaker and then; that too evaporated and the beaker was empty. She later found out in the evening that the beaker was glowing in the dark. She named the two new elements she discovered Radium and Polonium.
The property called radioactivity means that the individual atom decays at a certain rate, emitting energy in the process, each decay, in the event results in the breakdown of the original atom into an atom of a different element and accompanied by the release of energy. Beginning with the change to Thorium 234 each atom of uranium is transformed in steps through 13 elements before becoming a stable element of lead. One element in this decay series of Uranium is a gas called Radon 222 and Radon is being formed in all uranium bearing rocks. Being a gas, Radon can seep into the mine air from rock surfaces and cracks exposed by mine openings. Normal radio active decay of Radon then continues in the mine atmosphere.
The first four daughters of Radon are believed to pose the principle threat to the health of the miners because they result in a relatively record release of Alpha energy. When a mixture of Radon and its daughters is inhaled, most of the Radon atoms are exhaled before they have time to decay. But many Radon daughters are retained in the lungs where the decay and release alpha particles which can damage living tissues.
An early suspicion of the danger of radiation from Radon and its daughters came from Europe where Uranium and Radium were being mined. In one district where concentration of Radon daughters were very high and ventilation very poor about half of the deaths among the miners were from cancer. It was also assumed that the early miners in America had a similar exposure to Radon daughters. Studies by the US Public Health Service later indicated that the Radon daughters can be a health hazard, in the form of Lung Cancer.
Both Henri Becquerel and Marie Curie received the Nobel Prize in Physics but due to their constant touch with Radium they had suffered burns that were recently found to be a type of cancer called Leukemia. It was then that Radiotherapy was used to kill cancer cells but at the same time healthy tissues of the human body were being destroyed. That is how lethal radiation can be.
In open pit mining, mines are dug and the water collected in the pits has to be let out into the hills and streams, and in the process, some of the sand that we use for construction of houses, contain Radon Gas too. Slow intake of this Radon gas can cause cancer of the lungs, breast cancer, and Uranium can cause deformity in the human body besides causing Kidney cancer while Radium causes bone cancer. That may be the reason why we suffer from all these types of cancer even though we are not in close proximity with the mining areas.
The half life of Thorium which is a gamma emitter is 80,000 years, and that of Radium, an alpha emitter is 1600 years. So the present radioactive elements will go on increasing and one can just imagine what an epidemic it would be with all the waste from tailing ponds that will multiply for thousands of years if the UCIL is allowed to go ahead with the proposed mining.
If we cross check with the Government Data (if at all it is up-to-date and correct) we will find that cancer patients and cancer related death is doubling as the radioactive elements that already exist in the environment are multiplying.
Cancer cases among Aboriginal people living near Australia’s biggest uranium mines is doubling, a study by the Federal Governments leading Indigenous Research body shows, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, of the 23rd November 2006. There have also been many Uranium Tailing disasters, in Australia, Canada and the United States, even though these countries are armed with the most “State of the Art” tailing dams.
According to the AFP news, a French physicist Bruno Chareyron of France’s CRIIRAD laboratory, which measures radioactivity in the environment, has joined representatives of indigenous peoples from Africa, Australia and the United States to send US lawmakers a stark warning about the dangers of uranium mining. He spoke in a conference in Washington DC in the month of Feb 2009 where he stated that that he wants the US lawmakers to understand that uranium mining is highly pollutant and that there is presently no scientific answer to the question of radioactive waste containment. He mentioned that the information given by mining companies is not entirely reliable.
It seems that the UCIL too, is bluffing the people. They, through their agents, the Government, publicize that they would like to develop the area at Kylleng Pyndensohiong Mawtahbah. But if one visits the web site UCIL.gov.in, you will find that the project has already been prepared and that some welfare activities have already been taken up and that the site activities are expected to start soon.
When power plants were first introduced the difficulty of waste disposal was not considered to be a problem. It was also assumed that waste could be recycled or buried. Unfortunately, finding ways of storing the radioactive waste so that they do not leak radiation into the environment has proved to be a very difficult task than was earlier anticipated.
When you have a look at the map where uranium is found in the country there are many indications of where Uranium is available. The pertinent question here is, why mine in the tribal areas of the North East?
To say that people from outside can not be effected is wrong as the toxic waste and gases carry hundreds of miles and also contaminate water bodies. Let us not allow these dictators to play a divide and rule policy. It is our constitutional right to equality, that we should get development and not through conditions and definitely not through UCIL.
One can not blame the people from the West who have become frustrated as there has truly been no development in their areas and the roads there are pathetic if there are any. The PWD has to be answerable to the step motherly way they have treated the villages in remote areas all over the state and the engineers who are responsible for signing the completion certificates are to be dismissed from service. The blame also partially goes to the contractors, who compromised with the ministers and engineers for their cuts and construction of bad roads. The local CBI has to take up the matter as they are the ones that deal with corruption, and most of the funds for Roads come from the centre.
It is true and sad and we all learn through mistakes, but united we can fight all this without having to sell off our land to UCIL who will leave the area high and dry, when they have replenished their thirst for greed and we will be left with the toxic waste for thousands of years, that will cut short the life of our beloved children. Short term monetary gain will leave us with long-term deadly waste for generations to come.