Human Health Implications of Uranium Mining and Nuclear Power Generation (Study)

Dr. Cathy Vakil M.D., C.C.F.P., F.C.F.P.
Dr. Linda Harvey B.Sc., M.Sc., M.D.

May 2009

This paper will examine the health risks associated with the nuclear power industry at all stages – from uranium mining, to the fission process in reactors, to radioactive waste, and will comment on the risk of nuclear war, which we regard as the ultimate public health issue. Uranium mining contaminates air, water and soil.

Crushing tons of radioactive rock produces dust, and leaves behind fine radioactive particles subject to wind and water erosion. Radon gas, a potent lung carcinogen, is released continuously from the tailings in perpetuity. Drilling and blasting disrupt and contaminate local aquifers. Water used to control dust and create slurries for uranium extraction becomes contaminated. Tailings containments can leak, leach or fail, releasing radioactive material into local waterways. Various organisms can transport radioactive material away from contaminated sites. These sites remain radioactive for many thousands of years, and will be unsafe to use for most human purposes for that long, as well as being a source of continuing contamination for surrounding populations.

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