Just How Radioactive is Uranium Ore?
I recently stumbled upon a blog by Andrea Jennetta, a nuclear energy communicator with nearly 25 years of work experience in the U.S nuclear industry.
Although many of her blog postings are insightful and thought-provoking, the following post was also extremely timely, what with the BAPE hearings on uranium mining in Quebec currently underway.
One of the main concerns of the BAPE has to do with the dangers of uranium mining, and one of these so-called dangers is exposure to radiation.
Jennetta does a great job of putting radiation due to uranium mining in perspective:
Understanding radiation and its different sources can be a tricky thing. It’s even trickier when uranium mining opponents are intent on deceiving us all into believing that uranium is the most radioactive and dangerous substance known to man.
So, just how radioactive is uranium ore? And, how does it compare to other naturally occurring radioactive substances we are exposed to on a daily basis? Say, bananas for instance.
Well, a handful of raw uranium ore actually has about as much radiation as 10 bananas – a “bunch” that is. But, how could that be? It’s simple really. Banana’s are radioactive because they contain trace amounts of the naturally occurring radioactive isotope potassium–40, just like uranium ore contains trace amounts of the naturally occurring radioactive isotopes uranium-238 and 235. Shocking isn’t it?
But wait, there’s more. Uranium mines and nuclear facilities only account for about 0.1% of the average American’s radiation exposure in a given year. Most of our radiation exposure comes from the sun, the earth, medical procedures, and breathing naturally occurring radon molecules – NOT from nuclear energy or uranium mining. You get radiation from your computer screen, from the Brazil nuts you eat, from the gas burner in your kitchen and from your granite counter tops.
Radiation is natural and all around us, and at a level of 10 bananas-worth per handful, uranium is hardly the most dangerous substance known to man and something smart engineers and scientists are fully capable of managing without harming people or the environment.