Climate scientists: Australian uranium mining pollutes Antarctic

June 30, 2016 by Beth Staples, University of Maine
Credit: University of Maine

Uranium mining in Australia is polluting the Antarctic, about 6,000 nautical miles away.

University of Maine climate scientists made the discovery during the first high-resolution continuous examination of a northern Antarctic Peninsula .

Ice core data reveal a significant increase in concentration that coincides with open pit mining in the Southern Hemisphere, most notably Australia, says lead researcher Mariusz Potocki, a doctoral candidate and research assistant with the Climate Change Institute.

"The Southern Hemisphere is impacted by human activities more than we thought," says Potocki.

Understanding airborne distribution of uranium is important because exposure to the radioactive element can result in kidney toxicity, genetic mutations, mental development challenges and cancer.

Uranium concentrations in the ice core increased by as much as 102 between the 1980s and 2000s, accompanied by increased variability in recent years, says Potocki, a glaciochemist.

Until World War II, most of the uranium input to the atmosphere was from natural sources, says the research team.

But since 1945, increases in Southern Hemisphere uranium levels have been attributed to industrial sources, including uranium mining in Australia, South Africa and Namibia.

Since other land-source dust elements don't show similar large increases in the ice core, and since the increased uranium concentrations are enriched above levels in the Earth's crust, the source of uranium is attributed to human activities rather atmospheric circulation changes.

In 2007, a Brazilian-Chilean-U.S. team retrieved the ice core from the Detroit Plateau on the northern Antarctic Peninsula, which is one of the most rapidly changing regions on Earth.

Explore further: Depleted uranium may post health hazard

More information: Mariusz Potocki et al. Recent increase in Antarctic Peninsula ice core uranium concentrations, Atmospheric Environment (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2016.06.010

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21 comments

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Shootist
1.6 / 5 (14) Jun 30, 2016
so what? there is nothing there. very definition of waste land.
gkam
2.5 / 5 (10) Jun 30, 2016
Oh, yeah, we can just pollute the hell out of it, right?

HeloMenelo
4 / 5 (12) Jun 30, 2016
see how dumb he argues, just because there's nothing doesn't mean it will lead to a drastic impact globally in the future.... shootist shot the potty miss yet again, what a clown antigoricle monkey sock.
Eikka
3.9 / 5 (7) Jun 30, 2016
Uranium concentrations in the ice core increased by as much as 102


120 what?

Oh, yeah, we can just pollute the hell out of it, right?


You have to ask that of the rare earths miners, who actually dig up more uranium than the uranium mines and simply leave it hanging around piled up all over the place.

The article is disingenuous in putting the problem on uranium mining because uranium is a side effect of all the stuff we dig up to make windmills, solar panels and electric cars. Uranium prices are currently extremely low because there's more of it coming out of the ground as a result than there is use for it - it's a waste product along with thorium.
Eikka
3.4 / 5 (5) Jun 30, 2016
The major reason why REE mining is concentrated in South America and Asia is exactly because of the cost of dealing with the waste products in the first world countries. For example:

http://www.nytime...tml?_r=0

The Bukit Merah case is little known even elsewhere in Malaysia, and virtually unknown in the West, because Mitsubishi Chemical quietly agreed to fix the problem even without a legal order to do so.

The refinery processed slag from old tin mines — material rich in rare earth ore


11,000 truckloads of radioactively contaminated soil, 80,000 steel barrels of radioactive waste - and that's not an isolated case. There's loads of illegal mining operations going on in China that the state is "ignoring" because it makes for cheap exports.

So the Antarctic contamination is conveniently because of uranium mining - which removes the uranium from the ore instead of leaving it around in dirt piles?

Right...
Eikka
3 / 5 (8) Jun 30, 2016
To dispose of the radioactive material, engineers have cut the top off a hill three miles away in a forest reserve, buried the material inside the hill's core and then entombed it under more than 20 feet of clay and granite.


I'm completely baffled why people like gkam aren't out there picketing against that, instead of fighting a propaganda war against proper nuclear waste disposal. Where's the demands for armed guards for 200,000 years for that? They've just made nuclear waste "go away" by dumping it in a more or less conventional landfill.

I'd like to hear the massive double standard that allows something like that to happen while simultaneously arguing how nuclear power waste cannot be safely disposed, ever, in any way - especially knowing that the production of REEs digs up more uranium and thorium per year than there is nuclear power waste in the world since the 1950s.

Please, try to eat your cake and have it.
gkam
1 / 5 (7) Jun 30, 2016
I can't be everywhere at once, Eikka.

You may have to actually do something yourself more than just shooting off your mouth.
antigoracle
1.3 / 5 (12) Jun 30, 2016
Whoa, all the way to Antarctica, so imagine how bad it must be in Australia, people must be dropping like flies...no..wait...
gkam
1 / 5 (5) Jun 30, 2016
It takes a while for the radionuclides to kill, Toots. Give cancer a chance to do its work, after being started by radiation.
tblakely1357
1.4 / 5 (10) Jun 30, 2016
Funny nobody ever cites a volcano as a polluter.
gkam
2.7 / 5 (7) Jun 30, 2016
It is not funny and you are wrong besides. Volcanoes are gross emitters on noxious compounds and particulates and regarded as such. Their emissions are counted in global emissions.
antialias_physorg
4.6 / 5 (11) Jul 01, 2016
Funny nobody ever cites a volcano as a polluter.

Now this may be too complicated for you to handle, so I'll use small words:

Volcanoes: we can't do anything about that
Our waste: we can do something about that

Get the difference? No? I thought not.

If there's something you can't do anything about it's pointless crying about it.
TrollCondensate
Jul 01, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
antigoracle
1 / 5 (9) Jul 01, 2016

Shootist 1.6 /5 (7) Jun 30, 2016
so what? there is nothing there. very definition of waste land.


Ditto the space between your ears. Want the same treatment?

Ah, the one who wanks higher than everyone on the forum. I see you refused to take your meds again, AGreatWanker.
HeloMenelo
4.4 / 5 (7) Jul 02, 2016
Whoa, all the way to Antarctica, so imagine how bad it must be in Australia, people must be dropping like flies...no..wait...


Imagine how dumb antisciencegorrilacle must be not being able to read and comprehend the process of why it does not affect Australia as it does Antarctica
HeloMenelo
4.3 / 5 (6) Jul 02, 2016

Shootist 1.6 /5 (7) Jun 30, 2016
so what? there is nothing there. very definition of waste land.


Ditto the space between your ears. Want the same treatment?


lol... his cognitive ability is severely limited, he's been trying to shoot the potty dead on for the past decade, he just can't seem to nail it, and neither can his socks :D
rrrander
1.4 / 5 (9) Jul 03, 2016
Who cares about minor pollution in the Antarctic except some greenloons and well-heeled liberal vacationers? No gain was evere made without cost and RISK. The West had better realized this or the East will bury them.
gkam
2.6 / 5 (5) Jul 03, 2016
rrander,that is the philosophy that put us where we are, . . in the middle of a polluted world.
HeloMenelo
4.3 / 5 (6) Jul 03, 2016
Who cares about minor pollution in the Antarctic except some greenloons and well-heeled liberal vacationers? No gain was evere made without cost and RISK. The West had better realized this or the East will bury them.


Another antigoracle monkey sock, you can tell by the thoughtless comment, as al the rest he makes,Most people do care monkey brains, what gains, destruction ? that's your definition of gains ? c'mon monkey wer'e just warming up here, bring it on, i want to hear you stupify yourself even further, and i know we won't be disappointed... :D
FainAvis
5 / 5 (1) Jul 04, 2016
"Uranium concentrations in the ice core increased by as much as 102 between the 1980s and 2000s..." (From the article.)

102 what? It would help to have some units please.
TrollBane
1 / 5 (1) Jul 20, 2016
FainAvis quoted and replied: "Uranium concentrations in the ice core increased by as much as 102 between the 1980s and 2000s..." (From the article.)

102 what? It would help to have some units please.
-------

This carbon unit agrees.

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