Myth Of UCIL
UCIL operations in Jharkhand have remained subjected to media reports from time to time alleging ill-effects of radiation around the uranium mining facilities. These reports mention stories of human interest invariably spiced with melancholy and drama using telling pictures of human sufferings to condition the viewer. These, in turn provide cause of apprehensions among local people broadly on following three misconceptions:
a) UCIL operations spread radiation in surrounding areas. b) Radiations are the main cause of diseases like cancer, TB, malaria etc prevalent in the region c) UCIL is indifferent towards societal development.
Fear of radiation is essentially human made and mediated phenomenon by a small section of the media without checking out the facts. Most of the apprehensions are based on a false understanding of the facts. UCIL has always remained committed towards its neighborhood development with adequate funds, manpower and infrastructure. A few facts are elaborated below.
Uranium ore mined in India are of very low grade as compared to those available in other countries. After recovery of uranium in the mill, bulk of the material processed emerges as tailings. Its radioactivity content is very low. The tailings slurry along with liquid effluents is neutralized with lime to remove the soluble daughter nuclides and heavy metals. The coarse fraction is used to backfill the mines. The slurry containing fine particles is pumped into a tailing pond where the solids settle and the water effluent from the pond is received back at the Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) where it is treated to ensure that it conforms to the limits prescribed by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and the Pollution Control Board.
The various studies carried out by experts have proved beyond doubt that the diseases prevalent in the villages around UCIL workings are not due to radiation but attributed to malnutrition, malaria and unhygienic living conditions etc. A full-fledged Environmental Survey Laboratory cum Health Physics Unit - an independent body under the administrative control of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) is in operation since inception to carry out environmental and radiological surveillance in and around UCIL’s units. External gamma radiation, Radon concentration, suspended particulate matters, airborne long lived Alpha activity and concentration of radio nuclides- uranium and Radium in surface and ground water, in soil and food items etc are monitored regularly. Statistical data at regular intervals reveal no significant effect on ground and surface water bodies due to UCIL activities. Similarly up-take studies on more than thirty species of different groups (Plant & animal) show that that there is no significant change in background radiation due to UCIL operation.