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Drums Of Radioactive Uranium Found On Beach

Drums Of Radioactive Uranium Found On Beach

Last week, Namibian authorities discovered four unguarded barrels of radioactive uranium oxide on a beach near the coastal town of Swakopmund. Each barrel is estimated to contain between 150 and 180 kilograms of so-called yellowcake, a powdered form of concentrated uranium produced in an intermediary step during the processing of uranium ore.

Four people were arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle the barrels, worth an estimated $100,000, out of the country. Police are still looking for another suspect.

Reports suggest that the dangerously radioactive material was stolen from the Trekkopje uranium mine owned by French energy giant Areva. Namibia is a major exporter of uranium and the mine in question is slated to become the largest uranium mine in southern Africa once it reaches full production capacity.

This isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened in Namibia. Last year three men, including an officer of the Namibian Defence Force, were arrested for being in possession of and attempting to smuggle almost 170 kilograms of uranium oxide. In that instance the material came from another major uranium mine, Rössing Uranium, 69% of which is owned by the British-Australian Rio Tinto Group, one of the largest mining companies in the world.

There are a number of reasons why the latest incident is of great concern:

• it puts into question the level of security at Namibian uranium mining operations, with the worry being that radioactive uranium oxide could get into the “wrong hands”;

• it raises issues about the potential human health effects of the stolen radioactive materials;

• it highlights the risk of possible radioactive contamination of the local environment, including vital water resources; and

• it warrants queries about the capacity of local authorities to deal effectively and quickly with potentially large environmental disasters related to such materials.

——
Andreas is a book shop manager and freelance writer in Cape Town, South Africa. Follow him on Twitter: @Andreas_Spath

 

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93 comments

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7:43PM PDT on Sep 7, 2011

Yes, it is scary!!!!!

6:12AM PDT on Sep 3, 2011

Uau. Uranium on the beach. Pretty scary.

4:14AM PDT on Sep 2, 2011

Horrifying! A company called VUI (Virginia Uranium Inc.) is try8ing to have the moratorium for uranium mining in VA lifted. The area they want to mine is less than 30 miles from where I live, and almost in my sister's back yard. This is the kind of stuff they refuse to acknowledge
can happen. I have personally questioned how they can keep it secure, but never been acknowledged. Its all about the money with them.

10:23PM PDT on Sep 1, 2011

Thank heavens it was found. Namibia's population is very sparse, so relatively easy for those involved to dump it on the beach - to be picked up later.

For Roger B. : It's not at all copying Glenn Beck when one of the members mentioned the possible consequences of thieves transporting uranium. Perhaps the critical writer forgot about the huge blockade when a train carrying uranium was due to pass through their town in Germany. They were successful in getting authorities to divert the train !

7:50AM PDT on Sep 1, 2011

This brings up the question of why we need to mine this stuff in the first place! Is nuclear so wonderful a source of energy we're willing to risk this sort of thing happening on a regular basis, whether by design or by accident? Germany thinks not. I wish we were so intelligent.

6:46AM PDT on Sep 1, 2011

Please Alex, trying not to imitate Glenn Beck. The more that the radioactive material dissipates, the less harmful it will become, until eventually it will be no more harmful than it originally was before it was mined. It is harmful only when it is concentrated.

5:30AM PDT on Sep 1, 2011

Sorry to tell you this,folks,but corruption is rife in Africa mainly due to poverty and need,and a "dog eat dog"divide between the rich and the poor.Also I read many years ago that thousands of drums of radioactive waste have been dumped in the major oceans by a host of countries,esp the former USSR.Some of them are kilometres down,now breaking down and leaking so what do you think this is going to do to the marine environment,fish stocks etc etc??There was even a report that giant sponges were mutating on the drums,and could over time,fill the whole oceans.Yes,it all sounds like science fiction,but sadly it is just another reality that has been ignored and/or covered up,because there is no solution to the problem!

2:39AM PDT on Sep 1, 2011

This is so scary. That such a dangerous substance can be treated so laxly, it is some kind of miracle that we are all still here at all. As much as we keep trying, we still haven't actually destroyed this planet yet. Got to say I'm starting to believe that, much like the teenage years, our survival is mostly due to good luck rather than good management.

9:51PM PDT on Aug 31, 2011

I have been sitting here trying to fathom this. I can not imagine how careless this nuclear process has become. People can just walk away with yellow cake/ Where is the security. They have to be in on it. But then the French are very cavalier about nukes. They tried to blow up French Polynesia. Till Green Peace stopped them.

9:10PM PDT on Aug 31, 2011

Scary!

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