Radioactivity is a physical phenomenon that causes the release of ionizing radiation. Exposure to this radiation causes energy to be absorbed, and this is expressed as a dose. Radiation protection aims to prevent or reduce the risks associated with this radiation.
Radioactivity is an integral part of the universe. 70% of the radioactivity to which humans are exposed is naturally occurring. There are many areas of applications of ionizing radiation such as in the medical sector as well as in the technical and industrial uses to check quality of weldings when building metallic structures or checking soil compaction when building roads.
AREVA’s radiation protection measures make it possible to limit the exposure of its own teams and local populations to radiation. The group’s work in this area is based on the national and international recommendations governing exposure limits for people, both in the case of radioactivity from industrial activities and natural radioactivity.
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Radiation protection standards
International radiation protection standards set regulatory dose limits that represent minimal additional risk compared to natural risks, thereby ensuring the risk is an acceptable one:
- 1mSv/year for populations on top of the natural radioactivity in the area which varies between 2 and 100 mSv/year depending on where people live on Earth
- 100mSv/year over 5 years, without exceeding 50mSv in the course of a single year for people directly assigned to work involving ionizing radiation (such as those in the nuclear industry or those working in medical radiology)
The dose limits for the general population are 1/20th the level of those for workers, as the general population is assumed to include people of all ages and in different states of health, and these people do not receive the same level of medical monitoring.
Monitoring employees' radiation exposure
AREVA is committed to keeping personnel exposure to ionizing radiation in its facilities as low as reasonably achievable in application of the ALARA principle (As Low As Reasonably Achievable), and has adopted a continuous improvement program to that effect. Within this framework, AREVA is committed to reducing the maximum individual dose to workers exposed to ionizing radiation in its facilities to 20 mSv/man/yr in countries with less stringent legislation, based on ICRP (International Commission on Radiological Protection) recommendations.
AREVA Mongol and COGEGOBI monitor both its employees’ and drilling contractors’ exposure to ionizing radiation as well as environmental exposure. Since it only carries out exploration activities, employee exposure to ionizing radiation is very limited.
At AREVA Mongol and COGEGOBI’s operations the maximum recorded annual dose for an employee has been 1,63 mSv in 2016, very much below the regulatory limits.
Ionizing radiation monitoring among populations near mining sites
Every year, an estimate is produced for the radiological impact of mining sites on neighboring populations likely to be most exposed. It is expressed in “cumulative effective dose”, for which the unit is millisievert per year (mSv/year).
The dose is calculated based on the results of inspections carried out via AREVA Mongol’s environmental monitoring system (comprising dosimeters, sampling). This system is deployed in the living spaces of populations likely to be most exposed, known as the “reference group”. It focuses on the various internal and external exposure routes: water, air, soil and the food chain.
Analyses are performed by a laboratory specializing in radiation protection at mining sites. This laboratory is accredited by the French accreditation body COFRAC and the French Nuclear Safety Authority. The International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) and the European directive, applied in a number of countries including France, recommend that the cumulative dose for the public in addition to the local natural radioactive dose should not exceed 1mSv per year.
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The natural radiation background in COGEGOBI’s areas of activity is in general lower than in Ulaanbaatar. For example, radiation exposure in the capital city is 1.5 mSv per person in average while it is 0.8 mSv per year around Sainshand city ( “The soil radioactivity of Mongolia”- Ts.Erkhembayar, N.Norov, G.Khuukhenkhuu/ Ulaanbaatar, 2012).
RADIATION PROTECTION AND SAFETY ACTIVITIES IN MONGOLIA
AREVA Mongol and COGEGOBI give priority to radiation protection and safety, matching the growth of AREVA’s activities by:
- Taking regular radiological measurements in the exploration camps of Dulaan Uul and Zuuvch Ovoo, as well as in the Sukhbaatar aimag, based on the radiological plan in the field camp, which is approved by the Nuclear and Radiation Control Department of the Mongolian Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA/ as the Nuclear Energy Agency has been closed down, this power will be exercised by the Authority of the Professional Inspection).
- Workers directly interacting with the naturally radioactive uranium ore at the field camp regularly undergo the monitoring of their personal professional exposure doses.
- Sending radiation measurement devices to the Laboratory of radiological control and analysis at the former Nuclear Energy Agency (now at the Authority of the Professional Inspection) for adjustment and certification before use on site.
- Measuring radon concentration is measured directly and indirectly in the workplace, in accommodation areas and at the exploration site.
- Supplying appropriated personal protective equipment as safety glasses, masks and gloves to employees working with cores and supervises the use of them.
- Organizing training for company employees on radiation protection and safety, as well as providing them with information on the subject.
- In addition to using its own radiation control devices, regular measures of radioactivity dosimeters (TLD) used in the workplace are made by the Algade company. These TLD dosimeters are sent to and measured by the Laboratory of radiological control and analysis at the former Nuclear Energy Agency (now at the Authority of the Professional Inspection).
- Publishing news and information about uranium and its use, and radiation protection information intended specifically for local citizens and public media outlets.
- Monitoring of radioactivity level in the soil at 36 locations across the licensed sites in the Sainshand region.
Measurement results from the exploration camps show that the radiation in both working and living areas is in compliance with the regulatory limits.
Radioactivity measuring system
Radioactivity is measured in the working and living areas of the Dulaan Uul and Zuuvch Ovoo exploration camps on a regular basis. More specifically, measurements are taken in the following places:
- Dulaan Uul camp: rest areas, the core measuring facilities, the kitchen, the soil around the camp, the core storage facility, working areas and the XRF (analysis method) sample preparation and analysis rooms.
- Zuuvch Ovoo camp: the soil around the camp, the kitchen, the mud-dumping pool and the resin storage warehouse.
The measurement results from these places show that the radiation in both working areas and living areas is at a permissible level