The presence of radioactive heavy minerals in prospecting trenches and concomitant occupational exposure


Uranium, perhaps the most strategically important component of heavy minerals, finds particular significance in the nuclear industry. In prospecting trenches, the radioactivity of 238U and 232Th provides a good signature of the presence of heavy minerals. In the work herein, the activity concentrations of several key primordial radionuclides (238U, 232Th, and 40K) were measured in prospecting trenches (each of the latter being of approximately the same geometry and physical situation). All of these are located in the Seila area of the South Eastern desert of Egypt. A recently introduced industry standard, the portable hand-held RS-230 BGO gamma-ray spectrometer (1024 channels) was employed in the study. Based on the measured data, the trenches were classified as either non-regulated (U activity less than 1000 Bq kg-1) or regulated (with 238U activity more than 1000 Bq kg-1). Several radiological hazard parameters were calculated, statistical analysis also being performed to examine correlations between the origins of the radionuclides and their influence on the calculated values. While the radioactivity and hazard parameters exceed United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) guided limits, the mean annual effective doses of 0.49 and 1.4 mSv y-1 in non-regulated and regulated trenches respectively remain well below the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) recommended 20 mSv/y maximum occupational limit. This investigation reveals that the studied area contains high uranium content, suitable for extraction of U-minerals for use in the nuclear fuel cycle.

Authors: Mohamed Youssef Mohamed Hanfi, Masoud Salah Masoud, M I Sayyed, Mayeen Uddin Khandaker, Mohammed Rashed Iqbal Faruque, D A Bradley, Mostafa Yuness Abdelfatah Mostafa
; Full Source: PloS one 2021 Mar 31;16(3):e0249329. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0249329.