Saturday, 3 March 2012

Baseline data generated for Lambapur-Peddagattu radiation levels: To help Department of Atomic Energy to monitor the radiation levels once mining operations start

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: With Lambapur-Peddagattu uranium mines in Nalgonda district next in 
line for excavation, nuclear physicists from Osmania University, Bhabha Atomic Research 
Centre, and Chaitanya Bharati Institute of Technology, have established “baseline data” 
for background radiation in villages in this uranium-rich belt abutting the 
Nagarjunasagar reservoir.

The team finds that the mean radiation levels in the area are relatively high when 
compared with Indian and international averages. The Uranium Corporation of India Limited 
proposes to take up mining of uranium in Lambapur-Peddagattu once the mining activity 
starts at Thummalapalle in Kadapa district. The Thummalapalle mines will become operation 
later this month or early April. Lambapur-Peddagattu is rich is uranium reserves and 
together with Thummalapalle, it could meet about 25 per cent of the nuclear needs of the 
country.

The baseline data developed by the city team will help the Department of Atomic Energy to 
monitor the radiation levels once the mining operations are launched at 
Lambapur-Peddagattu. Monitoring of radionuclei in the region is important as the 
Nagarjunasagar reservoir along with the river Krishna provides drinking water to millions 
of people in Nalgonda, Guntur, Ranga Reddy, Hyderabad, and Krishna districts.

The team comprising Dr P Yadagiri Reddy, K. Vinay Kumar Reddy, Ch Gopal Reddy,
D Vidya Sagar and K Rama Reddy found that the Uranium 238 concentration in the 
near-surface soil varies from 100 to 176 Bq kg, Thorium 232 in soils varies between 64 
and 116 Bq kg, and Potassium 40 concentration between 309 and 373 Bq kg.

“The pre-operational data produced in this work will be useful for comparison with future 
radiation levels during the proposed uranium mining operations. The basic understanding 
of the background radiation in mining areas is important for the evaluation of the 
radiation risks occurring due to the mining operations,” Dr Yadagiri Reddy observed.

Environmental radioactive studies in and around proposed mining areas at this point of 
time will be extremely useful for establishing baseline data before a large-scale uranium 
extraction process come into existence. These data help in estimating the after-effects 
of mining operations and in taking remedial actions, if necessary, he added.

The radioactivity concentrations were found to be maximum in the Lambapur village. This 
is very near to the proposed mining site. The indoor radon and thoron concentrations were 
also recorded highest in the village Exposure of uranium mineralisation to the surface 
may be the reason for high values.

The team noted that the contribution of thorium to the total dose is comparable to that 
of uranium. This may be reason for relatively higher thoron levels in the area and hence 
the inhalation dose due to thoron cannot be neglected.

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