Sustaining Global Best Practices in Uranium Mining and Processing

Principles for Managing Radiation, Health and Safety, Waste and the Environment

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This document sets out principles for the management of radiation, health and safety, waste and the environment applicable to sites throughout the world. In national and regional settings where activities of the nuclear fuel cycle have reached advanced stages of development, these principles already serve as the underpinning for “Codes of Practice” that govern uranium mining and processing1. In any given setting, a Code of Practice is needed to guide practical implementation of these principles according to the regional, national or site-specific context.

We publish these principles in the belief that they hold special relevance for emerging uranium producing countries that do not yet have fully developed regulations for the control of radiation, health and safety, waste and the environment associated with uranium mining and processing.

The principles – aimed at sustaining already well-established best practices throughout a widening global industry – are equally relevant for operators, contractors, and regulators newly engaged in uranium mining and processing. Moreover, experience shows that close cooperation among these three parties is a key to successful management of radiation, health and safety, waste and the environment.

While the independence of regulators is clearly and unarguably essential to their function, the very existence of these regulatory agencies derives from governmental recognition that uranium mining can provide socially beneficial results. Thus, the ultimate purpose of such regulators is to enable mining and processing in compliance with acceptably high standards.

Of course, each principle affirmed here will not apply to the same extent for each party. For example, general responsibility for installations and sites lies fundamentally with operators, who must accept overall responsibility for the performance of contractors.

Ultimately, the precise allocation of responsibilities must be set at the national and local levels.

Once national regulations are fully developed, they can be expected to embody the principles enunciated in this document. During any transition period during which regulatory rules and regimes are not yet fully formed, these principles should still be applied.

This document holds the status of a policy and ethical declaration by the full WNA membership, which encompasses most of the wide range of enterprises that comprise the global nuclear industry – from uranium miners, to equipment suppliers, service providers, and generators of electricity. In the category of uranium miners, the WNA membership includes all major uranium mining and processing companies as well as many mid-size and junior companies.

The principles affirmed here are supported by key relevant international organizations, including the International Atomic Energy Agency. Indeed, these principles have been affirmed as an outgrowth of an IAEA cooperation project aimed at encouraging expanded exchanges between professionals from governments and industry. These principles are also supported by the global mining community through relevant international and national associations that cover uranium mining and processing.