Just like human beings have figured out how to protect themselves from radon exposure in residential basements, the industry has figured out how to manage radon exposure at mining operations. Just as good ventilation keeps radon levels in basements low, good ventilation in a mine ensures that workers are not exposed to large quantities of radon gas, which is associated with natural uranium. In addition, radon gas is seven times heavier than air, which usually prevents the gas from rising more than a few feet above the ground or traveling distances greater than a few hundred feet. Radon gas also has an extremely short half-life of just 3.7 days, which means most of its radioactivity dissipates in a matter of days.
Any activities that could create dust at mining operations are done under wet conditions to prevent dust dispersion. Water is used to control dust during blasting and drilling, and the crushed-up ore is kept wet during processing in the mill. Keeping the tailings wet as a heavy liquid slurry impedes any dispersion of them.
Several federal laws and regulatory agencies ensure that dust is controlled and appropriately mitigated during mining operations. The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Acts of 1969 and 1977 and the Clean Air Acts of 1970, 1977 and 1990 govern air quality in mining operations. Furthermore, the NRC’s regulatory guidelines 8.30 and 8.31 set standards for controlling dust.