Graduation Year

2019

Date of Submission

4-2019

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

W.M. Keck Science Department

Reader 1

Donald McFarlane

Reader 2

Kathryn Hargan

Rights Information

@2019 Jahnavi Kocha

Abstract

The impacts of mining are easily observable in the way they alter the terrain of landscapes, displace animals, and increase waste accumulation in an area. An unobservable impact and one that lasts a long time is by radioactive exposure in the environment. Specifically, this is a risk at uranium (U) mine sites which are expanding in number to accommodate the world’s growing energy needs, and even to accommodate weapons manufacturing. This paper analyses the impacts of an abandoned uranium mine on the local environment through measurements of Uranium concentration in soil, plants, and rocks. Transect sampling was used to collect 22 soil samples and 17 plant samples between 5 and 100m of the mine shaft. Uranium concentrations in soil and plant samples, digested with nitric acid, were measured with an Inductively Coupled Plasma - Optical Emission Spectrometry (ICP-OES), and an X-ray Powder Diffraction (XRD) analysis was used to find the mineral contents of the rock samples. Satellite positions were associated with each sample, which allowed an effective spatial analysis of the Uranium concentration values. U values in soil ranged from 0 to 5.291ppm, with mean concentrations of 0.710 ppm, and U values in plants ranged from 0.0323 to 0.1121ppm with mean concentrations of 0.0558 ppm. A paired t-test determined that there was no spatial autocorrelation in U concentrations of plants and adjacent soils. The highest U concentration was found closest to the mine, peaking at ~7.3 meters from the mine, and low spatial variability occurs in U concentrations at greater than 10 meters from the mine. In comparison with other mines internationally, U concentrations at this study site were low, which may be indicative of a small operating mine, efficient clean-up, and transport mechanisms of U in desert environments.

Available for download on Wednesday, April 29, 2020

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.

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