Investigations Into Methods For The Protection Of Underground Workers Against Radon And Its Daughter Products

Ertle, H. J. ; Reim, K. ; Thormé, M. ; Haupt, W.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 8
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1981
Though Germany has a very old mining history, her experience in uranium mining only started in the late sixties. Today in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) there are only 5 small mines in the exploration stage, namely Menzenschwand and Müllenbach in the Black Forest and Mähring, Popenreuth and GroBschloppen in northern Bavaria. In all these exploration mines much development is required to define shape and size of ore bodies. Mining engineers, government authorities and environmentalists alike are very much concerned about environmental safeguards and protection of mine workers against radon and its daughter products. Miners are affected by internal and external radioactive exposure. In general the external [f3]- and [µ] -exposures can be considered as small in comparison to the internal exposure and are therefore not discussed in this paper. The internal exposure is caused by the inhalation of radon and its daughter products and is relevant to the lung as the critical organ. The nobelgas radon is inert and does not from compounds with other elements easily. Contrary to the physical half-life of 3,8 days the biological half-life of radon is only 10 to 20 minutes. During the rentention time in the body only approximately 1 % of the long-lived decay products are retained in the system (SCHOGER, 1976). In this connection is it important that the radon resorption as well as the radon secretion varies individually and depends to a large extent on the age of the person (SCHOGER, 1960). RENOUX et al. (1978) have determined that the greatest part of the a(-activity in the air is attached to aerosoles with a diameter of 0,4/14. The radiation exposure of the lung by radon is negligible if compared with the exposure by short-lived decay products. For this reason one has introduced the concept of the potential [o](-energy (P) of the short-lived radon decay products, which means the total [ct]-energy, which is produced when an atom decays in the decay-series down to the long-lived lead-210. [ ] The unity of the potential [o]-energy concentration in the SI-system is 1 j/m3 air. In radiation protection however a specific unit is used namely the working level (WL): [ ] The WL-unit, though internationally recognised has not been introduced officially in Germany. Because of the large amount of tunneling still to be done in the FRG, the various mines departments responsible for safety and health in mining ask searching questions such as: - What are the laws governing radon emanation in tunneling? - Can workers be adeguately protected against radiation hazards? - How should one drive through high grade uranium ore? - What happens if the ventilation system breaks down?
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