Uranium is a radioactive element that occurs naturally in varying but small amounts in soil, rocks, water, plants, animals and all human beings. It is the heaviest natural occurring element with an atomic number 92.
In its pure state Uranium is a silver coloured, heavy metal that is nearly twice as dense as lead. This metal has three natural occurring isotopes of which each are radioactive thus undergoing disintegration or ‘decay’. The radio activity emitted from Uranium isotopes produces lethal particles (waves) like Gamma, Beta and Alpha, warns LEAT – Lawyers environmental Action Team (LEAT)...
Canada is the leading country in the world for production of Uranium. In Africa the leading states in the production of Uranium includes: Namibia, South Africa and Niger. Tanzania is going to join the train soon due to its high deposit of this metal in many places.
Tanzania has a huge deposit of Uranium in its land. Uranium ores field can be grouped into three zones, namely, north, central and south zones. The central belt consists of places like, Bahi, Kondoa, Manyoni and Singida rural. The southern belt comprises of Namtumbo, Songea, Tunduru and Nachingwea. Galapo, Lake Natron, Minjingu, Mbulu and Simanjiro makes Northern zone.
However, for the sake of clarity, Uranium exploration in Tanzania is going to be/is implemented through the following projects:
Mkuju Uranium Project: This project is located about 173 Kilometers from Songea (Ruvuma region). Namtumbo, one of Ruvuma districts is said to contain tones and tones of Uranium in the Mbarang’andu area. This area is located within the national park.
Villagers from Mchomero, Kilomesera, Songambele, and Kitundu were once forced to quit the place (Mbarang’andu so as it can be used for national- park purposes). Surprisingly, the area was taken by the Mantra Resources (Australian company), a company entrusted by the government to carry out research for Uranium exploration.
Manyoni project: Manyoni is located within Singida region. This zone comprise of Bahi, Dareda and Selous. This project is implemented by Mantra resources Company .About 2365 Kilometers of land is going to be alienated from indigenous. Worse enough in some places the researchers dig deep holes on the land of the natives, and some activities are being carried near water sources like Bahi River. Water from this river is used by the natives for various purposes like drinking, washing, bathing and watering crops.
Selous Project: Selous is the reserved area for wildlife conservation. This area cut across three regions namely, Pwani, Mtwara, and Ruvuma. Selous is renowned for being the dwelling of tourist attractions like grey elephants, crocodiles and most scarcity/endangered snake species.
This project is going to be carried out by Mantra resources just near the Mkuju River. This project seems to violate international obligation Tanzania has since Selous been recognized by UNESCO as one of the heritage of the World (World Heritage Site-1982). UNESCO prohibits carrying out any activity which could cause harmful effects to the living organisms located in the Heritage site. This project is estimated to contain 82.3 tones of Uranium Deposit in an area of 3225 Kilometres.
This heavy metal element has various negative and positive effects. Some of the benefits of Uranium includes but not limited to the following:
Uranium is used as a nuclear fuel .The 238 Uranium can be converted to fusible Plutonium to produce nuclear energy. Apart from that, also is used to fuel nuclear power reactor to generate electricity. As well, Uranium is used in initial guidance devices gyrocompass.
Uranium also is applied in counterweights for aircrafts control surfaces. Not only that but also Uranium is important in medical profession as it is used as the target for production of high energy X-.rays. Previously, Uranium was used for tinting and teeth therapy but now days the practice is prohibited due to its side effects it produces.
Figure showing the nuclear plant as a source of electric energy.
Effects of Uranium are obvious. Firstly, Uranium has negative impacts to both human being and environment. To human being, Uranium affects kidneys especially proximal tubules (the main filtering components of the kidney).Also studies shows that Lung cancer (tumor) may be developed due to the exposure to the radon decay products. Apart from lung cancer, also, Erythematic symptoms (superficial inflammation of the skin) are likely to occur even if the DV is held against the skin for long period.
A picture showing a child with a tumor as a result of Uranium radiation
Secondly, Uranium leads to the destruction of the environment. This mainly occurs during storage and manufacturing and disposal facilities.
Land grabbing has/is likely to affect most of the societies nearby Uranium fields. As mentioned above Companies exploring Uranium dig deep holes in the farms of the natives and expose the residues on the land. Some activities are carried out in or near water sources hence depleting it.
A picture showing the bomb dropped by the US at Nagasaki-Japan in 1945 causing health problems to date.
Uranium Legal framework in Tanzania
Exploration of Uranium in Tanzania is governed by the Tanzania Atomic Energy Act, 2003.This Legislation was adopted in order to make sure that energy extracted from radioactive material like Uranium are utilized maximally but with great care. This Act governs all activities related to use, transport, and exploration of Uranium.
Any person, company wishing to deal in using, transporting and storing this radioactive material is obliged to apply for the license with the Tanzania Atomic Energy Commission (TAEC) an organ established legally for the purpose of managing energy sources related to Uranium.
The National Environment Management Act, 2004 is a paramount Act that deals with environment management and protection in Tanzania. This act provides for the mandatory requirement of caring out Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for every project which might have detrimental effects to the environment. One of the projects which require sensitive and effective EIA is that of Uranium exploration.
However, it is unknown if the multinational corporations which undertake Uranium exploration in Tanzania have complied with EMA provisions. It is the duty for The National Environmental Management Council (NEMC), the body of government established under the EMA in order to enforce the environmental Act (EMA) to see to it that Uranium exploration in Tanzania does not harm Tanzanians keeping in mind that Uranium exploration is a risky industry to venture in.
Possible precautionary measures for Tanzania to avoid Uranium side effects
First, Great care should be observed during the whole process of Uranium exploration. TAEC and NEMC should be active in making sure that it follows the footsteps of the companies dealing with Uranium exploration.
Second, before venturing into Uranium exploration TAEC and NEMC should educate people on the side effects so that they can be aware and take necessary measures to avoid exposure to the Uranium radiation.
Laws set for Uranium exploration should be strictly adhered to by the companies so that the side effects are maximally avoided
Prepared by LEAT – Lawyers environmental Action Team