Journal of Environmental Protection, 2011, 2, 1002-1007
doi:10.4236/jep.2011.27115 Published Online September2011 (
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Assessment of Natural Uranium in the Ground
Water around Jaduguda Uranium Mining
Complex, India
N. K. Sethy1*, R. M. Tripathi2, V. N. Jha1, S. K. Sahoo2, A. K. Shukla2, V. D. Puranik2
1Environmental Assessment Division, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Health Physics Unit, Jaduguda Mines, Jharkhand, India;
2Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai, India.
Email: *
Received May 16th, 2011; revised July 15th, 2011; accepted August 27th, 2011.
Ground water ecosystem surrounding the uranium processing facility at Jaduguda, India has been studied for natural
uranium distribution. Annual intake of uranium through drinking water for members of public residing around the ura-
nium complex is found to be in the range of 41.8 Bq·y1 - 44.4 Bq·y–1. The intake and ingestion dose is appreciably low
Sv·y1) which is far below the WHO recommended level of 100
Sv·y1. The excess life time radiological risk due
to uranium natural in drinking water is insignificant and found to be of the order of 10–6. Even the highest concentra-
tion of uranium was found to be 28
g·l–1 is away (at 1.5 to 5 km distance) from mining industry and well below the
acceptable limit. The ground water in the area around the uranium facility is not affected by the mining activity. The
ground water in three zones is safe and reflects the natural distribution of uranium.
Keywords: Natural Uranium, Ingestion Dose, Radiological Risk
1. Introduction
1.1 General Description
Rapid industrialization and subsequent waste disposal
has been a concern for ground water contamination.
Ground water is the major source of drinking water in
many parts India. Industrial activities, metal mining and
waste depositary may contribute to the nearby ground
water sources by radionuclide migration. Mining and
processing of uranium in the east-Singbhum region of
Jharkhand has been started in early sixties. Uranium ore
is mined from a cluster of mines (Jaduguda, Bhatin and
Narwapahar, Turamundih, Bagjata, Mauldih) spreading
in the region and processed at centralized ore-processing
plant at Jaduguda using hydrometallurgy technique. As
the ore is of very low grade (<0.05% U3O8), a huge
quantity of process waste (tailings) is generated and dis-
posed safely in tailings ponds. Tailings pond is an engi-
neered having valley with natural hills on three sides and
earthen bund forming the fourth side. Engineering fea-
tures of the earthen bund ensures the decantation of dis-
solved radionuclides, which are treated further for re-
moval of the toxins (U, 226Ra and heavy metals) prior to
their discharge into the aquatic ecosystem. The change in
physicochemical characteristics of tailings over the pe-
riod may take place leading to dissolution of some of the
contaminants. The migration of these contaminants into
the adjoining ground water sources can be anticipated.
Evaluation of ingestion dose and subsequent risk due to
intake of water to population residing around the tailings
pond is the subject matter of this study. The mining
complex comprises of uranium mines, ore processing
plant and tailings ponds. The study area is situated at
Jaduguda (22˚30'N and long. 85˚40'E) in the East
Singbhum district of Jharkhand, India. The area is well
known for its wide mineral deposits and receives >1000
mm of rain fall annually. The maximum temperature in
summer is >45˚C and minimum is <7˚C during winter.
1.2. Health Hazard of Uranium
Toxicity of uranium has been established by animal
studies and human data from uranium miners and work-
ers with accidental exposures indicate that uranium af-
fects the proximal tubules of the kidney; at very high
acute doses, tubular degeneration and necrosis (that is,
death of tissue) may occur a few days after the intake of
Assessment of Natural Uranium in the Ground water around Jaduguda Uranium Mining Complex, India1003
uranium [1]. Kidney is generally considered to be the
critical organ for uranium through water or food. The
uranyl ion forms bicarbonate, citrate and UO3(CO2)3
complexes in blood plasma [2]. The UO2++ ion binds
with the red blood cells. During the purification of blood
in kidney, it is filtered from the blood and then recom-
bines with the cell surface ligands. Studies on uranium
toxicity studies in human have been described elsewhere
[3,4]. Though, intake of uranium by members of the pub-
lic can occur through various routes. However the prin-
cipal route of ingestion of uranium is through drinking
water [5] and to a lesser extent through the foodstuff.
Intake of uranium through drinking water by population
residing around the uranium mining area has been con-
sidered in the present study. United States Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) has classified uranium as a
group- A human carcinogen. It has prescribed maximum
contaminant level goal (MCLG) for uranium as 0 (zero)
in 1991(zero tolerance). In drinking water, EPA suggests
maximum contaminant level as (MCL) of 30 g·l–1 [6].
In Canada, the proposed interim maximum acceptable
level is (IMAC) of 20 g·l–1, whereas World Health Or-
ganization (WHO) strictly recommended a reference
level as 2 g·l–1 [7].
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Sampling and Analysis
Grab samples (5 lit) were collected from open wells and
tube wells situated at various distances in the public do-
main. The area around the uranium mining Industry is
divided into three zones i.e. <1.5 km, 1.5 to 5 km and >5
km. Ground water samples were collected from these
three zones. Sample locations were selected covering
three measure season of the area (October to March,
April to June and August to September) on the basis of
public utility and down stream direction from uranium
industry. More number of samples was collected from
downstream side of the Uranium Industry. Samples were
brought to the laboratory filtered and preserved in acidic
medium. About 100 ml of water sample is evaporated to
dryness and 20 ml of 0.25 N electronic grade pure H2SO4
is added and reflux for 30 minutes in a hot plate. It is
then cooled and transferred to a separating funnel/tube.
Then 20 ml of alamine-benzene (2% alamine in 98%
benzene) solution is added and the mixture is shaken for
few minutes with occasionally opening the mouth of the
separating tube to vent off the gases formed inside. The
aqueous phase is drained out and 0.1 ml from organic
phase is taken for planchatting in a platinum disc. The
basic principle of estimation of natural uranium in envi-
ronmental sample is to quantitatively transfer the trace
amount of uranium present in the sample aliquot to a
small platinum disc and measure the intensity of flores-
cence of uranium compound. A small volume (0.1 ml) of
organic media containing the uranium is transferred to
platinum disc, fused with 250 mg of NaF-Na2CO3 (15:85)
fusion mixture at 800˚C for 3 minutes. Cooled and fluo-
rescence intensity was measured in ECIL, make Fluori-
meter (Model No: FL6224A) [8].
UV radiation of excitation wavelength 3650Å is irra-
diated on the platinum disc containing fused sample and
emitted florescence of 5546Å wavelength is unique to
uranium [9]. Intensity of fluorescence is proportional to
the amount of uranium present in the sample. Standard (1
ug/ml) and blank were processed simultaneously and
uranium was estimated by using the formula
Sample readingBlank reading
UμgStandardreadingBlank reading
The uranium content of the original sample was ob-
tained from the above equation by further applying the
sampling parameters. The advantage of this method is
aqueous to organic ratio is not critical and may be varied
over a wide range. There is no need of any salting out
reagent and organic phase can directly planchatted. The
disadvantage of this method is that the fusion mixture is
hygroscopic and measurement of fluorescence intensity
should be measured without giving much delay. The de-
tection limit of this method is 0.1 g.
2.2. Quality Control
Quality assurance of the analytical procedure followed
was determined by using certified reference materials
(SRMs) produced by Canada Center for Mineral and
Energy Technology (CANMET) and supplied by Bureau
of analysed samples Ltd., UK. Environmental reference
sample such as lake sediments (LKSD-1&3), stream
sediment (STSD-1) and geochemical soil (TILL-1&2)
were analysed for natural uranium. The result of the
analysis is presented in Table 3.
3. Result and Discussions
3.1. Distribution of Uranium in water and Intake
The histogram of uranium concentration in ground water
around the uranium mining industry over the study pe-
riod is presented in Figure 1. A year wise geometric
mean concentration of uranium in the ground water
sources in different distance zones is presented in Table
1. However, the maximum concentration of U(nat)
within 1.6 km distance was observed at 11 g·l–1 with
GM of 1.13 g·l–1 and GSD of 2.64 during the entire
study period. The large variation in the uranium concen-
tration is due to uneven distribution of uranium in the
lithosphere. Further, the histogram plot (Figure 2) of the
data set reveals that in majority of ground water sources
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Assessment of Natural Uranium in the Ground water around Jaduguda Uranium Mining Complex, India
Figure 1. The Environmental map of Uranium Mining Complex, Jadugoda, India.
Table 1. Concentration of U(nat) in ground water samples in various distance zones.
Distances fr om T.P (km) No of samples (N) Year U(nat) (g·l–1) Geo Mean (GSD)
<1.6 8 0.5 - 11 1.62(3.1)
1.6 - 5.0 17 0.5 - 20 1.21(3.2)
>5.0 20 0.5 - 4.7 1.0 (2.5)
<1.6 15 0.5 - 7.6 1.39(3.0)
1.6 - 5.0 15 0.5 - 28 2.8(3.7)
>5.0 10 0.5 - 4.3 2.79(3.5)
<1.6 16 0.5 - 7.6 1.31(2.9)
1.6 - 5.0 16 0.5 - 19 2.39(3.2)
>5.0 11 0.5 - 4.3 1.49(2.2)
< 1.6 5 0.5 - 2.3 0.86(2.1)
1.6 - 5.0 4 0.5 - 1.2 0.76(1.45)
>5.0 17 0.5 - 4.7 1.37(3.9)
<1.6 15 0.5 - 1.5 0.71(1.5)
1.6 - 5.0 9 0.5 - 3.1 1.0 (1.9)
>5.0 10 0.5 - 3.5 0.78(1.9)
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Assessment of Natural Uranium in the Ground water around Jaduguda Uranium Mining Complex, India
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
0-11.0-2.0 2.1-3.0 3.1-5.05.1-10.0>10
Conce ntration (g.l
Figure 2. Histogram of U in Ground water.
the concentration was less than 0.5 g·l–1. The distribu-
tion of U(nat) during the study period in the distance
zone 1.6 km - 5 km was varied with GM concentration of
1.2 mg.m-3 and GSD of 3.4. The maximum concentration
in this zone was 28 g·l–1. In the case of natural unmined
ore deposits uranium can enter the ground water by way
of leaching of uranium bearing rock strata by the ground
water aquifers. The physicochemical environment around
the source has great influence on distribution of uranium
natural in ground water. In this context solubility of ura-
nium in the medium is probably playing a vital role. Only
the hexavalent uranium compounds are soluble which is
favored by aerobic condition of the environment. The
less soluble tetravalent fraction can get dissolved and
variation in the levels can be expected even within the
same geological formations. Apart from this pH, com-
peting ions, complex formation with uranyl ions, sea-
sonal variations are also leading to variable distribution
of uranium in the ground water. During the study period,
in the distance zone of >5 km, distribution of U(nat) was
varied with GM of 1.13 g·l–1 and GSD of 2.28. One way
ANOVA (Table 2) reveals that there is insignificant
variation in uranium natural concentration at different
distances from the tailings pond with Chi-square > p
0.052. The maximum concentration within a distance of
1.6 km was appreciably low as compared to the recom-
mended national regulatory standard of 60 g·l–1 based
on the F class radiological consideration. Since uranium
appearing in drinking water is soluble uranium the most
restrictive radiological class has been considered for
recommending the limits. In other zone also the recom-
mended limit of 60 g·l–1 has not been exceeded so far.
The significantly lower concentration within a distance
of 1.6 km from uranium industry is attributed to the local
geological features of the area. This also confirms that so
far there has been insignificant migration of U(nat) from
the operation of uranium industry to the adjoining ground
water sources. The present study is compared with simi-
lar studies carried out in other countries (Table 5) as well
as in India. The concentration range in ground water in
the present study, as evident in Tabl e 5 is comparable to
study carried out in Turkey [10] but lower than similar
studies in USA [11,12].
3.2. Radiation Dose and Risk
A five year study of ground water as discussed earlier
showed natural uranium was in low concentration range.
Though mass concentration of natural uranium was
measured in ground water samples it can be expressed in
activity concentration using conversion factor of 25
mBq·g–1. Uranium level (Bq·m–3 or g·l–1) = Measured
mass concentration (g·l–1) × Conversion factor (25
mBq·g–1) Considering the daily intake of water for In-
dian reference man 4.05 l·d–1 [13,14], dose conversion
factor of 0.045 Sv·Bq–1 [15] the annual ingestion dose
to the adult individual residing around the tailings pond
due to natural uranium was estimated. Since the data
distribution in the three zones can be approximated by
log normal the intake and ingestion dose should be based
on geometric mean. Accordingly the annual intake from
drinking water in the three zones discussed can be esti-
mated to be 41.8, 44.4 and 41.8 Bq·Y–1 with an ingestion
dose of 1.88, 2.0 and 1.88 Sv·Y–1 respectively. This is
far lower than the [16] recommended guideline of 100
Sv·Y–1 for ingestion from the intake of a single ra-
dionuclide. Health effects due to exposure of uranium
can be classified as radiological risk as radioactive ele-
ment and chemical risk as a heavy metal. Radiological
risk was evaluated using the risk coefficient 4.40 ×
10-11per pCi as per the US EPA [17] standard method.
The radiological risk was converted to excess lifetime
risk by multiplying with activity concentration of ura-
nium level in ground water. While estimating the risk
average body weight (52kg) and water intake by Indian
Assessment of Natural Uranium in the Ground water around Jaduguda Uranium Mining Complex, India
Table 2. Kruskal-Wallis One-Way ANOVA for U(nat) variation around tailings pond.
Source SS df MS Chi Square Prob > Chi-Square
Distance 10898.2 2 54449.1 5.89 0.052
Error 270313.3 150 1802.09
Total 281211.5 152
Table 3. Concentration of Uranium in certified reference materials.
Reference Material Unit Certified ConcentrationObserved Concentration
LKSD 1 g·g–1 9.7 8.8 ± 0.4
LKSD 3 g·g–14.6 4.4 ± 1.2
TILL 1 g·g–12.2 1.9 ± 0.6
TILL 3 g·g–12.1 1.8 ± 0.5
STSD-1 g·g–18.0 7.8 ± 1.3
Table4. Excess Radiological Risk for ground water Uranium at various distance regions (2003-07).
Distance U(mg·m3) Geo mean Excess Radiological Risk
<1.5 km 2.29 6.06 × 10–6
1.5 km - 5 km 1.62 4.31 × 10–6
>5 km 1.17 3.11 × 10–6
Table 5. Comparison of uranium concentration in drinking water in different countries.
Country Range of U(g·l–1) References
Turkey 0.24 - 17.65 Kumru at al. [10]
South Greenland 0.5 - 1.0 Brown et al [18]
USA 0.01 - 652 Cothern et al [11]
Kuwait 0.02 - 2.48 Bou-Rabee et al [12]
Jordan 0.04 - 1400 Smith et al [19]
Central Austrlia >20 Hostetler et al [20]
Cochin, India 0.34 - 2.54 Prabhu R.S. et al [21]
Jaduguda, India 0.50 - 28 Present Study
reference man (4.05 liter per day) were considered. The
average life expectancy in India is 60 years was consid-
ered as total exposure period. Finally the radiological risk
coefficient was estimated as 1.06 × 10–4 in the Indian
The illustrative calculation is:
Risk Factor (per Bq·l–1) = Risk coefficient (4.40 E - 11)
× water ingestion rate (4.05 l·day–1) total exposure dura-
tion (21,900 day) × conversion factor (27 pCi·Bq–1) =
1.06 × 10–4 Bq·l–1.
Excess life time cancer Risk = uranium level (Bq.l-1) x
Risk factor (1.06 × 10-4 Bq·l–1 ).
The radiological risk estimated is presented in Table 4.
The risk was found to be in the order of 10–6 and much
below the acceptable radiological risk of 10–3 [7]. Hence,
the radiological risk due to natural uranium in ground
water might be acceptable and the uranium mining in-
dustry has insignificant impact in the ground water ura-
nium concentration of the study area.
4. Conclusions
The distribution of U(nat) in ground water reflects the
natural background of the area. The variation in concen-
tration at different distances may be attributed to the
geological features of the area and the physicochemical
environment around the source. A slight reduced ura-
nium concentration in the <1.5 km or closest to uranium
industry may be attributed to the soil/rock type around
the ground water sources. The highest concentration of
uranium was found to be 28 g·l–1 is away (1.5 to 5 km
distance zone) from mining industry. The intake and in-
gestion dose is appreciably low (2 Sv·Y–1) which is far
below the WHO recommended level of 100 Sv·Y–1. The
risk due to radiological is acceptable and very low. It can
be concluded that the ground water around the uranium
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Assessment of Natural Uranium in the Ground water around Jaduguda Uranium Mining Complex, India1007
industry at Jaduguda is not affected by the uranium min-
ing activity. The drinking water studied in three different
distance zones of uranium mining facility found to be
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