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Radioactive Isotopes Migration from Uranium Enterprises


Development of a Physical-Mathematical Model of Radioactive Isotopes Migration with Groundwater from Republic of Kazakhstan’ Uranium Enterprises Using Stepnogorsk Mining and Dressing Enterprise (SMDE) as an Example

Tech Area / Field

  • ENV-MIN/Monitoring and Instrumentation/Environment
  • ENV-MRA/Modelling and Risk Assessment/Environment
  • ENV-WPC/Water Pollution and Control/Environment

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
VNIITF, Russia, Chelyabinsk reg., Snezhinsk

Supporting institutes

  • Research-and-Production Center «Minerals Prospection, Mining and Processing» Limited Company, Kazakstan, Astana


  • Wismuth GmbH, Germany, Chemnitz

Project summary

The objective of this project is to assess and predict groundwater conditions in the areas adjacent to the uranium production sites of Kazakhstan, using a physics-based model of radioactive nuclides migration in groundwater, to be developed under the project for the tail deposit of Stepnogorsk Mining and Dressing Combine (SMDC) as an example.

Sporadic environmental assessments taken in areas adjacent to uranium or any other production sites do not provide complete information for making reasoned decisions concerning area remediation efforts that are usually taken after a site has been shut down. Pre-remediation studies are needed into the long-term development of physical and chemical processes in the system “production – environment” (or, more often, “tail deposit – environment”) and their possible effects, in order to avoid unfavorable environmental phenomena both during the remediation period and after its completion. The key instruments of these studies are monitoring and modeling.

This problem is topical for Kazakhstan where remediation is needed for many industrial sites such as uranium mining and dressing, oil production (radioactive formation water discharge), or radioactive waste disposal and long-term storage.

The simulation of radioactive nuclide geomigration is a sophisticated and multivariable problem. The geomigration model to be developed should consider specific features in the flow structure and basic processes governing the migration of contaminants in groundwater. The development will proceed in two directions: (1) development of mathematical codes to simulate all possible conditions and processes, and (2) development of databases to provide the model with hydrogeological and geochemical information.

The project will use the MIF technique developed at RFNC-VNIITF for the numerical solution of 2D and 3D migration and filtration equations. Field and laboratory studies will be taken at the hydrometallurgy shop of Stepnogorsk Combine.

The model to be developed will be used for predictive calculations.

Methodology of the project will be focused on

  • radiological monitoring of groundwater in the areas adjacent to the tail deposit;
  • the reconstruction of the spatial distributions of ecologically significant parameters within areas under study and predictions on their variation with time; and
  • the control of the environmental spread of radioactive isotopes by results from radiological monitoring and mathematical modeling.

Project results will include
  • the clarified role of different processes governing the migration of radioactive isotopes in groundwater within the area adjacent to the uranium tail deposit;
  • a physics-based model describing migration of radioactive isotopes in the groundwater of areas under study, contamination plumes and their evolution with time;
  • developed and improved experimental methods to study the spread of toxic ingredients from industrial sites;
  • assessed environmental risks from groundwater contamination by Stepnogorsk Combine; and
  • recommendations on the environmental measures to be taken for preventing groundwater contamination in the area of tail deposits from uranium production in Kazakhstan, at the sites where radioactive formation water is discharged in oil production, and in the areas used for radioactive waste disposal and long-term storage.


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