U Is For Uranium and Urgeiriça.

Urgeiriça is a Portuguese village known for having been the center of the country’s biggest uranium mining complex. The first mine opened in 1913, the last closed in 2001, radioactive management throughout was always very poor to nonexistent. The environmental and human health impacts were huge and are still being dealt with, there are still people living in contaminated homes, former workers and their families waiting for compensations for occupational diseases (needless to say, that’s mostly cancer). Environmental rehabilitation is being done, slowly. Here is shown a phytoremediation plant at the mine of Cunha Baixa, in which buoyant plant mats are being used to clear contaminated waters. In the second photo you can see a close up of those heavy-metal-loving plants, they take up the heavy metals (including uranium) from the water and accumulate them in the leaves, clearing the water.

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© Nightjar, all rights reserved.


  1. says

    I’m glad to see there are clean up efforts taking place now, but for all those people living with contamination and disease, it’s a travesty it was ever allowed in the first place.

  2. johnson catman says

    So, what do they do with the plants and mats once they have absorbed the contamination?

  3. Nightjar says

    Caine, very true. When I went there I was shocked to hear the stories I was told, and so enraged. The state kept miners in ignorance of the risks they were exposed to and allowed them to work completely unprotected, well after the dangers of radioactivity were known. No gloves, no masks, nothing, contaminated clothes were washed at home. They didn’t know, nobody told them. But this went on into the 80s, the state company that employed them knew very well. They were used in the most despicable way and they only started receiving compensations in 2015 after fighting hard for them. There should have been people in jail over this, I can’t get over the fact that this crime went unpunished.

    johnson catman, I don’t know the details, just that the dried plant mass is disposed of as radioactive waste. The goal is to concentrate the contamination as much as possible so that it can more easily be dealt with, but of course with radioactivity you always end up with something to deal with.

  4. Raucous Indignation says

    What do we do with the radioactive waste? That question will haunt us for centuries. No one, no anywhere, has a good answer to that.

  5. Ice Swimmer says

    The carelessness and penny-pinching is outrageous. I am 100 % certain that the best available protective gear and procedures wouldn’t have had a significant impact on the cost of the uranium, nuclear power or nukes produced. I’m not saying that essential safety gear and procedures can be omitted if they cost a lot, but if safety and proper procedures can be had at a negligible cost, then not employing them is unconscionable.

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