Monitoring Uranium Mining and Milling using Commercial Observation Satellites

ESARDA Bulletin, No. 53, December 2015, pp. 73-82.

Lalitha Sundaresan, Chandrashekar Srinivasan and Bhupendra Jasani

ESARDA Bulletin CoverAll the states that have signed the Additional Protocol to their Safeguards Agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will need to submit description and information specifying the location of their nuclear fuel cycle activities, including their operational and shut down uranium mines. While satellite imagery is useful for monitoring changes in the declared nuclear facilities, there has not been much discussion of using this imagery to monitor the early part of the nuclear fuel cycle namely uranium mining and milling. The availability of satellite data cost free on the Google Earth web site and commercially from various imagery providers makes it possible for analysts to make assessments concerning the nuclear fuel cycle activities of various countries of interest. The mining of uranium and its conversion through a milling process into U3O8 (yellowcake) is the first step of a complex conversion cycle that determines how the mined material will be used. Our study discusses the use of satellite imagery for identifying and monitoring uranium mining and milling activities.

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