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Energies 2015, 8(3), 2066-2081; doi:10.3390/en8032066

Radiological Impacts and Regulation of Rare Earth Elements in Non-Nuclear Energy Production

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Vanderbilt University School of Engineering, 2301 Vanderbilt Place PMB 351831, Nashville, TN 37235-1826, USA
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Academic Editor: Erich Schneider
Received: 4 December 2014 / Revised: 4 March 2015 / Accepted: 5 March 2015 / Published: 13 March 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Nuclear Reactor and Fuel Cycle Technologies)
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Abstract

Energy industries account for a significant portion of total rare earth usage, both in the US and worldwide. Rare earth minerals are frequently collocated with naturally occurring radioactive material, imparting an occupational radiological dose during recovery. This paper explores the extent to which rare earths are used by various non-nuclear energy industries and estimates the radiological dose which can be attributed to these industries on absolute and normalized scales. It was determined that typical rare earth mining results in an occupational collective dose of approximately 0.0061 person-mSv/t rare earth elements, amounting to a total of 330 person-mSv/year across all non-nuclear energy industries (about 60% of the annual collective dose from one pressurized water reactor operated in the US, although for rare earth mining the impact is spread out over many more workers). About half of the collective dose from non-nuclear energy production results from use of fuel cracking catalysts for oil refining, although given the extent of the oil industry, it is a small dose when normalized to the energy equivalent of the oil that is used annually. Another factor in energy industries’ reliance on rare earths is the complicated state of the regulation of naturally occurring radiological materials; correspondingly, this paper also explores regulatory and management implications. View Full-Text
Keywords: radiological impacts; rare earth elements; technologically-enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material (TENORM) radiological impacts; rare earth elements; technologically-enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material (TENORM)
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Ault, T.; Krahn, S.; Croff, A. Radiological Impacts and Regulation of Rare Earth Elements in Non-Nuclear Energy Production. Energies 2015, 8, 2066-2081.

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