Meghalaya to set up expert panel to investigate uranium waste leak

Reports suggest toxic waste is leaking from tanks filled with uranium wastes in the South West Khasi Hills district. The inquiry panel will be decided by chief secretary

One of the proposed amendments is to allow companies to sell half of their output from captive mines without end-use restrictions | Representational image: PTI.

The Meghalaya government has decided to set up an expert panel to  investigate reports that toxic waste was leaking from tanks filled with uranium wastes in the South West Khasi Hills district.

The decision was taken at a high-level review meeting held on Friday. The panel will be decided by chief secretary MS Rao, deputy chief minister Prestone Tynsong said.

A concrete tank said to be containing “toxic” effluents is said to have exploded at Nongbah Jynrin village in South West Khasi Hills district on September 21. The tank is said to contain radioactive wastes of an exploratory uranium mining in 1993. 

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Over the past few weeks, there have been several complaints from local people and environmental activists about foul smell and radioactive emission from the tanks containing the uranium waste

According to NDTV, the area covered by Domiasiat, Nongbah, and Jynrin has four effluent storage tanks and two reservoirs. They have developed cracks through which the leaks of toxic materials are happening, according to locals.

The tanks were built about three decades ago to store waste materials that came out while exploring the area, along with many other places, for uranium deposits.

The region is said to have a high level of uranium deposits in reserves spread over Domiasiat, Lostoin and Wahkyn areas. According to government officials, the reserves could hold over 9 million tonnes of uranium reserves. 

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The Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) was planning open-cast uranium mining in the region, and the Atomic Minerals Directorate (AMD) did the exploratory work in the central Meghalaya region to find uranium. The directorate had to stop its hunt for uranium due to strong protests from locals. It said an explosion is unlikely as the whole area had been sealed. Also, no activity has taken place there for almost three decades.

The Uranium Corporation has shut its operations in the state as it did not get the lease for the mining land and other necessary approvals for carry out mining.