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Uranium Deposits on the Navajo Nation

This page was written by Erin Klauk as part of the DLESE Community Services Project: Integrating Research in Education.

Figure 1: Geologic setting of important types of uranium deposits. Note that each type of deposit is shown in host rocks of the most common age. Details

Uranium is a very dense metal which can be used as an abundant source of concentrated energy. It occurs in most rocks in concentrations of 2 to 4 parts per million and is as common in the earth's crust as tin, tungsten and molybdenum (What is Uranium?).

There are three main types of uranium deposits ( This site may be offline. ) including unconformity-type deposits, paleoplacer deposits and sandstone-type (roll front) deposits (Figure 1). Sandstone-type deposits are abundant in sedimentary rocks of the Colorado Plateau and found on the Navajo Nation. This type of uranium deposit is easier and cheaper to mine than the other types because the uranium is found near the surface of the Earth. These deposits formed when oxidized groundwater that had leached uranium from surface rocks flowed down into aquifers, where it was reduced to precipitate uraninite, the primary ore mineral of uranium. In some deposits, like those found on the Navajo Nation, reduction took place along curved zones know as roll-fronts, which represent the transition from oxidized to reduced conditions in the aquifer ([Kesler, 1994] ).


To further investigate uranium deposits on the Navajo Nation, follow the links below.

Upper Cretaceous strata of the San Juan Basin in northwest New Mexico contain abundant coal deposits. This is the Navajo surface coal mine in the easternmost Navajo Nation at Fruitland, NM. Details

Uranium

Resources containing information about uranium.

  • What Is Uranium? ( This site may be offline. ) This site contains a detailed description about the properties of uranium and some of its applications in the energy industry. Topics include the uranium atom, inside the reactor, the series of processes used to produce a useable fuel, who uses nuclear power, who has and who mines uranium, and other uses of nuclear energy. Also included in this site is a link to a table of the world's nuclear power reactors.
  • ToxFAQs for Uranium (more info) This fact sheet answers the most frequently asked health questions about uranium. Topics include and explanation of uranium, what happens to uranium when it enters the environment and how uranium affects health.
  • ToxFAQs for Radon (more info) This fact sheet answers the most frequently asked health questions about radon. Topics include an explanation of radon, what happens to radon when it enters the environment, how radon affects health.
  • Toxicological Profile for Uranium (more info) The Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry Toxicological Profile succinctly characterizes toxicological and adverse health effects information for uranium. The focus of this profile is on health and toxicological information and therefore begins with a Public Health Statement that summarizes in non-technical language, uranium's relevant properties. Topics include human health, chemical and physical information, production, import, use and disposal, potential for human exposure, analytical methods, and regulations and advisories.
  • Toxicological Profile for Radon (more info) The Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry Toxicological Profile succinctly characterizes the toxicological and adverse health effects information for radon. The focus of this profile is on health and toxicological information and therefore begins with a Public Health Statement that summarizes in non-technical language, radon's relevant properties. Topics include human health, chemical and physical information, production, import, use and disposal, potential for human exposure, analytical methods, and regulations and advisories.
  • Some Physics of Uranium ( This site may be offline. ) This site contains a detailed description of the physics of uranium, with particular attention paid to nuclear reactors. Topics include neutrons, nuclear fission, neutron capture (transuranic elements and activation products), fast neutron reactors, control of fission and uranium enrichment.

Sandstone Type (Roll Front) Uranium Deposits

Resources containing information about roll front uranium deposits.

  • Uranium Roll Fronts (more info) This webpage discusses roll front uranium deposits. Drawings, photographs, and informative text illustrate how roll front uranium deposits occurs in nature.
  • Geology of Uranium Deposits ( This site may be offline. ) This site contains information on how uranium occurs in a number of different igneous, hydrothermal and sedimentary geological environments. Uranium deposits world-wide can be grouped into 14 major categories of deposit types based on the geological setting. Deposits covered in this site include unconformity-related, breccia complex, sandstone, surficial, volcanic, intrusive, metasomatite, metamorphic, quartz-pebble conglomerate and vein deposits.
  • Descriptive Model of Sandstone U (more info) This site shows a descriptive model of uranium in sandstone and how it forms. A list of geological environmental factors and deposit mineralogy is included, as well as links to references of related topics.
  • Mineral Resources, Economics and the Environment This is a textbook that covers mineral resources, economics and the environment.


For ideas on how to use these webpages in a classroom, a Study Guide is provided.




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