EDIT: Well after 5 hours of this my hands are done. Thanks very much for your participation and I hope I shed some light on some things. Great questions from a lot of students here and I hope I was able to help out. Please pass it on when you have some time under your belt. We engineers should always try to mentor the youngins so they can grow up to be awesome. Best of luck at your jobs, studies, hobbies, etc. I'm going to pour a scotch. Night all! Done for reals now!

I'm a professional mechanical engineer who's spent his entire 10 year career working on various projects at uranium mines and mills in Northern Saskatchewan including Areva's McLean Lake Mill, and Cameco's Cigar Lake and Rabbit lake mines. I've done design through to construction and commissioning and know a lot about the process of mining uranium and milling yellowcake.

Proof: http://imgur.com/a/h1jeh

Comments: 323 • Responses: 79  • Date: 

agusu93 karma

Do to you know the integral of log(5x)?

Roll_SK173 karma

Fuck no.

SupaHotFyuh50 karma

So the math classes I am taking to get my Engineering degree are virtually pointless? Got it.

Roll_SK52 karma

Yup, unless you're going into R&D or grad studies. You will need very little of the high end stuff.

flinxsl36 karma

Be careful here. I am an electrical design engineer and while I never sit down and take the triple integral of something, knowing electric field theory gives me a basis to build intuitive understanding on. So sitting down in that shitty E&M class and figuring out the force on a line or charge or whatever it is eventually will make sense. Even if it is only to understand why inductors can't be too close on a circuit board and being able to do a ballpark calculation.

Roll_SK32 karma

You got my upvote because you're 100% correct. The fundamental understanding of engineering is very key. You do have to learn it and learn it well and what you experience at your job will dictate how much you utilize. E&M is a totally different at from pipes and pumps so making generalizations is not the best idea. I was speaking from my own experience but as I said before. LEARN IT ALL. There are reasons you take the classes you do. Just don't stress about it and assume your future work will involve 14 pages of partial differential equations to execute well. And at the end of the day if you take a job where you're doing more analytical math then you want, you can find work more suited to your desire.

the_aura_of_justice6 karma

You will need very little of the high end stuff.

1st year eng and we did this. Logs suck. I was wondering when I would need to use it again.

I fucking knew it.

Roll_SK13 karma

Actually, you'll need logarithmic scales for somethings. At least I did, but for the life of me I can't remember why. It may have been some kind of cost analysis. Either way, logs were used, or at least things were plotted on a log scale.

Spacey_G44 karma

No, there's a point, but it's not necessarily to be able to perform integrals on the spot. Going through that learning process teaches you how to critically examine very analytical problems, which is something you will have to do as an engineer.

And you will at a bare minimum need to understand calculus concepts to appreciate how many, many engineering problems are solved. If you're good with computers, you can get away with being weaker in the computation department.

Roll_SK27 karma

Yes this is true and it highly varies on your job task. One of my coworkers was a specialist in FEM and he needed those maths. It really depends on where you take your career. For me pushing fluid through pipes I didn't need much of it. BUT LEARN IT because you still need to pass.

Roll_SK17 karma

Fuck you for instantly giving me math anxiety lol MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP

ThatSteeve66 karma

Why all the selfishness? Uranium! Uranium! When is it MY Anium? OUR Anium?

Ahem...now that I've got that out.

Uranium is one of the big scary words. What, if any, dangers do you face working in the industry?

Mmmmmm yellowcake....

Roll_SK74 karma

The dangers are typical of any industrial mine or chemical plant plus invisible death rays. The most dangerous radiation comes from the raw ore which can be pretty high in gamma and has the added risk of being airborn (dust from crushing etc). You also have to be careful of Radon progeny aka the decay of radon as it comes off of basically everything in the process and if radon decays into it's progeny in your lungs it can cause damage due to alpha and beta release. Other then that, it's norther Saskatchewan so you have to watch out for bears, wolves and other wildlife. In the uranium milling process we use some pretty nasty stuff like 95% sulfuric acid for leaching and 75% hydrogen peroxide which will light anything organic on fire. And of course in any underground mines you have to watch out for things falling on you from above.

ThatSteeve37 karma

Invisible death rays...

So... That pay is good? ;)

Roll_SK47 karma

The pay is good but not as good as oil money. I swore I would never work in the patch so I'm very happy with my choices. Also, the journeymen trades people make more then me. That is likely just a western Canada thing as we have a boom and qualified trades are high in demand.

ThePineappleman20 karma

Oil patch not so bad, I'm doing it right now, but I really want to get into mining, ore deposits are fascinating to me.

Roll_SK19 karma

I can honestly say I have never worked out there and don't doubt that there are good aspects to it. Some of the photos of the equipment used in oil are incredible! Stuff is way bigger out there and that's pretty cool.

ThePineappleman14 karma

Oh yeah its awesome the stuff I get to see every day, even the basic things like the rig itself is just so awesome. And I get to marvel at it and collect my samples of rock cuttings and head back to my trailer since none of the roughnecks ever seem to really like the mudlogger...

Roll_SK14 karma

Oh shit are you a rock jock? BLACK MAGIC I TELLS YA.

ThePineappleman11 karma

Rocks and beer are the only things I care about. Oh and my rock hammer, I love that thing.

Roll_SK14 karma

Ah the rock hammer. The original and official 'for scale' device. Way better then a banana.

JCoLe31545 karma

Hey, aspiring mechanical engineer here. What are some tips/advice to becoming a successful engineer?

Roll_SK119 karma

I would suggest that you try a lot of different things and learn what you love. In my career I have worked with operations at a mill keeping things running, as a construction manager running crews building stuff, and as a consultant working with a large team to generate construction drawings for the contractors. Try different things and go with your passion. You may not even end up doing engineering work in the end. For example, I am now a project manager and do no design at all. But my experience with the design and construction side of things really helps make that job a good fit for me. I love field work and I love working with trades.

Also, keep your damned mouth shut and ask a lot of questions. A lot of new engineers have the bad habit of thinking they know stuff. The reality is that a trades person with 20 years on the tools will hand you your ass at a lot of design stuff. Learn to respect the trades and ask them for advice when working on designs. Learn to get value out of everyone you work with no matter what their standing is in the company. The IT guy may not have your fancy degree but if you treat them with respect they will save your ass. Same goes for everyone else. Field work is a great way to see it all come together and to get a feel for what you're actually building. However, if hard hats and work boots aren't your thing, office work can be as fun if that's your thing. Really, you have to try a lot and be open to new things every step of the way. I will fully tell you that in my 10 years every single project and in fact every single day has something new to offer. Also, avoid putting in extra time as long as possible. You have the rest of your career to work weekends so don't do it right out of the gate if you don't have to. Once down the path to extra hours it's very hard to back off again.

luvv0130 karma

What exactly is a yellowcake mill?

Roll_SK52 karma

A yellowcake mill is a chemical plant that purifies and concentrates uranium from ore. Basically you grind up raw uranium ore, use acids and reagents to liberate uranium ions into solution, get rid of the rock, then use typically solvent extraction to concentrate the amount of uranium in that solution. Then with some chemical wizardry you can precipitate that uranium out into uranium oxide, which is then heated to about 700C and cooked into a fine yellow powder we know as yellowcake. Yellowcake can then be further processed into nuclear fuel at facilities such as Port Hope.

Lumiafan21 karma

How the fuck did people figure out how to do all of this? Like seriously...explanations like this just make me think "how many people did it take to die before they finally figured out how to master the use of all those things?"

Roll_SK40 karma

Well all of it can be done small scale in a lab with little risk. That being said, many have died in places like Urainum City and Port Radium which is awful. BTW Port Radium is where the material from the manhattan project came from.

bilabrin3 karma

Doesn't heat cause radioactive materials to decay faster...or not?

Roll_SK4 karma

You know, I honestly don't know! Heat is a byproduct of decay for sure but I am going to guess that it's not a big factor in neutron decay.

theadamd21 karma

Does yellowcake taste good?

Roll_SK44 karma

I assume it tastes like kerosene and heavy metal. You're not supposed to eat it but there have been instances where people have accidentally ingested by not wearing proper PPE. In the form of uranium oxide (yellowcake) you will piss out 99% of it within 24 hours if you do eat it. We are very careful to properly protect ourselves (masks and power breathers) when around it and the MO is to wash everything every time you leave the mill to prevent eating it.

SuramKale17 karma

Not to be crass, but how much are you paid?

Roll_SK31 karma


LoudEggFarts18 karma

For anyone interested, that's $273.97 a day, $1923.07 a week, $8333.33 a month. Sign me up, please.

Roll_SK46 karma

That's Canadian money. I see about $4800/mo out of that. The rest goes to feeding the poor or something ;)

Corn-Doge14 karma

I'm 18 and just started college and majoring in engineering, do you have any tips to help me reach my goal?

Roll_SK41 karma

Well first and foremost work hard. I started university right after highschool and because highschool was a joke I never learned how to work hard at learning. I ended up dropping out and being a mason for about 3 years before going back to finish the degree. I was 21 when I went back. So work hard, take good notes, don't skip class, and do all your homework. I suggest developing a good study group where you can help eachother out but try not to copy. Enjoy the college experience but don't party too hard or you will lose purpose. You will have the biggest work load you've ever had with labs, assignments, projects etc. You will be overwhelmed and you will be stressed. This is perfectly normal. Also, many things will seem over your head at first and that's also normal. Engage your profs for help if you're really struggling and your study group can't figure it out. You will learn by doing so make sure you DO THE WORK. Also, like I said before in this AMA, make sure you do have some fun and learn to work with others because the people skills are really what you need when you get into the work force. Learn to communicate well verbally and in writing. When you get a job you will have to present yourself and your ideas to groups of people above you and if you have problems with public speaking this will hold you back. You can take courses like Toastmasters to get over this. We had to take actual communication classes because for many years engineers could fucking talk to people in a normal way and this makes life hard when you get out. So to summarize:

Do the work. All of it. Help is ok but you need to learn it yourself.

Accept that it's hard and you won't get it all. Do your best to learn what you can.

Get a good study group that does not copy off each other but will help each other through the hard parts.

Go to fucking class. All of them if you can. Often lectures will build on the previous one and missing one can really hurt you.

Go have fun. Learning to communicate with others and working with others is a necessity you will absolutely need when you're done. Join a band, play some sports, be in a gaming club, whatever. Just make sure you have some social time so you can learn to work with people.

Ask for help when you need it. Your profs and lab assistants will help if you are smart enough to ask.

Learn to manage your time. Most classes will have weekly assignments, a lab, and a lecture. This can result in having up to a dozen things due every week for grades. If you push shit off to the last minute you will not get it done. Highschool will in no way prepare you for this. It'll come all at once and it's shocking. By 4th year you'll have it down.

Don't worry if you fail. It happens. I failed both 1st and 2nd year maths and had to retake all 4 classes but I got through it and didn't quit. Obviously try not to fail but if you do, it's ok. You can retake a class. If you're not failing at something in your life then you're not living. Learn from it, get better, move on.

One other thing. Try to get engineering summer jobs or internships. Many companies hire students for technical tasks and this experience will be vital to helping you get a job when you're done. Start looking in October. Seriously, October. By December summer jobs can all be gone.

Hope this helps and best of luck!

Gyro885 karma

OP posted a great reply, but I'd just like to chip in a little extra note. Depending on your interests and your intended major, see if your school has a Formula SAE or Formula Student team. I did it when I was in school and it ended up being what taught me all the useful skills. Plus I made some great friends doing it.

Roll_SK3 karma

I loved formula SAE even though I only did it for a few years. Great fun and you actually get to bag the shit outta what you build. SAE has super fun groups. If you are into that stuff, join up!

Unfiltered_Soul13 karma

Are you on a watch list?

Roll_SK51 karma

Probably but not for anything to do with uranium ;)

otherricki8 karma

What does your work day usually consist of and what are the tasks you as an engineer are usually assigned?

Roll_SK11 karma

This entirely depends on what part of the project I'm involved in. When I was working at McClean Lake Mill we worked 7 days in, 7 days out. My typical day involved working on design changes as required from the process team, ie, if they want to add a new reagent or change the flow of the process it was my job to go out there and figure out how to do it safely. Any change in a nuclear facility requires advance notice to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and that involves documenting what exactly you want to alter, and the safeguards you design in to prevent problems. One fun thing about working in the remote sites is that sometimes you can't wait for the proper parts and you literally go to a spare parts field and piece things together. In the project I'm currently involved in at Key Lake I am a Project manager so much of my day is spent organizing the work to ensure smooth construction and a safe job site.

Roll_SK8 karma

I will also add that your job from day to day can involve testing equipment, monitoring performance of process equipment, taking part in HAZOPs (Hazard Analysis studies), supervising contractors who are building your stuff, quality assurance (inspecting things like welds and equipment). It can really vary which is super fun.

storeotypesarebadeh6 karma

Were you born in Saskatchewan? Greetings from Moose Jaw.

Roll_SK2 karma

I was born in Winnipeg but moved here at about 2 months old. Saskatoon is my home eh. Welcome fellow prairie brother! Great town. Loved the tunnels!

atomicshitstorm5 karma

Hi. 4th year Electrical Engineering Student here. Im in my last semester at the moment. I have done my internship at a CC Gas turbine plant and my main interest lie in fields that are not necessarily Electrical Engineering but in thermodynamics and mechanical engineering. I am afraid im about to graduate and I know nothing compared to most people on site and on field. Is it bad to feel like you are stupid and know nothing most of the time?

Roll_SK3 karma

No that's perfectly normal. I started a new job this week after a few months of unemployment and now I'm in charge of some 45 million dollars and I have a complete staff under me. I feel overwhelmed and like I need to know a lot more about it. It's natural and healthy. Try to do your best and learn as much as you can and you'll be fine. If you think you have it all figured out you'll find out your wrong and get blindsided.

chazwazer695 karma

I am a mechanical engineering student. Dude, when I was in fifth grade I was playing CivIII (in 2001) and finally got building nukes and became very interested in reading up on the manhattan project and this history of nuclear bombs. When I realized that no one really builds bombs anymore but there's this huge industry of nuclear tech, that needs radioisotopes and uranium, and also my country is among the bigger producers of uranium I became very interested in nuclear engineering (I was originally interested in aerospace but at this age I wouldn't have realized thats what that was - I still am interested but its hard and competitive).

So you have my dream job from when I was 11 - 15. Thats so awesome.

I posted a question in another account about getting a job in the nuclear industry to askengineers sub. Would you have any advice about that? More specficially if there is any demand for your particular type of work within the industry outside of Canada?

I lost interest in later years of high school as I didn't do particularly well for a lot of reasons. Decided to become an RN instead which is awesome but I am back to study engineering to see where it will take me and if I could work in this industry whether in mining / processing sectors or in a related tech capacity that would greatly satiate my childhood passion.

So other then those questions I also like to ask any general advice for Mech students? How did going from Mech - a mining related job work out although from your description there is obviously a lot of mech involved and did you plan on this happening or did you take the opportunity as it came?

Roll_SK5 karma

Couple of things. First of all, those mines also hire RN's so that's a win. There is lots of work in uranium all over the world if you don't mind travel. There are big mines in Namibia, Kazakhstan (worlds largest producer of uranium), France, USA, Canada, Russia, and a few others so basically you just have to go online and start searching companies that mine it. Cameco and Areva are a good bet. They have mines everywhere. So yes there is demand outside of Canada.

General advice for Mech Students? Well I'll have to ask you to read this http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/2fo9tm/iama_mechanical_engineer_who_designs_and/ckbadnz

ithinkyouaccidentaly5 karma

As you are in the industry, is there any talk of the fabled thorium reactors that various websites, including reddit, seem to trumpet around the internet every couple months? Is it soon going to be the case that you will be mining thorium to power an endless supply of energy for the future?

Roll_SK3 karma

Well China has stated they will have one in operation by 2025. I see thorium as a great alternative due to the inherent safety of the reactor design. I believe that if China pulls it off successfully then other countries will follow suit. So yes, i think that there is a future in Thorium mining for sure. It is more abundant then Uranium and can be mined almost anywhere in the world. However, the companies I have directly worked for (Cameco and Areva) have not stated that they are going to head in this direction, and though it's often discussed over coffee, it's never in an official sense. If I had money to invest I would seriously consider developing a mine to feed this future industry but it's a little too early.


ithinkyouaccidentaly2 karma

you make 100k a year and don't have money to invest? did you blow it all on blackjack and hookers? haha

But seriously, what do you think will turn the tide as far as public opinion to new reactors goes thorium or otherwise?

Roll_SK9 karma

Lol I don't have money to build a mine is all I meant. I think education on the nature of an atmospheric Thorium Salt Reactor will go a long way. If you can show the public that Thorium reactors can't blow up and that the half life of the waste is only hundreds of years vs 10s of thousands this will go a long way. If China gets theirs online by 2025 people will take notice. The Thorium reactors really take out the 2 biggest scare factors, explosion and nasty waste.

Mattyrig4 karma

What was the flaw which lead to the Cigar Lake mine flooding?

Roll_SK11 karma

Ultimatly it was poor management on the part of Cameco. What actually happened was they developed a section of mine aka dug a drift, and waited too long before enforcing it with shotcrete and rock bolts. The mine is 500 m below ground and at that depth, water has a pressure of about 800 psi. So if you don't support the rock immediately after digging a drift, the rock will start to move. This is what happened. There was a shift change, and they didn't get back to that section for 4 days. This had already occurred at one of Cameco's other sites McArthur River but they were able to save that mine. Cigar Lake had bulkheads in place to deal with the flooding, but when they were closed the seals didn't hold. This was perfectly normal and would have sealed when the water pressure built up. Some manager who was not even on site had different ideas and ordered the bulkheads open to fix the seal. When they did this, the water came pouring in and debris got caught in the bulkhead, preventing it from being closed. So, poor management, and poor management. I'm not guessing. They teach you this over a day course on site about how they fucked up. The CNSC was VERY hard on Cameco and rightly so. A lot of stupid people lost their jobs, including the CEO.

Mattyrig2 karma

Thanks for the detailed reply. I used to be with the Coiled Tubing department of Sanjel Corporation when they were contracted to the Cigar Lake mine in an attempt to reclaim the mine somehow, by pumping down cement I believe. I was never sent up there for that project, so I'm not too sure.

Roll_SK3 karma

From what I was told, they used Navy ROV's to position geobags where the inflow was under water and then pumped them full of concrete. I often joke that Cameco simply plugged the hole by shoving bags full of money down the shaft, which they did.

Mattyrig3 karma

Cool. Thanks again. And lastly, Go Stampeders! Riders suck. Unless you are true to your roots and are a Bombers fan, in which case we could get along.

Roll_SK2 karma

I bleed green dude. I'm not a sports kinda guy but how fucking dare you! GOOOOOOO RIDERS!!!!!!!!

-duskdoll-4 karma

Where does the uranium go after you mine it?

Roll_SK6 karma

We take that raw ore (it can either be chunks of rock or a liquid slurry of crushed rock) and we use chemicals and process equipment to liberate the uranium into a solution like acid. Once that's done we use clarifiers to separate the rock from the pregnant solution (pregnant with uranium) and ultimately the rock becomes tailings which are then stored in a heavily monitored pit designed to prevent any runoff to the surrounding environment.

Roll_SK5 karma

Oh I should add that once the uranium is processed into Yellowcake it gets shipped to processing facilities which will further purify it into fuel. You've heard the term centrifuges and these are what's used to separate the U238 from the U235 for fuel. Here in canada a lot of it goes to Port Hope where they make fuel. However, it can also be shipped to processing facilities out of country.

bohemianblondie2 karma

Shout out for port hope! The place where Torontonians like to visit but no one wants to live since land near the refinery it's radioactive, as is the high school. Slight exaggeration, but seriously, the high school science classes play with Geiger counters comparing different parts of the school yard and their radioactivity. Federal cleanup initiative money is available to residents who discover their land is radioactive to either clean up or subsidize the loss the owner will take when they sell.

How does the factory where you work deal with potential issues like this? How old it's your factory? For clarification, port hope has been refining uranium since ww2, long before the safety initiatives I'm sure are I'm place now were invented

I'm not just being rude with my comments, btw, I grew up near the Durham nuclear plant, within the evacuation zone. About 45 min drive from port hope and about the same from the Pickering nuclear plant. I'm just a lot more cavalier about radioactivity than most people on this site.

Roll_SK8 karma

The sites I work at are all remote and not near any communities. That being said, some are older like 1960s era and some are brand spanking new (1997). Basically, anything spilled outside of containment is a spill and is reportable to the gov't. Even a liter of solution has to be cleaned up. The mine and mill sites are monitored by a team of environmentalists who sample water, fauna, soil, and air daily on the site to check for any potential leaks. Radiation technicians continuously scan the mill itself to make sure dust is controlled, spills are cleaned up, and exposure is reduced. Old facilities have to be kept up to new standards. When a mine or mill is decommissioned (Areva's Cluff Lake) it is the companies responsibility to return the area to pristine condition. This means planting trees, cleaning up all material, and burying it in a capped pit which will be monitored basically as long as civilization exists to ensure no ground water is contaminated. However, in the past things were not so sunny. Uranium city was one of saskatchewans earliest mines. They would dump the tailings right on surface with no control and is now a desolate ghost town due to the contamination. We do things much better now. Also, almost all the mines and mills are on Native American owned band land and those guys watch everything very very closely to ensure there's no fuckery. I can honestly say that the places I've worked at are some of the cleanest safest mines I've seen due to very strict regulation. The mines and mills are also routinely surprise inspected by the Gov't so peeps have to keep on their toes.

bohemianblondie1 karma

When you 'clean up', what exactly does that mean?

Roll_SK3 karma

It means that everything that isn't nature is gathered up and if decontaminated, sent south to land fills, or if contaminated, put into the uranium tailings pit to be covered by a clay cap, and then monitored for eternity. Every nut, bolt, screw, tank, i-beam is all taken down and the ground is literally replanted with local fauna. Roads are bulldozed and planted over. Here's a good article on the matter http://www.leaderpost.com/business/return+Cluff+Lake+today+mine+decommissioning+practice/9873145/story.html

If you google Cluff Lake Decommissioning you can find some before and after pictures.

LoudEggFarts3 karma

First I would like to say thank you for doing an AMA. I'm a 3rd year Mech Student and I have taken a lot away from this already.

What would you say was your biggest hurdle right after graduation and how did you overcome it?

Roll_SK5 karma

I think the biggest one is getting into the work force. It took me 3 months out of school working as a loader at a shipping place before i got my first offer. That can get pretty stressful when you no longer have student loan money and the fuckers want some back. I overcame it by getting a job and being patient. Go to job fairs, look daily online, consider going out of town etc. Someone will hire you. Keep the faith!

Once you have a job the biggest hurdle is actually figuring out how to perform that job with no experience. I lost so many nights of sleep worrying about what I might be missing or not getting right. All you can do is ask for help and advice from all the resources you have around you.

T9163 karma

How is the pay?

Roll_SK9 karma

I think it's more then adequate. Right now I make 100k. Last year 120. If I was willing to do contract work in the oil patch, 250k is reasonable but you're never home.

T9163 karma

Wow that's great. Can someone majoring in Chemical Engineering work in your field? Or at your workplace?

Roll_SK3 karma

Absolutely, in fact they often do. Chem engineers can do anything a Mech can but it doesn't work the other way. Some of my closest friends are Chemies. They typically do the actual process design, aka, figure out how much of what is needed to do this and that. They run some pretty cool tests too to figure out how to best extract the uranium from the ore.

AMinorMiner3 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA! As a mechanical engineer, why did you choose to work in the mining industry? Do you feel you have an advantage over those with mining engineering degrees?

Roll_SK6 karma

I chose it because I like big machines and interesting challenges. I am a sci fi gamer through and through so anything radioactive delights the boy in me. What I do, and what mining engineers do is very different. They can actually design how a drift is cut, how to make an open pit, and how to support structures underground. They can estimate water inflow and how something will react to underground development. Mine engineers also do air flow for mines, aka HVAC for holes. I'm more a pump and pipes kind of guy and am completely unqualified to pick a rock bolt. So no advantage, just different tasks. They make the holes, I fill it with gear.

AMinorMiner1 karma

Great answer! I can see the attraction. So for myself, as someone studying mining engineering, are there any sorts of things that I can do in the future to make things easier/better for those in your position?

Roll_SK2 karma

The only issue we had with the mining engineers was the changing of the drift profiles during our design phase. The mine engineers would lay out the drifts but ultimately that would change slightly when they went to build them due to this ground condition or that. It made a lot of rework for me to move all my pipes and equipment to accommodate the changes. There was nothing that could have been done about this. However, if you are involved in active mine development, please make sure you send the updates to the project manager asap so we don't get too far ahead of you! Communication is key for everyone on a project.

Nickfez3 karma

The price of yellowcake has been in flux for many years, such as the artificial low suffered after the release of military grade uranium stores after the cold war. With new mines appearing in less stable areas of the world, what do you think will be the biggest change in price in the coming years? (PS, actually studying chemical and nuclear engineering at uni right now, about to go into my second year)

Roll_SK5 karma

Well I think the next big price changes will occur if there is any kind of additional accident like Fukushima. After that disaster Germany started turning away from Nuclear power and they won't be the only ones. However, if China does build another 60 plants in the next 20 years like they plan, demand will go up and so will prices. The mining companies play this game and play it well. They only expand when there's enough market to keep the prices high. I would also think that the development of alternative power sources like Thorium Salt Reactors, fusion, solar, wind etc etc will push prices down by making relatively dangerous pressure water reactors obsolete.

Nickfez2 karma

I did't realise China was that ready to invest. Does this mean you feel the industry has a limited lifespan for the time it will remain profitable? Maybe within the next 50-100 years

Roll_SK3 karma

Well China talks a big game, but they are also the first country to announce the construction of a Thorium reactor by 2025 so that's very exciting. I would guess that 50-100 years would be about right. We can't use this stuff forever. There really is no way to deal with the waste and that's a deal breaker, aside from all the other problems with Pressure Water Reactor style plants. Just found this. Looks like there are quite a few being built all over the world right now so maybe the future will be stronger then I think. http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/current-and-future-generation/plans-for-new-reactors-worldwide/

Coolmikefromcanada3 karma

You wouldn't be willing to share a design for one of those yellowcake mills now would you ?

Roll_SK6 karma

Well there are a lot of factors at play here including the % of uranium in the ore and the demands of the customer so there is no cookie cutter design that would work for everyone. Hence the need to spend a lot of money on design prior to construction.

PapercutFiles2 karma

Hello. I'm currently an engineering student. Thank you for doing this AMA. My questions are;

  • Any tips for a student like me? Like how to learn more/ understand more?
  • How did you land your job?
  • Is the pay good?
  • Is working as an engineering really require all the physical stuff?
  • How are your working hours?

Roll_SK9 karma

Ok I'll try to answer these in order: Tips: Study hard but not too hard. Unless you're going into grad studies your grades shouldn't matter much (Here in Canada anyway). Be social and learn some good people skills because you will need them more then math. I haven't done calculus since I graduated. Work in groups if you can but try not to copy. Keep in mind that you are learning the basics of engineering and you may not apply any of it in an actual job. In school you learn to learn and that is the skill you need.

I landed my first job because I knew someone high up in the company and I had a life outside of school. They were impressed that I played music and was involved in things other then studies. It showed I could be a people person who could work with others. This is where the interview process is important. You need to be professional but not a robot. People like to know you're human too. Don't expect much for the first few years. Just get a job and absorb absorb absorb. Opportunities open up pretty quick when you start getting some experience.

The pay is as good as it should be. Check with your professional association and you will get an idea of pay. Or if you like click here: http://www.apegs.ca/Portal/Pages/salary-survey

You can be a desk jockey or you can be a field guy. There are also R&D jobs that are not physical or site related but you should still try to get out there and see what you're building. Seeing the end product of your work and how it's applied is very important experience and will help you make better decisions in your designs.

Working hours can vary quite a bit. I've worked 7days in/7 days out 12 hour days, Monday to friday 8-4, and 4x10hour days per week. There are jobs that require you to be there months as well (offshore drilling, remote mines etc). All in all, I have always enjoyed my shifts and never felt I was being abused.

Hope this helps and best of luck!

PapercutFiles2 karma

Thank you very much for responding, wow! I'm actually on my 2nd year and it's all just math for now. It's difficult but I get by.

My ideal job would be at the desk. I'm an industrial engineering student actually so I've read that there are many desk-job related work. Do you know anyone who's an industrial engineer? Is their job the same as yours?

Roll_SK4 karma

One of my old engineering managers was an industrial engineer who worked for ford. As far as I'm aware (Canadian slant) Industrial engineers deal more with manufacturing and less with the resource industry. It's really tough to nail down exactly what each kind of engineer can do because there is a lot of overlap. Follow your dreams and do what you love and you never know where you'll end up. For example, I no longer do any design but instead organize and run projects.

Mazon_Del2 karma

How automated are the mines? I would imagine that that they try a little harder to automate them than other minds are. I get that right now we cannot automate an entire mine, but it would seem that to avoid radiation sickness and whatnot, that a few things here and there might be done robotically or remotely.

Roll_SK7 karma

The level of automation in the mines depends on the grade of the ore. In addition there are ways of limiting exposure to that ore. At McArthur River Mine the skip trucks are run by remote control from a control room using cameras to limit exposure to dust and gamma radiation. The grade of or (amount of uranium in the rock) is very high at around 20% so it's not safe to work with directly. All trucks in surface mines are lead shielded and open pit mines are typically much lower grade (1%-10%). At Cigar Lake, the ore body is frozen from the surface and then they use a robotic machine that uses 20,000 psi water to cut the ore into slurry, which is then pumped to an underground system that grinds it into paste. This is pumped to surface. The advantage of the jet bore mining method is you can basically seal the equipment to the rock and eliminate any chance of the ore coming near people. The storage areas are off limits and you need safety permits to work in those areas. Every one wears dosimeters and exposure is monitored by a gov't body directly. The way to avoid problems is to use Time (reduce time of exposure aka limit work hours in the area), Distance (Stay the fuck away), and Shielding (Rock, Concrete, and lead).

Pistol5102 karma

Do you know what the fuck you can do with yellow cake?

Roll_SK2 karma

Well typically we like to put it in barrels and sell it. The colour isn't quite nice so I wouldn't paint with it. It's not edible really. Yup, selling it seems to be the way to go.

Ninjashuffler2 karma

What do the mines actually look like? Are they quarries or underground tunnels?

Roll_SK6 karma

Both. I'll post a few pictures.

Underground Uranium Mine Cigar Lake:


McClean Lake Sue Pits (open pit mines):


In general it's an economic decision how to get the ore. If it's too far down you have to go underground. If it's near the surface then you can do open pit if the regulators allow it. Underground mines are much more expensive but have much less environmental impact so the ore has to be plentiful and high grade. You can go after much lower grade ore if it's close to the surface and easy to get at.

Atamis1 karma

Huh, i was expecting some deep radiation suits for miners, is it not that dangerous in ore form?

Roll_SK1 karma

We don't go near the ore. In McArthur river they bore it from above and use remote mining skips to move it into the shaft. At Cigar Lake the ore is frozen above the production drifts and they use jets of water that cut the rock and keep it sealed from where people are. On surface the miners are protected in filtered cabs with lead shielding. Everything is kept very clean to prevent contamination.

AspiringEccentric1 karma

Are you familiar with any differences between engineering in Canada and the US?

(Also and ME)

Roll_SK1 karma

Well thanks to NAFTA I can work as a ME down there and vice versa. There are differences across the board in Canada and the us but it varies from school to school more then across the border. Some colleges offer more specialized programs like oilfield engineering, aerospace engineering, industrial engineering and some are general like the UofS. The american engineers I've met have all been very qualified and knowledgeable so I would have to assume that the quality is on par across the border.

namkash1 karma

I'm about to get my degree, and I've been working 3 months at my first professional job, doing little designs to improve our facilities/tools/machines, and quality inspections for HP turbine blades. How was your personal beginning after college?

And, I'm curious: What is that fan behind you? (third picture). It looks like a turbo fan or something like that. What do you use it for?

Roll_SK2 karma

I had a really hard time for the first year on the job. I was up north, scared as shit, and desperately trying to perform a job I had no idea how to do. I was lucky to have good people around me (trades) to slap the stupid out of me and show me the way. Eventually it got much much better and easier to deal with the responsibility and stress. When you're new, everything is overwhelming. This is normal. Ask for help, don't be afraid to sound stupid, and do your best and you'll be fine.

The fan behind me is the mine air intake fan at Cigar Lake. They pump air into the mine to keep people breathing.

TalkingBackAgain1 karma

Isn't all that radiation going to do funny things to your little swimmers when you meet misses /u/Roll_SK?

Roll_SK3 karma

Well according to my CNSC (Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) reports I've never gotten anywhere near the limit for a registered worker. I feel and know that the risks are very low for high radiation exposure as long as I'm not a complete ass hat. The stuff you want to avoid is gamma which comes from the ore. You can sit on a barrel of yellowcake and the cloth of your pants will stop that radiation. So low risk, also very single so not likely to be a concern.

TalkingBackAgain1 karma

also very single so not likely to be a concern.

You're single now, but somewhere down the line, when you're an established engineer, some woman is going to pick up on that wonderful physique of yours and welcome you into her loins.

At that point you don't want to have sat on too many yellowcake barrels or warmed your hands over a nice gamma ray fire.

/just saying, just saying! Plan for the future.

Roll_SK3 karma

Just added a lead cup to my amazon wish list.

Jumbro1 karma

What is the yellowcake output of your mine? Where is it used/sold? I take it that this is still a growing industry as there are about two dozen nuclear plants slated for construction in the next decade worldwide. Any thoughts on nuclear energy as opposed to oil & gas?

Roll_SK1 karma

It depends from mine to mine but the last one I worked on, Cigar Lake, was licensed to produce 16 million lbs of uranium per year. Uranium is sold all over the world to power plant companies like GE and Tepco. The industry has taken a bit of a dive after Fukishima but is expected to pick up with the construction of new plants in China, India, and the USA. The projections say that global production needs to double in the next 30 years so yes it should grow.

My opinion is that nuclear power is better then tar sands due to the huge environmental impact that's having on Canada's north but at best it's an interim solution. There is still no reliable way to deal with the waste from plants other then burying it and watching it for thousands of years. I believe the future should be thorium reactors (molten salt style) and fusion plants such as the ITER project. Solar is also a great option but something is needed for night time.

FawfulsFury1 karma

Materials Engineering student here. What role does your training specifically as a mechanical engineer bring to the work you do or are they just looking for someone with their P.Eng?

Roll_SK2 karma

Early in my career I used a lot of pipe friction calculations and stress analysis in my designs. You also use a lot of transients to calculate things like water hammer and the like. So you do use some of the concepts for sure but never as basic as what you see in school. The way I describe it is in school you learn how to design a pump, from scratch, using math. In the real world someone has already done that and you just buy the fucker. But you need to know the basics of fluid dynamics, heat transfer, materials, etc to do the job right. There is a fair amount of corrosion and materials science you use as well. What kind of alloy for acid at this temp etc. Thermo was big, you deal a lot with heat exchangers and you need to do the math to size them. Fluid x at this temp and flow has this energy, transferred to fluid Y at this temp etc etc. As you move up and get more experience you generally offload this on to Jr Engineers and just check their work.

InTeetoWeTrust1 karma


Roll_SK4 karma

I'm an engineer. We don't pick up. When we see women we turn and run. Seriously though, the trades guys all have the best pickup lines. And I'm not cleaver enough to come up with something on the spot like "hey baby, are you giving off gamma because I can feel your stare right through my pants."

OttawaMachinist1 karma

Where does one apply for a position at the mine?

pockyyy1 karma

are you happy with your job?

Roll_SK1 karma

Yup, i love it! I love it a lot. I look forward to work every day and I'm never bored! Yeah it's stressful being handed big projects but the challenge is it's own reward!

Truenoiz1 karma

What was the hardest class you had on your way to becoming an engineer?

Roll_SK3 karma

OH god, 3rd year Engineering Analysis. It was all matrix calculus and matrix differentials. I still have nightmares about it. Seriously, reoccurring dreams where I find out I didn't pass and I no longer have a degree and have to go back.

UC2351 karma

Hi. I was curious what specific mineral types of ore you process. How is radium content of the residue dealt with, if at all? Do any of the ores contain vanadium and if so, how is this efficiently separated?

Roll_SK1 karma

The things in the ore other then uranium vary from mine to mine. So far I've dealt with Nickle, Molybdenum, and arsenic as the most common contaminants. So no radium or vandium that I am aware of. How we deal with the moly and other stuff is by precipitating it out in a neutralization process. It all ends up in the tailings pit with the spent uranium ore. Moly is a pain in the dick though as it tends to become very sticky in the Solvent Extraction process and is very hard to clean up. The most common things we used to precipitate these out were Barium Chloride, and Ferric Suphate.

nienee1 karma

Do women work in your field? I want to major in some form of engineering but a lot of people tell me it's a man's like of work (parents, university grad, etc)

Edit: thank you for the Ama as well! :D it is very fascinating reading through the questions/answers

Roll_SK1 karma

Yup there are lots of women in engineering up here in Saskatchewan. It's not 50/50 but I have worked along side many women with engineering degrees on my projects over the years, often as lead engineers. My general impression of things in our modern day is that there is very little prejudice against women here. People care much more about having someone who's good to work with, cares about what they're doing, and has knowledge in the field. If you want to do it, and enjoy it, do it. If you get into construction you will have to deal with a lot of trades people who are majority men but honestly gender is low on the list of what people care about when it comes to this stuff, up here at least. And sometimes there are assholes. I'm only 34, sometimes assholes don't like that i'm not 60, but I win them over. The key is finding a good company you can work for where you're supported and that's no different for anyone regardless of race, orientation, or gender. Unless the people who give you this advice are currently active working in the industry (and likely anyone at school isn't) take their advice with a grain of salt.

helloImAdam1 karma

Being a ME, what is your average day like?

I understand every day is different, but I'm having a hard time figuring out what field I would like to drop a shit ton of money on. Just finished my Associates in Electronics... thats getting me no where in this town :/

Roll_SK2 karma

I have no idea where to start. Some days I'm out there tracing piping systems and trying to figure out where I need to modify things to make something happen, some days I'm looking for equipment online and talking to vendors, some days are meetings talking about how to get stuff done. I have not had a reoccurring day in many years. One of the nice things about engineering work is you kind of do what you want as long as you get the job done on time, on budget, and deliver good work. You could be inspecting the inside of tanks, or measuring pressure on a pump, or doing calculations to figure our friction loss, or reading about corrosion, or going to planning meetings. The options are endless. I will say that if you get into consulting you are much more likely to have a more regular day. For example, for Cigar Lake I was in charge of designing a lot of the piping. I ended up sealing some 400 drawings of piping for construction. So for 6 months I was reviewing, marking up, and having the drawings updated. This involved talking to all the other disciplines to make sure my pipe wasn't blocking cable tray, in a wall, or in the way of something else. Really the options are endless but most revolve around building something or other. You can also get into inspection and equipment certification, commissioning (my favorite), planning (the process of actually laying out work, getting parts, hiring contractors etc), supervision, etc etc.

jadams6491 karma

Is 20 years old too late to start an engineering degree? I did 2 years in university and got crappy grades. I basically have to start over at community college and work my way up. I've learned from my mistakes and can do better now but I'm wondering if it's too late. Thanks.

Roll_SK2 karma

No, fuck no. My buddy, who is actually the producer for one of my bands, is going back at 30 to get is Electrical Engineering degree. Hell, when I started in 97 my 10th grade science teacher was in my class and he was 40. He had enough of abusive kids and parents and went back. It's never too late. I quit after my first year, went back 3 years later at 21 and never had a problem. What I had was a lot of fun! Sometimes you need to take time off to figure out what you really want. Go for it dude!

IAmJustSittingHere1 karma

What's your favorite yellowcake recipe and why does it have pineapple in it?

Roll_SK2 karma

This: http://www.marthastewart.com/923177/pineapple-upside-down-cake

And pineapple for the flava son. And not the flavor of the cake :P

freen691 karma

Can you give me a job?

Roll_SK2 karma

I am in the position to hire people so in a technical sense, yes, I COULD give you a job. Does this help?

iorgfeflkd1 karma

How much greater is the radiation in a uranium mine compared to other ore mines?

Roll_SK2 karma

If everything is working properly it should not be any different, and may in fact be less. The ore is not allowed to be in the same place as the workers and the entire mine is designed to keep the people side contamination free. It may be less radioactive because all mines have full time radiation technicians working around the clock to monitor air, water, and the ground by sampling all of it many times a day. They even check the toilet seats. Any spills are immediately cleaned up and then monitored to ensure there is nothing left behind. The air flow ensures the natural radon is exhausted as well.

GhostTurdz1 karma

What interested in your current specialty? I am also a ME and Iv'e never even thought about venturing into your area.

Roll_SK3 karma

Well I wanted to stay in Saskatchewan when I graduated. The vast majority of my friends went to alberta to work in the oil field and I was very turned off by that. My options for local ME work were consulting or mining. There was potash and uranium and I liked the idea of working with Uranium for the neat factor. Plus I enjoy working in Northern Saskatchewan due to the beauty of nature. It was a good fit at the time and I just went with it!

tractorjim7601 karma

What special training if any would a Heavy Equipment Operator need in order to work the mines?

Roll_SK1 karma

Just standard operators tickets would do the trick. Every worker is trained on site for the specific hazards each mine has. So basically all the training you'd need is just your standard operations ticket. All new workers go through about 80 hours of onboarding training.

purcerh1 karma

Is that the stuff in nuclear weapons? Or is it used in power plants as well?

Roll_SK1 karma

The stuff in Nukes is typically plutonium and that is actually made inside power plants. yellowcake goes here: https://geoinfo.nmt.edu/resources/uranium/enrichment.html and gets turned into fuel. What I'm involved in is analogous to crude oil vs Gasoline.

snowypeak1 karma

What was your education level? or experience?

Roll_SK2 karma

I have a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering and here's my experience.

Mechanical Engineer Tetra Tech Wardrop Inc August 2010 – June 2014 (3 years 11 months) Cigar Lake Project

Coordinate design of mine dewatering system Component specification Construction work package preparation Construction drawing preparation Integration of multiple design teams and contractors Field inspection Pipe stress analysis Pipe system modeling

ERCO Worldwide/Construction Manager ERCO Worldwide September 2013 – April 2014 (8 months)ERCO Worldwide Saskatoon Manage construction activities for ERCO Worldwide Saskatoon Loadout and HCL Expansion. Coordinate contractor work forces. Manage production and safety standards of construction related activities. Development of project schedules and milestones. Quality management and productivity monitoring.

Tetra Tech Mining & Minerals Field Engineer Tetra Tech Mining & Minerals August 2012 – September 2013 (1 year 2 months)Cigar Lake Cigar Lake Project

Construction productivity analysis Construction support Commissioning

Lead Mechanical Engineer Tetra Tech July 2010 – July 2012 (2 years 1 month) Rabbit Lake Sustaining Capital

Brown field operations and maintenance projects Site Wide National Fire Code remediation Tank replacement and improvement Field inspection Construction work package preparation Construction drawing preparation Specification preparation

Mechanical Engineer SNC Lavalin February 2010 – July 2010 (6 months) Prepare mechanical designs for commercial and residential applications. Prepare proposals and designs for industrial ventilation applications. Prepare proposals and designs of industrial pumping applications. Inspect construction sites and ongoing work. Prepare tender packages for procurement. Field inspection and supervison of trades.

Mechanical Engineer Areva Resources Canada May 2008 – January 2010 (1 year 9 months) Reviewing and evaluating designs and drawings for suitability. Participated in general project related duties such as budget administration, parts ordering, technology evaluation, and consultant management. Assisted in the development of mechanical specifications, design criteria, and mechanical drawings for ongoing projects. Inspection and commissioning duties of various systems, including reporting, planning, and deficiency remediation. Systems include HVAC, Agitation, and pumping. Managed construction and commissioning of industrial projects.. Piping and industrial design. Instrumentation and controls specification and procurement. Industrial equipment specification and procurement.

Mechanical Engineer Areva Resources Canada May 2005 – January 2008 (2 years 9 months) Mill Engineer in Training

Designing, planning, and supervision over installation of new equipment. Process and power piping design and quality control. Preparation and implementation of commissioning plans. Preparation and execution of project schedules. Budgetary planning for capital projects. Front line field supervision of contractors and trades people. Definition of equipment specifications and datasheets. Instrument specification. Preparation of tender packages for external bidding. Preparation of turnover packages for new equipment including maintenance and operation manuals. Equipment specification and installation. Reporting projects and weekly progress to management. Planning and implementation of safety concerns from OHC Coordinating with onsite departments to ensure timely completion of on site projects. Drawing preparation and drawing updates for internal projects. Material requisition and purchasing. Shortform contract preparation for contracted work. Commissioning and testing of completed projects Trouble Shooting

gowerskee1 karma

Is your plant susceptible to stuxnet virus? Reckon it already has it?

Roll_SK3 karma

The control systems are similar and vulnerable (we're talking about McClean Lake here) but very little is fully automated and everything is checked by operators every hour so the chances of something bad happening are very slim. It appears Stuxnet was designed to blow up Iranian centrifuges which spin at 100,000 rpm and therefore are delicate vs a yellowcake mill which is just a chemical processing plant with lots of tanks where things get stirred. I am guessing here because I've never heard any issues due to Stuxnet and these mills...yet... Do they already have it? Probably. Network security up there is not super secure and the control system is connected to the internet. In fact the system is set up to be controlled remotely off site so there is direct connection to the interweb.

Nnjabreadman1 karma

if you could go back in time, would you still major in mechanical engineering or would you choose something else?

Roll_SK4 karma

Fuck yes I still would. I love building stuff, always have. I was one of those kids who hung out at the fence of construction sites and asked stupid questions all day. I am 100% happy with my choice and look forward to the rest of my career building cool things!

ineedabrewski1 karma

Where did you go to college and do you suggest any certain clubs/programs?

Roll_SK2 karma

I went to the University of Saskatchewan. I got heavily involved in the Saskatoon Engineering Students Society. Most colleges have student groups that organize social events, provide study materials, and sell schwag. I recommend getting involved in yours if you have one. If you don't then try to find clubs that you'll enjoy. I also played in a band that gigged for university dances and had a great time doing it. I spent a lot of time outside of the college as well, hanging out with the Physics students society as well. They had good parties and would do things like turn entire computer labs into Unreal Tournament lan parties in the middle of the night. Super fun.

dustballer1 karma

What is your opinion on the situation in the cave hills region of South Dakota? Do your companies do land reclamation to protect the general public?

Roll_SK1 karma

I am not familiar with the Cave Hills region but the companies I've worked for have to completely return the land to pristine condition when the life of the mine or mill is over. They have to return it to near perfect and this is regulated directly by the gov't.