No leak into the Ottawa River
Public not at risk due to leaks at NRU facility
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 28, 2009
Further to recent media reports of two separate leaks at the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) National Research Universal reactor (NRU), the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) would like to set the record straight. At no time was the public or the environment at risk. There is no radioactive material leaking into the Ottawa River associated with these leaks. CNSC has on-site staff that monitors the NRU and ensures that it operates safely and is in compliance with its licence conditions. Any water released into the Ottawa River is treated and monitored by AECL according to environmental standards.
On Friday evening, December 5, 2008, AECL discovered a very small heavy water leak that was confined to the NRU.AECL reported the event to the CNSC on Saturday, December 6, 2008 and acted appropriately in delaying re-starting the reactor until the leak was investigated. Any water resulting from the leak was placed in storage tanks before being sent to the Waste Treatment Centre at the Chalk River Laboratories. This leak has stopped and has not reoccurred. There was evaporation of some heavy water resulting in a small release of tritium through normal ventilation which was well below regulatory limits.
Contrary to media reports, it did not take four days for AECL to inform the CNSC of the leak. The CNSC was made aware within hours of the leak and verified that it did not pose any significant risk to the public, workers or the environment. On December 8, 2008, AECL confirmed that the leak was a reportable event as it was more than the 10 kg reporting limit. AECL officially submitted a preliminary report to the CNSC within 24 hours as per regulatory requirements. As per normal practice, AECL is required to continuously monitor for leaks from NRU's cooling system and to take prompt action if a leak is detected. AECL has been asked to provide an update to the Commission at its previously scheduled public meeting on February 19, 2009.
The second leak referred to in the media reports involves light water leaking from the NRU reflector system. This water is collected by AECL and purified in the Waste Treatment Centre. Therefore, there is no leak into the Ottawa River and there is no risk to the public or the environment.
The CNSC would like to reassure the public that it monitors the operation of all nuclear facilities in Canada to ensure that they operate safely and are in compliance with licence conditions. The CNSC’s mandate to protect the health, safety and security of Canadians as well as the environment will not be compromised under any circumstances.
Aurèle Gervais Media and Community Relations Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission 613-996-6860