Independent Environmental Monitoring Program – Port Hope Conversion Facility and Cameco Fuel Manufacturing

Publication date: May 10 2016

Cameco Corporation (Cameco) is licensed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to operate the Port Hope Conversion Facility (PHCF) and Cameco Fuel Manufacturing (CFM), located in Port Hope, ON. PHCF primarily converts uranium trioxide (UO3) powder into uranium dioxide (UO2) and uranium hexafluoride (UF6). UF6 is exported for further processing into fuel for light-water reactors, while the UO2 powder is shipped to CFM and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Canada Inc. (Toronto), where it is pressed into pellets, which are then fitted into zirconium tubes. The tubes are then assembled into CANDU reactor fuel bundles for Canadian Nuclear Power Plants. The Cameco sites also process and/or store various natural, depleted and enriched uranium compounds.

The Independent Environmental Monitoring Program (IEMP) results for 2014 and 2015 confirm that the public and the environment around the PHCF and CFM facilities are safe and that there are no health impacts.

Legend

[ ] Guideline/Reference Level

Port Hope Incorporated Points

Sample Type Sample Description Parameter 2014 Result 2015 Result Guideline/
Reference Level
Expected Health Impact (Yes/No) Background Sample Code
AirUranium< 0.0003 µg/m3 0.0017 µg/m30.03 µg/m3NoN/A PH05-A01
AirUranium< 0.0003 µg/m3N/A0.03 µg/m3NoN/A PH07-A02
AirUranium< 0.0003 µg/m3N/A0.03 µg/m3NoN/A PH09-A03
AirUranium< 0.0003 µg/m3 0.00053 µg/m30.03 µg/m3NoN/A PH11-A04
AirUraniumN/A 0.00093 µg/m30.03 µg/m3NoN/A PH06-A05
AirUraniumN/A 0.0028 µg/m30.03 µg/m3NoN/A PH13-A06
AirUraniumN/A 0.0055 µg/m30.03 µg/m3NoN/A PH14-A07
Soil0-5 cmUranium2.58 mg/kg dry weight 2.22 mg/kg dry weight23 mg/kg dry weightNoN/A PH05-S01
Soil0-5 cmUranium1.8 mg/kg dry weight 2.56 mg/kg dry weight23 mg/kg dry weightNoN/A PH06-S02
Soil0-5 cmUranium1.49 mg/kg dry weightN/A23 mg/kg dry weightNoN/A PH07-S03
Soil0-5 cmUranium6.04 mg/kg dry weight 5.38 mg/kg dry weight23 mg/kg dry weightNoN/A PH08-S04
Soil0-5 cmUranium9.28 mg/kg dry weightN/A23 mg/kg dry weightNoN/A PH09-S05
Soil0-5 cmUranium18.12 mg/kg dry weight 10.18 mg/kg dry weight23 mg/kg dry weightNoN/A PH10-S06
Soil0-5 cmUranium1.69 mg/kg dry weight 3.27 mg/kg dry weight23 mg/kg dry weightNoN/A PH11-S07
Soil0-5 cmUraniumN/A 4.58 mg/kg dry weight23 mg/kg dry weightNoN/A PH13-S08
Soil0-5 cmUraniumN/A 11.82 mg/kg dry weight23 mg/kg dry weightNoN/A PH14-S09
VegetationUranium0.41 mg/kg dry weightN/AN/ANoN/A PH01-V01
VegetationUranium0.26 mg/kg dry weightN/AN/ANoN/A PH04-V02
VegetationUranium0.17 mg/kg dry weight< 0.01 mg/kg dry weightN/ANoN/A PH05-V03
VegetationUranium0.17 mg/kg dry weight< 0.01 mg/kg dry weightN/ANoN/A PH06-V04
VegetationUranium0.01 mg/kg dry weightN/AN/ANoN/A PH07-V05
VegetationUranium0.02 mg/kg dry weight< 0.01 mg/kg dry weightN/ANoN/A PH08-V06
VegetationUranium< 0.01 mg/kg dry weightN/AN/ANoN/A PH09-V07
VegetationUranium0.05 mg/kg dry weight 0.07 mg/kg dry weightN/ANoN/A PH10-V08
VegetationUranium0.02 mg/kg dry weight< 0.01 mg/kg dry weightN/ANoN/A PH11-V09
VegetationUraniumN/A< 0.01 mg/kg dry weightN/ANoN/A PH14-V11
WaterRiver surfaceAmmonia< 0.1 mg/L< 0.1 mg/L0.3 mg/LNoN/A PH08-W07
WaterTap waterAmmonia< 0.1 mg/LN/A0.3 mg/LNoN/A PH09-W08
WaterLake surfaceAmmonia0.2 mg/L< 0.1 mg/L0.3 mg/LNoN/A PH10-W09
WaterInletAmmonia< 0.1 mg/LN/A0.3 mg/LNoN/A PH11-W10
WaterOutletAmmonia< 0.1 mg/LN/A0.3 mg/LNoN/A PH11-W11
WaterLake surfaceAmmonia< 0.1 mg/L< 0.1 mg/L0.3 mg/LNoN/A PH11-W12
WaterLake surfaceAmmoniaN/A< 0.1 mg/L0.3 mg/LNoN/A PH14-W13
WaterRiver surfaceFluoride0.07 mg/L 0.1 mg/L0.12 mg/LNoN/A PH08-W07
WaterTap waterFluoride0.19 mg/LN/A0.12 mg/LNoN/A PH09-W08
WaterLake surfaceFluoride0.19 mg/L 0.11 mg/L0.12 mg/LNoN/A PH10-W09
WaterInletFluoride0.18 mg/LN/A0.12 mg/LNoN/A PH11-W10
WaterOutletFluoride0.13 mg/LN/A0.12 mg/LNoN/A PH11-W11
WaterLake surfaceFluoride0.17 mg/L 0.23 mg/L0.12 mg/LNoN/A PH11-W12
WaterLake surfaceFluorideN/A 0.2 mg/L0.12 mg/LNoN/A PH14-W13
WaterRiver surfaceNitrate3.6 mg/L 2.18 mg/L13 mg/LNoN/A PH08-W07
WaterTap waterNitrate1.21 mg/LN/A13 mg/LNoN/A PH09-W08
WaterLake surfaceNitrate1.79 mg/L 0.16 mg/L13 mg/LNoN/A PH10-W09
WaterInletNitrate1.22 mg/LN/A13 mg/LNoN/A PH11-W10
WaterOutletNitrate1.17 mg/LN/A13 mg/LNoN/A PH11-W11
WaterLake surfaceNitrate2.73 mg/L 1.38 mg/L13 mg/LNoN/A PH11-W12
WaterLake surfaceNitrateN/A 1.23 mg/L13 mg/LNoN/A PH14-W13
WaterLake surfaceUranium0.34 µg/LN/A15 µg/LNoN/A PH02-W01
WaterCreek surfaceUranium0.98 µg/L 4 µg/L15 µg/LNoN/A PH04-W02
WaterInletUranium4.97 µg/L 0.97 µg/L15 µg/LNoN/A PH05-W03
WaterOutletUranium3.46 µg/LN/A15 µg/LNoN/A PH05-W04
WaterLake surfaceUranium0.54 µg/LN/A15 µg/LNoN/A PH05-W05
WaterTap waterUranium0.42 µg/LN/A15 µg/LNoN/A PH07-W06
WaterRiver surfaceUranium0.67 µg/L 0.68 µg/L15 µg/LNoN/A PH08-W07
WaterTap waterUranium0.51 µg/LN/A15 µg/LNoN/A PH09-W08
WaterLake surfaceUranium3.45 µg/L 2.43 µg/L15 µg/LNoN/A PH10-W09
WaterInletUranium0.33 µg/LN/A15 µg/LNoN/A PH11-W10
WaterOutletUranium0.35 µg/LN/A15 µg/LNoN/A PH11-W11
WaterLake surfaceUranium3.9 µg/L 0.47 µg/L15 µg/LNoN/A PH11-W12
WaterLake surfaceUraniumN/A 7.33 µg/L15 µg/LNoN/A PH14-W13

1 The < symbol indicates that a result is below the provided laboratory analytical detection limit.

2 N/A – not available

3 For water samples, the results for non-radiological parameters are compared to CCME Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life; where no CCME guidelines exist, the Health Canada Drinking Water Quality Guidelines are used.

Background

Under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act (NSCA), licensees of nuclear facilities are required to implement an environmental monitoring program (EMP) to demonstrate that the public and the environment are protected from emissions related to the facility’s nuclear activities. The results of these monitoring programs are submitted to the CNSC to ensure compliance with applicable guidelines and limits, as set out in regulations that oversee Canada’s nuclear industry.

The CNSC has implemented its IEMP to verify that the public and the environment around licensed nuclear facilities are safe. It is separate from, but complementary to, the CNSC’s ongoing compliance verification program. The IEMP involves taking samples from public areas around the facilities, and measuring and analyzing the amount of radiological (nuclear) and hazardous substances in those samples. CNSC staff collect the samples and send them to the CNSC’s state-of-the-art laboratory for testing and analysis. Since the implementation of the IEMP, the areas outside the PHCF and CFM site perimeters were sampled in 2014 and 2015.

2015 results

The 2015 IEMP sampling plan for the PHCF and CFM sites focused on uranium as a hazardous substance. However, it is noted that uranium is classified as both a nuclear substanceand a hazardous substance. The IEMP assesses uranium  against its more sensitive (i.e., more restrictive) chemical toxicity thresholds as a potentially toxic metal (hazardous substance). Furthermore, alongside uranium, water samples near PHCF were analyzed for fluoride, nitrate and ammonia. A site-specific sampling plan was developed based on Cameco’s approved environmental monitoring program, CSA Group standards and the CNSC’s regulatory experience with the site. In 2015, samples were collected in publicly accessible areas outside the PHCF and CFM site perimeters and included lake water, soil, grass and wild vegetation, and ambient air samples of the PHCF and CFM perimeter fences. View detailed sampling data

The concentrations of uranium in air, water and soil, as well as of fluoride, nitrate and ammonia in water were all below the available guideline levels, with the exception of two results for fluoride concentration in water. Despite exceeding the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) water quality guideline, the fluoride concentrations in the water samples were more than 6.5 times less than the drinking water guideline levels, indicating safe levels of exposure for human health. Additionally, the maximum fluoride concentration in surface water of 0.19 mg/L is much lower than the toxicity benchmark (11.5 mg/L) for sensitive aquatic biota (CCME, 20021). Therefore, environmental risk to aquatic life including fish and benthic invertebrates is not likely due to the exposure to fluoride at the levels measured.

Uranium was also measured in vegetation samples; however, there are no available guidelines for comparison.

To obtain the full technical IEMP report, contact us at cnsc.information.ccsn@canada.ca, or call 613-995-5894 or 1-800-668-5284 (in Canada). Please provide the name of the facility and the report year.

2014 results

The 2014 IEMP sampling plan for the PHCF and CFM sites focused on uranium as a hazardous substance. However, it is noted that uranium is classified as both a nuclear substance, and a hazardous substance.The IEMP assesses uranium  against its more sensitive (i.e., more restrictive) chemical toxicity thresholds as a potentially toxic metal (hazardous substance). Furthermore, alongside uranium, water samples near PHCF were analyzed for fluoride, nitrate and ammonia. A site-specific sampling plan was developed based on Cameco’s approved environmental monitoring program, the CSA Group and the CNSC’s regulatory experience with the site. In 2014, samples were collected in publicly accessible areas outside the PHCF and CFM site perimeters and included municipal and lake water, soil, grass and wild vegetation, and ambient air samplesoutside the PHCF and CFM perimeter fences. View detailed sampling data.

The concentrations of uranium in air, water and soil were all below the available guideline levels. Fluoride concentrations in the water samples exceeded the CCME water quality guideline levels in 5 out of 6 samples. However, the fluoride concentrations in the water samples were more than 7.9 times less than the drinking water guideline levels, indicating safe levels of exposure for human health. Additionally, the maximum fluoride concentration in surface water of 0.23 mg/L is much lower than the toxicity benchmark (11.5 mg/L) for sensitive aquatic biota (CCME, 20021). Therefore, environmental risk to aquatic life including fish and benthic invertebrates is not likely due to the exposure to fluoride at the levels measured. Concentrations of nitrate and ammonia in water were all below the available guideline levels.

To obtain the full technical IEMP report, contact us at cnsc.information.ccsn@canada.ca, or call 613-995-5894 or 1-800-668-5284 (in Canada). Please provide the name of the facility and the report year.

Conclusions

The IEMP results from both 2014 and 2015 indicate that the public and the environment in the vicinity of the PHCF and CFM facilities are safe and that there are no health impacts. These results are consistent with the results submitted by Cameco, demonstrating that the licensee’s environmental protection program protects the health and safety of people and the environment.

1 Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. 2002. Canadian water quality guidelines for the protection of aquatic life: Inorganic fluorides. In: Canadian environmental quality guidelines, 1999, Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, Winnipeg.