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Blind River Refinery: First up for a fresh take on environmental protection reviews

While safety is at the heart of the nuclear industry, many Canadians fear the impact nuclear may have on their communities and families. In Canada, nuclear facilities have to follow strict rules to protect the communities in which they operate, rules set by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). As Canada’s nuclear regulator, the CNSC lays out these protection measures in regulatory requirements and in conditions detailed in each facility’s licence. These licences set, for example, strict limits on the release of contaminants. The goal is to limit the quantity of nuclear and hazardous substances released into the environment in order to protect both people and places, all of which is closely monitored and reported on. The CNSC also verifies releases through its own Independent Environmental Monitoring Program by testing samples taken from parks, farmland and beaches close to nuclear facilities.

The CNSC and the facilities it regulates both make environmental and safety information publicly available online through public disclosure documents, regulatory oversight reports, event reports, health studies and more. The CNSC recently refreshed one of its key environmental report series: the environmental protection reviews. These reports dive deeply into the actions taken by licensees to protect their local environment, with CNSC experts closely examining results related to any trace of contaminants linked to facility releases in the air, water and soil, and looking at the role exposure could play in the health of local residents.

In the recently released environmental review of the Blind River Refinery, the CNSC explains the role that Cameco, the facility operator, plays in regular monitoring to ensure releases are below CNSC limits, and describes what CNSC staff found when they reviewed Cameco’s reports and conducted their own independent environmental sampling. The report contains summaries of primary research, such as the Algoma Community Health Profile, the Algoma Cancer Report, and other studies like the International Pooled Analysis of Uranium Workers, all of which paint a picture of the health of the population living near the refinery. The report also details the refinery’s environmental record by examining, for example, the air emissions from stacks, vents and absorbers, and whether there is any build-up of particulates in soil. From all of this emerges a clear conclusion: based on 5 years of testing samples of all kinds, the refinery has had little to no impact on natural background levels. This is good news for the environment and means no additional exposures for anyone or anything living in the area. To learn more, read the report and its findings.

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