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Annex 5 - Radioactive Waste Management Facilities

Annex 5 - Radioactive Waste Management Facilities

5.1 Radioactive waste management methods

All radioactive wastes produced in Canada are placed into storage with surveillance, pending the establishment of long-term waste management facilities. At existing waste management facilities, various storage structures are currently in use:

  • in-ground burial,
  • low-level storage buildings,
  • modular aboveground storage buildings,
  • Quonset huts,
  • tile holes,
  • in-ground containers, and
  • concrete bunkers.

5.1.1 Pickering Waste Management Facility - Re-tube components storage

The Pickering Waste Management Facility consists of the used fuel dry storage area (see Annex 4.5.10) and a storage area, called the re-tube components storage area (RCSA), which stores reactor core component waste from re-tube activities at the Pickering NGS-A. The RCSA is located within the protected area of the Pickering NGSs, and is operating in storage-with-surveillance mode, meaning that it is closed to new waste, unless it receives prior written approval from the regulatory body.

The RCSA uses dry storage modules (DSMs) to store the re-tube components. RCSA was designed to accommodate 38 DSMs, cylindrical casks made from reinforced heavy concrete. The design of the DSMs provides adequate shielding to meet dose rate requirements outside the facility and keep worker dose rates ALARA. At present, the RCSA consists of 34 loaded DSMs, two empty DSMs and empty space for two additional DSMs.

The RCSA prevents the pooling of rainwater and provides a low-maintenance surface. A drainage system directs the runoff water from the storage area to the Pickering NGS-B outfall. Catch basins permit the periodic sampling of the water.

PWMF with RCSA on Left and Spent Fuel Dry Storage Area on Right

Figure 5.1 - PWMF with RCSA on Left and Spent Fuel Dry Storage Area on Right

5.1.2 Western Waste Management Facility - Low- and intermediate-level waste storage

The Western Waste Management Facility (WWMF) is owned and operated by OPG at the BNPD site in Kincardine, Ontario. The WWMF consists of two distinct areas:

  • a low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste storage area, and
  • a spent fuel dry storage area. (Refer to Annex 4.5.4.)

The low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste storage area provides safe handling, treatment and storage of radioactive materials produced at NGSs (Pickering A and B, Darlington, Bruce A and B) and other facilities currently or previously operated by OPG or its predecessor Ontario Hydro. The low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste storage area consists of various components, such as the waste volume reduction building (WVRB) and the transportation package maintenance building. The storage structures used in this facility include low-level storage buildings, refurbishment waste storage buildings, quadricells, in-ground containers, trenches and tile holes.

The WVRB provides for the receipt of low-level radioactive wastes and compaction, shredding, baling and incineration prior to storage. The WVRB consists of the following main areas:

  • Radioactive waste incinerator area contains the radioactive waste incinerator, shredder, associated equipment and an active drainage sump.
  • Compaction area contains a box compactor and two maintenance shops for repairs, equipment storage, welding and equipment maintenance activities.
  • Material handling, storage and sorting area provides for material movement, sorting and temporary storage of incoming and processed wastes. Access to the incinerator and compaction areas is included.
  • Control room houses the main work control centre. All low- and intermediate-waste storage area systems and services alarms are monitored in this room.
  • Truck bays establish a weather protected area for the receipt and unloading of wastes.
  • Ventilation equipment areas contain air intake filters, intake fans, heating coils, air exhaust filters and exhaust fans. Radioactive airborne effluent monitors, for the building ventilation and radioactive incinerator exhaust, are also located in this area.
  • Electrical and storage rooms provide storage for electrical equipment, records and non-waste products.

OPG has developed derived release limits (DRLs) for airborne radioactive releases from the radioactive incinerator and active ventilation in the WVRB, and for releases to surface waters from drainage at the site. The non-radioactive effluents must conform to the provincial air effluent discharge limits. Currently, radioactive and non-radioactive effluents are all below regulatory requirements.

The safe handling, processing and storage of radioactive waste at the WWMF requires a combination of design features, procedures, policies and monitoring programs. Required programs focus on radiation protection, occupational health and safety, environmental protection and monitoring for individual areas, as well as the overall facility.

The low- and intermediate-level waste storage area of the WWMF typically receives about 600 cubic metres of radioactive waste per month. The actual amount can vary widely, depending on maintenance activities at the various nuclear generating stations. The waste is subsequently processed, when possible, and placed into the appropriate storage structure.

Two refurbishment waste storage buildings have been constructed within the developed part of the low- and intermediate-level waste storage area. These buildings store the waste that arises from the refurbishment of Bruce NGS-A Units 1 and 2. One of these building contains the re-tube components in specially designed concrete and steel boxes, and the other houses the steam generators. The construction schedule for the future refurbishment waste storage structures will be based on need and, therefore, on the refurbishment plans developed for the nuclear generating stations by the power reactor licensee.

In 2007, the WWMF (spent fuel dry storage area and the low- and intermediate-level waste storage area combined) released 1.34E+13 Bq of tritium, 4.7E+04 Bq particulate beta/gamma, 7.02E+04 Bq I-131 and 4.67E+09 Bq C-14 to air. These emissions constitute a total of 0.04 percent of the derived release limit. Releases to water were 8.08E+10 Bq tritium and 3.13E+07 Bq gross beta - a total of 0.0009 percent of the derived release limit.

Western Waste Management Facility

Figure 5.2 - Western Waste Management Facility

5.1.3 Radioactive Waste Operations Site 1

Radioactive Waste Operations Site 1 (RWOS 1) is owned and maintained by OPG at the BNPD site. The facility provides for the storage of low- and intermediate-level waste produced at the Douglas Point Nuclear Generating Station. Wastes are stored in reinforced concrete trenches, with concrete covers.

The facility, which has been operated in storage-with-surveillance mode since the mid-1970s, is closed to new wastes. OPG monitors and maintains the site and structures, and no new waste can be added without the prior written approval of the regulatory body.

5.1.4 Hydro-Québec Waste Management Facility

The Hydro-Québec Waste Management Facility consists of the used fuel dry storage area and the low-level radioactive waste management area (WMA). The low-level radioactive WMA provides for the safe storage of radioactive materials produced at the Gentilly-2 NGS. The low-level radioactive WMA consists of several types of reinforced concrete bunkers.

The Type A bunker is used for the storage of high-activity level radioactive waste such as filters. Type B is used for the storage of medium activity level radioactive waste, while Type C is used for the storage of low-activity level radioactive waste.

The low-level radioactive WMA receives approximately 25 cubic metres of radioactive waste per year. Samples of surface run-off from the radioactive WMA, collected and analyzed in 2007, have shown that the tritium concentrations varied between 280 Bq/L and 1,500 Bq/L. The average dose rate for 2007 at the radioactive WMA perimeter fence was 0.07 µSv/h.

In 2007, the CNSC approved Hydro-Québec's request to build additional waste management structures. The new Solid Radioactive Waste Management Facility (SRWMF) will be developed in four phases. This new facility will provide additional concrete bunkers to store low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste and filters. Construction of Phase 1 commenced in the spring of 2007, and is expected to become operational in summer 2008. The proposal to refurbish the reactor would, if carried through, require the construction of the remaining three phases of the SRWMF.

Two new types of concrete structures would be added to the SRWMF, if the refurbishment of the reactor were allowed to proceed. These structures are re-tube waste canisters (for the high-activity refurbishment waste) and used resin storage enclosures. The SRWMF continues to be under regulatory review. This project received a favourable CEA Act decision in December 2006.

Gentilly-2 Installations de gestions des déchets radioactifs solides (IGDRS) Waste Facility

Figure 5.3 - Gentilly-2 Installations de gestions des déchets radioactifs solides (IGDRS) Waste Facility

5.1.5 Point Lepreau Waste Management Facility

The Point Lepreau Solid Radioactive Waste Management Facility (SRWMF) includes a Phase I Area for the safe storage of radioactive materials produced at the Point Lepreau NGS, and a Phase II Area for the storage of spent fuel (described in Annex 4.5.10). Phase III was completed in 2007 to accommodate the reactor refurbishment waste.

The Phase I Area contains the following storage structures:

  • Vaults: These concrete structures are used to store the bulk of low-level wastes. Almost all the waste stored in the vaults is expected to decay to an insignificant level by the end of the design life of the structure. There are approximately 2,035 cubic metres of storage in the four vault structures. Each vault has four equal compartments.
  • Quadricell: The quadricell structures are designed to contain intermediate activity level waste, such as spent ion exchange resins and filters from reactor systems, and activated system components. Currently, there are approximately 144 cubic metres of quadricell storage, for a total of nine quadricells.
  • Filter: The filter storage structures are used for storing filters from heat transport purification, active drainage, gland seal supply, moderator purification, spent fuel bay and fuelling machine systems. These structures are contained within one of the vaults mentioned above.

The Phase I Area received approximately 1.9 cubic metres of radioactive waste per month in 2007.

Samples of surface run-off from the Phase I Area, collected and analyzed in 2007, have shown that tritium concentrations varied between 41 and 2,199 Bq/L. The average dose for the year at the Phase I Area perimeter fence was 907.5 µSv, which translates to an average dose rate of 0.10 µSv/h.

The Phase III Area contains the following storage structures:

  • Vaults: These concrete structures are used to store the bulk of low-level waste from the refurbishment of the reactor. There are approximately 890 cubic metres of storage in the two vault structures.
  • Retube Canisters: These concrete structures are used to store intermediate-level waste from the refurbishment of the PLGS reactor (primarily reactor components). There are approximately 165 cubic metres of storage in the five structures.

The average dose per year at the Phase III Area perimeter fence was 892.8 µSv, which translates into an average dose rate of 0.10 µSv/h. Note that, in 2007, this facility had no radioactive material stored in it, and the dose values represent the background dose rate.

Point Lepreau Re-tube Waste Canisters

Figure 5.4 - Point Lepreau Re-tube Waste Canisters

5.1.6 Radioactive waste management at decommissioned reactor sites

The Douglas Point, Gentilly-1 and NPD reactors are shutdown, partially decommissioned and in the storage-with-surveillance phase. As these facilities contain radioactive materials, including radioactive wastes from decommissioning activities, they are presently licensed as waste management facilities. The storage-with-surveillance phase is currently envisaged to be 30 years or longer. A major factor influencing the length of the phase is the availability of long-term waste management facilities. (Annex 7 provides further information on the decommissioning activities at each of these sites.) Douglas Point Waste Management Facility

The AECL Douglas Point Waste Management Facility (DPWMF) is located on the BNPD site in Kincardine, Ontario. The prototype CANDU power reactor was shut down permanently in 1984 after 17 years of operation. Decommissioning began in 1986, and the spent fuel bundles were transported to concrete canisters in late 1987.

Stored waste consists of activated corrosion products and fission products. The waste is stored in the reactor and service buildings. The sources of each waste type are as follows:

  • induced radioactivity in reactor components and the biological shield,
  • radioactive corrosion products and fission products deposited on the drained heat transport and moderator surfaces,
  • ion exchange resin from both the heat transport and moderator systems stored in underground tanks,
  • contaminated soil stored in the service building,
  • drums of contaminated steel from fuel storage trays, and
  • intermediate-level waste stored in the fuel transfer tunnel leading from the reactor building to the receiving bay.

In 2007, DPWMF released 1.10E+11 Bq of tritium from the HEPA-filtered ventilation system for the reactor building during 1,036 hours of operation. Total liquid tritium release was 4.83+E10 Bq from the facility and the total beta/gamma release was 1.3343E+08 Bq.

Douglas Point, NPD and Gentilly-1 Facilities

5.5 - Douglas Point, NPD and Gentilly-1 Facilities Gentilly-1 Waste Management Facility

The AECL Gentilly-1 Waste Management Facility (G1WMF) is situated within Hydro-Québec's Gentilly-2 Nuclear Generating Station boundary. The CANDU-BLW-250 Gentilly-1 Nuclear Power Station began operation in May 1972, and attained full power for two short periods during that same year. It was operated intermittently for a total of 183 effective full-power days until 1978, when it was determined that certain modification and considerable repairs would be required. Consequently, it was in a lay-up state from 1980 to 1984, when a decommissioning program was initiated to bring the Gentilly-1 station to a safe sustainable shutdown state that permitted storage - with-surveillance.

The G1WMF consists of specified areas within the turbine and service buildings, the whole reactor building, the resin storage area and the spent fuel storage canister room.

Stored waste consists of activated corrosion products and fission products. The sources of each waste type are as follows:

  • induced radioactivity in reactor components and the biological shield,
  • radioactive corrosion products and fission products deposited on the drained heat transport and moderator system surfaces,
  • contaminated soil,
  • ion exchange resin from the heat transport and moderator systems, and
  • containers of dry low-level contaminated equipment and material that resulted from operation and earlier decommissioning activities.

There are no airborne releases from the G1WMF. In 2007, 7.4321E+04 Bq of activity beta/gamma were released from the facility liquid sump to the Hydro-Québec Power Reactor Active Liquid Discharge System. Nuclear Power Demonstration Waste Management Facility

Located in Rolphton, Ontario, the AECL Nuclear Power Demonstration Waste Management Facility (NPDWMF) contains the decommissioned NPD Nuclear Generating Station. The station operated from 1962 until 1987, when Ontario Hydro (now OPG), with assistance from AECL, decommissioned it to a static state interim storage condition. After the static state was achieved, Ontario Hydro turned over control of the NPDWMF to AECL in September of 1988. Since then, various non-nuclear ancillary facilities, such as the administration wing, training centre, pump house and two large warehouses, were demolished and the refuse was removed from the site for reuse, recycling or waste. The fuel bundles were transferred to the CRL waste management area.

The NPDWMF is divided into nuclear and non-nuclear areas. Stored waste consists of induced radioactive, activated corrosion products and some fission products. The confined residual radioactivity in NPD after removal of the irradiated fuel and heavy water consists of:

  • induced radioactivity in the reactor components and biological shield (i.e., the concrete walls surrounding the reactor),
  • radioactive corrosion products in the drained heat transports and moderator systems, and
  • small amounts of radioactivity in auxiliary systems, components and materials stored in the nuclear area of the facility.

In 2007, the airborne emissions were 6.91E + 10 Bq for tritium and 2.60E + 04Bq for gross beta, while liquid effluent releases were 1.27E + 11Bq for tritium and 2.73E + 06Bq for gross beta.

5.1.7 AECL Nuclear Research and Test Establishment Facilities

AECL currently has two research facilities in Canada - one at the AECL CRL in Ontario, which is operational, and the other at the AECL WL in Manitoba, which is currently undergoing decommissioning. (Annex 7 provides further information on decommissioning activities.) The radioactive wastes produced at these two sites are stored in waste management facilities at each site. Chalk River Laboratories

The Chalk River Laboratories (CRL) site is located in Renfrew County, Ontario on the shore of the Ottawa River, 160 kilometres northwest of Ottawa. The site, which has a total area of about 4,000 hectares, is situated within the boundaries of the Corporation of the Town of Deep River. The Ottawa River, which flows northwest to southeast, forms the northeasterly boundary of the site, the Petawawa Military Reserve abuts the CRL property to the southeast, and the Village of Chalk River, in the Municipality of Laurentian Hills, lies immediately to the southwest of the site.

The CRL site was established in the mid-1940s, and has a history of various nuclear operations and facilities, primarily related to research. Most of the nuclear and associated support facilities and buildings on the site are located within a relatively small industrial plant site area, adjacent to the Ottawa River near the southeast end of the property. Various waste management areas for radioactive and non-radioactive wastes are located within the CRL property, along the southwest to northeast corridor. The CRL WMAs provides some fee-based waste management for institutions such as universities, hospitals and industrial users, which have no other means to manage their wastes.

The CRL WMAs manage eight types of waste:

  • CRL nuclear reactor operation wastes, which include fuel and reactor components, reactor fluid clean-up materials (e.g., resins and filters), trash and other materials, contaminated with radioactivity as a result of routine operations.
  • CRL fuel fabrication facility wastes, which include zirconium dioxide and graphite crucibles used to cast billets, filters, and other trash such as gloves, coveralls and wipes.
  • CRL isotope production wastes, which include general radioactive wastes, contaminated primarily with cobalt-60 and molybdenum-99.
  • CRL isotope usage wastes, which include general radioactive wastes contaminated primarily with cobalt-60 and molybdenum-99.
  • CRL hot cell operations wastes, which include cleaning materials, contaminated air filters, contaminated equipment and discarded irradiated samples.
  • CRL decontamination and decommissioning wastes, which include a variety of contaminated wastes with variable physical and chemical properties, as well as radiological properties.
  • CRL remediation wastes, which include solidified waste arising from the treatment of contaminated soil and groundwater.
  • CRL and off-site miscellaneous wastes, which include radioactive wastes that do not readily fall within the other classes of wastes described above. For example, wastes from radioisotope laboratories and workshops, and other materials such as contaminated soil, are in this category.

Liquid wastes, such as scintillation cocktails, radiological contaminated lubricating oils and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-contaminated waste and isotope production wastes are also handled by the CRL waste management operations. Approximately 15 to 20 cubic metres of these types of waste are received into the WMAs per year - including wastes received from off-site waste generators - and are disposed of using commercial disposal services.

In addition, active aqueous wastes generated at the CRL site are treated at the Waste Treatment Centre (WTC). After treatment through a liquid waste evaporator, the treated effluent is released to the process sewer, which eventually discharges to the Ottawa River. Waste Management Area A

The first emplacement of radioactive waste at the CRL site took place in 1946, into what is now referred to as waste management area (WMA) A. These emplacements took the form of direct disposal of solids and liquids into excavated sand trenches. The scale of operations was modest and unrecorded until 1952, when the cleanup from the NRX accident generated large quantities of radioactive waste (which included the NRX Calandria) that had to be managed quickly and safely. At this time, approximately 4,500 cubic metres of aqueous waste, containing 330 TBq (9,000 Ci) of mixed fission products, was poured into excavated trenches. This action was followed by smaller dispersals (6.3 TBq and 34 TBq of mixed fission products) in 1954 and 1955, respectively. The active liquid disposal tank received bottled liquids and, based on recorded observations, it is assumed the bottles were intentionally broken at the time of emplacement. The active liquid disposal tank was estimated to have received about 3.7 x 1013 Bq of Sr-90 and about 100 grams of plutonium. Waste is no longer accepted for emplacement in WMA A.

WMA A is on the western flank of a sand ridge. Three aquifers have been identified in the vicinity of WMA A: a lower sand, middle sand and upper sand. Groundwater flow is initially to the south. As the aquifer sands thicken, the flow direction bends to the south-southeast. The wastes are believed to be above the water table in WMA A, but infiltration has transported contaminants into the groundwater, which creates a contaminated plume with an area extent of 38,000 m2. Groundwater monitoring data collected to date have encountered total beta, gross alpha and strontium-90 (Sr-90) in some of the sample wells. The groundwater plume is subject to periodic investigations to monitor migration of the plume and identify any deviations from expected conditions. Routine groundwater monitoring around the perimeter of WMA A (i.e., near the source of the plume) indicates stable or improving conditions, in that the contamination levels in the groundwater around the perimeter are generally either remaining at similar concentrations or gradually declining with time. Waste Management Area B

Waste management area B was established in 1953 to succeed WMA A as the site for solid waste management. The site is located on a sand-covered upland, approximately 750 metres west of WMA A. Early waste storage practices for LLW were the same as those used in WMA A - namely, emplacement in unlined trenches and capped with sandy fill, in what is now the northern portion of the site. Additionally, numerous special burials of components and materials, such as the NRX calandria, occurred.

Asphalt-lined and capped trenches were used for solid ILW from 1955 to 1959, when they were superseded by concrete bunkers constructed below grade but above the water table in the site's sand. The use of sand trenches in WMA B for LLRW was discontinued in 1963 in favour of concrete bunkers and WMA C.

Concrete structures were used to store solid waste packages that did not meet sand trench acceptance criteria, but did not require a significant amount of shielding either. Early concrete bunkers were rectangular in shape. These were superseded in 1977 by cylindrical structures, which are still used.

Cylindrical bunkers are formed by using removable forms with corrugated reinforced concrete walls on a concrete pad. The maximum volume of a cylindrical concrete bunker is 110 cubic metres, but typical volumes of stored waste average about 60 cubic metres.

HLW are also stored in WMA B, in engineered facilities known as tile holes. Tile holes are used to store radioactive material that requires more shielding than can be provided in concrete bunkers. Stored materials include irradiated fuel, hot cell waste, experimental fuel bundles, unusable radioisotopes, spent resin columns, active exhaust system filters and fission product waste from the molybdenum-99 production process.

There are several groundwater contaminant plumes extending from WMA B. One plume, on the east side, contains organic compounds (e.g., 1,1,1-trichloroethane, chloroform, trichloroethylene) that emanate from the unlined sand trenches at the north end of the site. Referred to as the solvent plume, this plume is subject to periodic investigations to monitor contaminant migration and identify any deviations from expected conditions. Routine groundwater monitoring around the northeast perimeter of WMA B (i.e., near the source of the plume) indicates stable conditions, in that the contamination levels in the ground waters at the perimeter remain at similar concentrations over time.

The second plume emanates from the northwest corner of the WMA, and is dominated by strontium-90. The source of this plume is the western section of the unlined sand trenches. Routine groundwater monitoring around the northwest perimeter of WMA B (i.e., near the source of the plume) indicates improving conditions, in that the contamination levels in the groundwater at the perimeter decrease over time. The effects of this contaminant migration are mitigated by a plume treatment system known as the Spring B Treatment Plant. This automated treatment facility removes strontium-90 from surface water and groundwater, where the plume flow path discharges to the biosphere in a series of springs. This treatment system removes a significant fraction of the strontium-90 activity in the influent. In 2007, the Spring B Treatment Plant treated 2.4 million litres of groundwater, removing 2.9 GBq of strontium and reducing input concentrations from 1,232 Bq/L (avg.) to 4.1 Bq/L (avg.).

Tritium is another contaminant observed in the groundwater at WMA B. Routine groundwater monitoring around the WMA indicates that the tritium contamination levels remain stable over time. A number of different types of waste storage structures within WMA B are considered the source of this contamination.

 Waste Management Area B at the CRL

Figure 5.7 - Waste Management Area B at the CRL Waste Management Area C

Waste management area C was established in 1963 to receive low-level wastes with hazardous lifetimes less than 150 years, and wastes that could not be confirmed to be uncontaminated. Early operations consisted of emplacements in parallel trenches separated by intervening wedge-shaped stripes of undisturbed sand. In 1982, this system was changed to a Continuous Trench method to make more efficient use of the available space. In 1983, part of the original parallel trenches was covered with an impermeable membrane of high-density polyethylene.

The WMA C extension was constructed adjacent to the south end of WMA C in 1993, and began accepting wastes in 1995. As the continuous trench and/or its extension is backfilled and landscaped, material from the suspect soil stockpile was used for grading purposes to ensure that the surface of WMA C is suitable for travel by heavy equipment. Material placed in the soil stockpile satisfied specific acceptance criteria.

Besides the sand trench waste, inactive acid, solvent and organic liquid waste were also placed in specific sections of the trenches or in special pits located along the western edge of the area - although this practice is no longer followed. Contaminated sewage sludge was also emplaced in the sand trenches until late 2004.

Additions to WMA C waste inventory, including sewage sludge, is now restricted to interim aboveground storage of sealed containers. A new bulk material landfill for sewage sludge is being designed and will be located near WMA C. Detailed work plans to remove readily available materials stored on the surface are in preparation.

Groundwater monitoring data at WMA C indicates that a plume is emanating from this area. The primary contaminant is tritium, although organic compounds are also observed at elevated concentrations in some boreholes. Routine groundwater monitoring around the WMA indicates that the tritium contamination levels remain stable over time. Waste Management Area D

WMA D was established in 1976 to store obsolete or surplus equipment and components that are known or suspected to be contaminated but do not require enclosure (pipes, vessels, heat exchangers, etc.). It also stores closed marine containers holding drums of contaminated oils and liquid scintillation cocktails. These latter items pose more of a short-term chemical hazard than a radiological hazard.

Mixed and hazardous wastes are now routinely disposed of using commercial disposal facilities designed for this purpose. The site consists of a fenced compound, which encloses a gravel-surfaced area in which the components are placed. If the components have surface contamination, they must be packaged appropriately for the package to be free of surface contamination. The LLRWMO maintains two buildings for the storage of slightly contaminated material from non-AECL sites. All storage in WMA D is above ground. No burials are authorized in this area. Waste Management Area E

WMA E is an area that received suspect and slightly contaminated soils and building materials, and other bulk soils and building debris from approximately 1977 to 1984. The waste materials were used to construct a roadway to a site intended to become a waste management area for suspect contaminated materials. This site was to be used in place of WMA C for this type of waste. The plan for the creation of this site was terminated, however, when concerns were raised about the location. Waste Management Area F

A new area was established in 1976 to accommodate contaminated soils and slags from Port Hope, Albion Hills and Ottawa - all located in Ontario. This site was designated WMA F. The stored materials are known to contain low levels of radium-226, uranium and arsenic. Emplacement was completed in 1979, and the site is now considered closed, although it is subject to monitoring and surveillance to assess possible migration of radioactive and chemical contaminants. Waste Management Area G

WMA G was established in 1988 to store the entire inventory of irradiated fuel from the NPD prototype CANDU power reactor in aboveground concrete canisters. Two additional concrete canisters were constructed on the existing concrete support pad to store calcined waste, which will be created by the processing of radioisotopes separated in the new processing facility at CRL. Their final purpose, however, may be changed after the recent cancellation of the dedicated isotope facility. Waste Management Area H

WMA H began operating in 2002, and is the location for the modular aboveground storage (MAGS) structures and the shielded aboveground storage (SMAGS) structures. Dry low-level wastes are packaged and, in some instances, compacted in steel containers prior to storage in MAGS and, on depletion of MAGS, in SMAGS. The first of six SMAGS structures have been completed, and a licence amendment has been issued by the CNSC to allow operation. An additional five SMAGS structures will be built at intervals of three to four years. These structures will provide storage capacity for the next 20 to 30 years.

MAGS Structure in Waste Management Area H

Figure 5.8 - MAGS Structure in Waste Management Area H Liquid Dispersal Area

Development of the liquid dispersal area commenced in 1953 when the first of several infiltration pits was established to receive active liquids via pipeline from the NRX rod bays. The pits are located on a small dune in an area bounded on the east and south by wetlands, and by WMA A to the west.

Reactor Pit #1 was a natural closed depression used between 1953 and 1956 for radioactive aqueous solutions. Dispersals included an estimated 74 TBq of strontium-90, along with a wide variety of other fission products, and approximately 100 grams of plutonium (or other alpha emitters expressed as plutonium). Between 1956 and 1998, the pit was backfilled with solid materials that included contaminated equipment and vehicles previously stored in WMA A, plus potentially contaminated soils from excavations in the active area.

Reactor Pit #2 was established in 1956 to succeed Reactor Pit #1. A pipeline was used for transfers of NRX rod bay water. Samples of water from the holding tank were analyzed for soluble and total alpha, soluble and total beta particles, strontium-90, tritium, cesium-137 and uranium.

The chemical pit was also established in 1956 to receive radioactive aqueous wastes from active laboratories on-site (other than the reactors). Its construction is similar to that of Reactor Pit #2 - namely, an excavation backfilled with gravel and supplied by a pipeline.

The last facility in the liquid dispersal area is the Laundry Pit, which was installed in 1956. As its name implies, the Laundry Pit was used for wastewater from the active area laundry and the decontamination centre but was only employed for that purpose for a year. The recorded inventory is 100 GBq of mixed fission products and 0.1 g plutonium-239.

The liquid dispersal area has not been used since 2000, and there are no plans for future use of this area. There are two groundwater plumes emanating from the liquid dispersal area, as would be expected for dispersal facilities. One plume from the reactor pits contains tritium as the only nuclide released in significant quantities. Routine groundwater monitoring around the reactor pits shows that the tritium contamination levels have significantly reduced since dispersal operations were halted. This groundwater monitoring shows the presence of other radiological contaminants but at low concentrations that are declining over time.

The second plume emanates from the chemical pit, with the contaminant of primary concern being strontium-90. Routine groundwater monitoring around the chemical pit indicates improving conditions - in that the contamination levels in the groundwater is decreasing. The effects of this contaminant migration are mitigated by a plume treatment system known as the chemical pit treatment plant. This pump and treat treatment facility removes strontium-90 from groundwater collected from four collection wells that are spaced across the width of the plume near the pit. This treatment system removes a significant fraction of the strontium-90 activity in the influent. In 2007, the chemical pit treatment plant treated 3.1 million litres of groundwater, removing 2.5 GBq of strontium-90 and reducing input concentrations from 792 Bq/L (avg.) to 5.9 Bq/L (avg.). Acid, Chemical and Solvent Pits

A series of three small pits are located north of WMA C, and are collectively known as the acid, chemical and solvent pits. Constructed in 1982 and in operation until 1987, the pits were individually used for inactive chemical, acid and solvent wastes. The acid pit received about 11,000 litres of liquid wastes (hydrochloric, sulphuric and nitric acids) and a small amount of solid wastes (potassium carbonate powder, acid batteries and citric acid). The solvent pit received approximately 5,000 litres of mixed solvents, oils, varsol and acetone, while the chemical ACS pit received smaller volumes of wastes. Waste Tank Farm

The Waste Tank Farm contains seven underground stainless steel tanks that store high-level radioactive waste. The first series of three tanks contain rod storage ion exchange regeneration solutions. One of the three tanks is empty and provides a transfer destination for the contents of either of the other two tanks should they develop a leak.

The second series of four tanks contains acid concentrate, mainly resulting from fuel reprocessing between 1949 and 1956. The last transfer of solutions to any of the storage tanks at the waste tank farm occurred in 1968; no additions have taken place since then. One of the four tanks is empty, and serves as a backup in the event that one of the other tanks leaks. Ammonium Nitrate Decomposition Plant

The ammonium nitrate plant was built in 1953, and was used to decompose the ammonium nitrate in liquid wastes from the fuel processing plant. The plant was shut down in 1954 following several leak events (releases) and was subsequently dismantled with much of the equipment being buried in situ.

As would be expected for this type of facility, a contaminant plume emanates from the nitrate plant compound, with the contaminant of primary concern being strontium-90. Routine groundwater monitoring at the perimeter of the compound indicates stable conditions - in that contamination levels in the groundwater remain stable over time.

The effects of this contaminant migration are mitigated by a plume treatment system, known as the wall and curtain treatment system, which operates passively using a clinoptilite zone installed in the ground next to an impermeable barrier that extends across the plume flowpath. This passive treatment system removes a significant fraction of the strontium-90 activity in the influent. In 2007, the system treated 14.6 million litres of groundwater, preventing the discharge of 5.4 GBq of strontium-90 and reducing input concentrations from 366 Bq/L (avg.) to 1.2 Bq/L (avg.). Since 1998, the treatment system has prevented the discharge of 4.1E+10 Bq of Sr-90. Thorium Nitrate Pit

In 1955, about 20 cubic metres of liquid waste from a uranium-233 extraction plant on the CRL site was discharged into a pit. The solution contained 200 kilograms of thorium nitrate, 4,600 kilograms of ammonium nitrate, 10 grams of uranium-233, and 1.85 E+11 Bq each of strontium-90, cesium-137 and cerium-144. The pit was filled with lime to neutralize the acid and precipitate the thorium, and was then covered with soil. Glass Block Experiments

In 1958, a set of 25 hemispheres of glass (two kilograms each) of mixed fission products was buried below the water table as part of a program to investigate methods for converting high-level radioactive liquid solutions into a solid. A second set of 25 blocks of aged fission products was buried in 1960. The burials were designed to test how well the glassified wastes would retain the incorporated fission products if exposed to leaching in a natural groundwater environment. The glass blocks have now been recovered and transferred to secure storage in the waste management areas. Bulk Storage Area

The bulk storage area was used prior to 1973 to store large pieces of equipment from the control area. Significant clean up efforts are now underway in this area. The operation of the CRL WMAs results in the release of radioactive and non-radioactive contaminants into the environment. Most of the existing releases are historical in nature. They result from discontinued practices such as dispersal of intermediate-level liquid waste and sand trench disposal of intermediate solid and liquid wastes. The releases have contaminated on site land, groundwater and surface water, and also resulted in off-site releases of contaminants to the Ottawa River.

The contaminant concentrations in off-site water bodies, however, are well below the standards set for both drinking water and the protection of aquatic life. DRLs have been established for airborne and liquid effluents released from the CRL site. CRL has developed administrative levels set at a fraction of the DRL and close to the normal operating levels. These administrative levels are used to provide timely warning that a higher than expected release has occurred and that the situation will be investigated promptly. CRL Waste Treatment Centre (WTC)

The waste treatment centre (WTC) treats solid and liquid wastes from Chalk River Laboratories facilities, which are contaminated or suspected of being contaminated by radioactivity. The WTC also treats radioactive waste received by CRL from off site waste generators.

Solid wastes are baled (after compacting, if possible) and transferred for storage in concrete bunkers in WMA B. The number of 0.4 cubic metres bales produced per year ranges from 200 and 300. The solid waste generated internally by the WTC is in addition to those quantities, and includes disposable clothing, paper and cleaning materials, which are compacted where possible, baled and stored in WMA B bunkers. Slightly contaminated and suspected wastes of WTC waste are also sent for storage in WMA H.

Liquid waste is treated in variable amounts per year, ranging from 2,000 and 6,000 cubic metres. These wastes consist of decontamination centre waste, chemical active drain system waste, reactor active drains waste and new processing facility/MAPLE reactor waste. Treatment facilities include a liquid waste evaporator (LWE), which concentrates the waste, and a liquid waste immobilization system, which immobilizes the concentrate in bitumen, later drummed and stored in WMA B.

Atmospheric releases of radionuclides from the WTC occur via roof vents. Monitoring of the roof vents includes particulate gross alpha activity, particulate gross beta activity, tritium oxide and I-131. Treated liquid effluent from the WTC is discharged to the process sewer after sampling for gross alpha, gross beta and tritium oxide. The liquid effluent is also regularly monitored for suspended solids, total phosphorus, nitrates, pH, conductivity, organic carbon, chemical oxygen demand, solvent extractable, metals, volatile organics and semi-volatiles. Whiteshell Laboratories

The Whiteshell Laboratories facility is a nuclear research and test establishment located in Manitoba on the east bank of the Winnipeg River, about 100 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. Comprised a number of nuclear and non-nuclear facilities and activities, the major facilities on-site include the Whiteshell Reactor-1 (WR-1), the shielded facilities, research laboratories, liquid and solid radioactive waste management areas and facilities, including the concrete canister storage complex for the dry storage of research reactor fuel. WL is currently undergoing decommissioning. (Annex 7.1 provides further information on these decommissioning activities.)

The one Waste Management Area (WMA) is located approximately 1.5 kilometres northeast of the main WL site (2.7 kilometres by road). The area is approximately 148 by 312 metres, representing 4.6 hectares. WMA, which has been in operation since 1963, provides storage for low- and intermediate- level radioactive wastes. The following facilities are located within the WMA:

  • an organic incinerator,
  • LLW storage bunkers,
  • LLW unlined earth trenches,
  • ILW in-ground concrete bunkers,
  • ILW storage bunkers,
  • HLW/ILW in-ground concrete standpipes, and
  • liquid waste storage tanks.

The Concrete Canister Storage Facility, described in Annex 4.5.14, is located next to the WMA.

The WL site is near the northeast boundary of the plains area of Manitoba. The WMA site is located about 10 metres above the normal Winnipeg River level, and is well above any recorded flood levels (river levels are also controlled by nearby hydroelectric dams.) The Winnipeg River flows through an area underlain by granite and granitic gneisses of the Precambrian Shield. The area is the transitional zone between the coniferous forest of the Canadian Shield and the aspen parklands of the prairies.

The WMA soil cover consists of 5.5 metres of highly plastic medium-brown clays above 4.6 metres of light-brown medium-plastic clay. The upper clay exhibits pronounced volume changes depending on moisture content, and is susceptible to frost heave. Both clays are very impermeable. A stable glacial till deposit underlies the entire area at a depth of approximately 10.5 metres. The glacial till is compact and has a high bearing strength. The granitic Lac du Bonnet batholith lies below the till at a depth of approximately 12 metres.

Hydrologically, the WMA is located in a groundwater discharge zone, which means that the groundwater flow is predominantly upward from the underground aquifer to the surface. The depth of WMA excavations is limited to ensure that the impermeable clay layers are not penetrated.

The incineration facility is used to incinerate waste laboratory solvents, and was formerly used to incinerate the organic coolant waste arising from the operation, shutdown and clean-up of the WR-1 reactor.

From 1963 to 1985, LLW was buried in unlined trenches approximately 6 metres wide by 4 metres deep, and with lengths up to 60 metres. Trenches were covered with at least 1.5 metres of excavated material after they were filled. There are 25 filled trenches located in the WMA. Trench storage of LLW was discontinued in 1985 in favour of engineered aboveground LLW storage bunkers. The LLW bunkers are constructed of concrete, with overall dimensions of 26.4 metres long by 6.6 metres wide by 5.2 metres high, with a wall thickness of 0.3 metres, which comes to a total of 805 cubic metres of storage space each. Future WMA plans are to construct shielded, modular above-ground storage (SMAGS) structures (discussed in section for the storage of future decommissioning LLW wastes.

In-ground, or partially in-ground, bunkers are used to store ILW wastes. Possessing a variety of dimensions, these bunkers are constructed of reinforced concrete, with a wall thickness of 0.25 metres. In-ground, concrete standpipes (similar to the CRL tile holes described in section were used at WL from 1963 to the mid-1970s (when the use of aboveground concrete canisters commenced) to provide storage for HLW/ILW packages. The standpipes are constructed of reinforced concrete, 0.2 metres thick, with a 0.3-metre integral base lined with galvanized steel pipes. A removable concrete shielding plug, about 0.9 metres thick, provides access.

5.1.8 Monserco Limited

Monserco Limited, in operation since 1978, operates a radioactive waste processing facility in Brampton, Ontario. In this facility, radioactive wastes (typically from hospitals, universities, research institutes and industrial firms) are sorted and packaged. Wastes may be processed on site by minimization techniques, and by delay and decay. Monserco also ships low-level contaminated waste, or slightly contaminated metals, directly to the United States for incineration or recycling. Monserco shipped approximately 66,000 kilograms of low-level radioactive waste and metals to the United States in the last year.

The company in the United States may return the material to Monserco unchanged if the company decides it cannot be processed. The resultant ash from incineration is accepted for disposal to licensed facilities within the United States. Levels of radionuclides monitored from the exhaust stack have always been less than specified investigation levels.

The service also includes the handling of spent sealed sources and used liquid scintillation vials and cocktails. Sealed sources and depleted uranium are shipped to AECL's CRL radioactive waste facility for management. Monserco also operates a radioactive waste and source pickup service in Montreal, Québec. These wastes and sources are transported to the Brampton facility for processing and shipment.

5.1.9 Cameco Blind River Refinery/Port Hope Conversion Facility/Port Hope Fuel Fabrication Facility Waste and By-Product Management

Conserving resources and recycling of waste materials is an important part of operations - for both environmental and economic reasons. At the Cameco Blind River Refinery, nitrogen oxide air emissions are recovered and converted to nitric acid for reuse. At the Port Hope Conversion Facility, ongoing recycling programs include in-plant recovery of hydrofluoric acid from air emissions for recycle, and the creation and sale of an ammonium nitrate byproduct for use as commercial fertilizer. At the Port Hope Fuel Fabrication Facility, scrap generated from fuel pellet manufacture is recovered.

There are several process streams in the refining and conversion processes that result in materials that contain economically attractive quantities of natural uranium. These recyclable products are suitable for use as alternate feed for uranium mills and are sent on for further processing to recover their uranium content.

The Blind River and Port Hope waste management programs collect, clean, monitor and, if necessary, cut to acceptable sizes all scrap material to the extent practicable before releasing it to commercial recycling agencies. Material that cannot be recycled, or does not meet strict release guidelines, is either compacted or incinerated to reduce volume, then drummed for storage on-site or, in some instances, processed further and combined with the uranium-bearing recyclable products noted above. The stored non-recyclable material that cannot be cleaned is primarily insulation, sand, soil and some scrap metal. These materials will remain in storage until a future recycle or disposal routes are identified.

Cameco is the licensee for two large historic waste management facilities in the Port Hope area: the Welcome Waste Management Facility in the Municipality of Port Hope and the Port Granby Waste Management Facility in the Municipality of Clarington. These facilities, which were established in 1948 and 1955 respectively, together contain roughly 1,000,000 cubic metres of low-level radioactive waste and contaminated soils. Both facilities have been closed to any additional waste emplacements for many years, pre-dating the formation of Cameco. The long-term management of these facilities will be addressed through the Port Hope Area Initiative. In addition, the Government of Canada has agreed to accommodate 150,000 cubic metres of wastes from the Cameco Port Hope Conversion Facility, arising from early operations of that site, also within the framework of the Port Hope Area Initiative. These wastes include drummed radioactive wastes, contaminated soils and decommissioning wastes.

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