Regulatory action – Cameco

Under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act ( NSCA) and associated regulations, various levels of regulatory action can be taken by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to protect the health, safety and security of Canadians and the environment.

2015

March 17, 2015

CNSC request for action to Cameco

On March 17, 2015, the CNSC announced it had issued a request for action, pursuant to subsection 12(2) of the General Nuclear Safety and Control Regulations, to Cameco and AREVA. Both companies hold CNSC licences to operate uranium mills.

The request was issued after Cameco reported two events at its Key Lake uranium mill involving the unplanned release of calcined yellowcake (uranium dust) into the work environment.

In both events, workers were exposed to calcined uranium product resulting in weekly action level exceedances. The resulting exposures for both events were well below regulatory limits. While CNSC staff are satisfied with the immediate actions taken by Cameco, the CNSC is concerned by the similarities between the events and wants to ensure that such events are effectively prevented or mitigated through a lessons-learned approach at all operating uranium mills.

2014

CNSC request for information to Cameco, Port Hope Conversion Facility

On January 31st, 2014, the CNSC sent a request for information, under subsection 12(2) of the General Nuclear Safety and Control Regulations, to Cameco regarding an incident that occurred at the Port Hope uranium conversion facility on January 28th, 2014.

CNSC staff received notification from Cameco on January 29th, 2014, about an incident which required Cameco to perform a manual shutdown to a critical process for uranium hexafluoride (UF6) conversion. This manual shutdown was necessary due to a potentially unsafe valve configuration required to maintain a safe working condition within the facility.

The CNSC’s onsite inspections and investigation of this incident verified that Cameco had implemented adequate interim actions to prevent a similar event. On February 10th, 2014, the CNSC permitted Cameco to restart the facility.

The CNSC confirms that employees were not exposed and there was no release to the environment during this incident.

However, this incident is being considered as a loss of control within the facility, with the potential to create unsafe conditions. The CNSC has requested that Cameco conduct a root cause analysis of how this incident occurred and identify any additional corrective actions to ensure the safety of the facility is maintained to protect the health, safety and security of workers, the public and the environment.

2012

October 29, 2012

CNSC closes order to Cameco, Blind River refinery

On October 17, Cameco submitted a work plan to address safety concerns associated with depressurizing drums containing yellowcake received from Uranium One Inc. (Willow Creek Facility) in the United States. This plan has been reviewed by CNSC staff and has been deemed acceptable. Accordingly, the order has now been closed.

The basis of the order was to protect workers' health and safety and the environment.

September 18, 2012

Order to Cameco, Blind River refinery

On September 13, a CNSC inspector was at the Cameco Blind River refinery (BRR) to conduct a planned inspection of the facility as part of CNSC's routine compliance verification program.

The CNSC inspected the area where an incident occurred on June 23, 2012 concerning an indoor spill of uranium concentrate powder (yellow cake) that resulted from opening a pressurized drum containing yellow cake. The drum originated from Uranium One Inc. (Willow Creek Facility) in the United States. Interim corrective actions were also verified to prevent re-occurrence of such an event from happening with other yellow cake drums at BRR.

After the inspection, an order under section 35 of the NSCA was issued to Cameco BRR.

The order stipulates that Cameco shall not open any uranium concentrate drums received from Uranium One Inc. (Willow Creek Facility) until a safe work plan to depressurize the drums has been developed by Cameco and that the plan has been reviewed and deemed safe by a qualified third party, and is satisfactory to the CNSC staff.

The basis of the order was to protect workers' health and safety and the environment.

August 24, 2012

Cameco's final investigation report (PDF) concerning the uranium contamination event at the Blind River refinery on June 23, 2012.

July 12, 2012

CNSC request for information to Cameco

The CNSC is requesting all Canadian uranium mills review their operations and take a number of actions to minimize any potential for increased risks posed by the unintentional pressurization of a drum containing yellowcake, as result of a uranium contamination event at the Blind River Refinery on June 23, 2012. On July 12, 2012, the CNSC announced that a request for information had been issued, under subsection 12(2) of the General Nuclear Safety and Control Regulations, to Cameco Corporation's uranium milling operations. 

Related links

July 6, 2012

CNSC request for information to Cameco

On July 6, 2012, the CNSC announced that a request for information (PDF) had been issued under subsection 12(2) of the General Nuclear Safety and Control Regulations to Cameco regarding a uranium contamination event at the Blind River refinery on June 23, 2012.

CNSC staff received a written notification from Cameco on June 25, 2012 about an incident of an indoor spill of uranium concentrate powder, commonly called yellowcake, which resulted in three workers being exposed to the uranium. Recognizing the health and safety significance of this contamination event to workers at the Blind River refinery, CNSC staff request Cameco to submit the following information:

  • Cameco's analysis of the adequacy of its current practices of workers' protection from exposures to airborne uranium at the feed sampling and preparation circuit at the Blind River refinery
  • Cameco's analysis of the lessons learned from the medical aid and emergency response procedures followed for this incident
  • Cameco's confirmation that appropriate interim corrective measures(for example: mandatory use of respirators, and suspending processing of yellowcake received from Uranium One) for workers' protection are now in place and will remain in place until permanent measures are implemented to prevent recurrence of this event
  • In consulting with the Uranium One's Willow Creek facility, the root cause(s) found for the unexpected pressure generated inside the yellowcake drums, along with any corrections action(s) taken to prevent recurrence of this event

July 16, 2012: Response from Cameco (PDF)

The CNSC is in contact with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on this matter as the yellowcake drum originated in the U.S.

Related link

2008

October 2008

Requests for information to Cameco

In October 2008, CNSC staff sent two requests for information to Cameco asking them to provide the CNSC with a characterization of the current effluent discharge and a review of its effluent treatment and pipeline design for the Welcome Waste and Port Granby waste management facilities. In addition, CNSC called for a detailed evaluation of the level of risk to human health and the environment.