Independent Environmental Monitoring Program - Blind River Refinery

Publication date: March 13th, 2018

Cameco Corporation is licensed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to operate the Blind River Refinery (BRR), located in Blind River, ON. The facility refines uranium concentrates (yellowcake) from uranium mines around the world, including northern Saskatchewan, to produce uranium trioxide (UO3), an intermediate product of the nuclear fuel cycle. The UO3 is then shipped to Cameco’s Port Hope Conversion Facility for further processing. Cameco maintains a comprehensive environmental protection program to monitor and control uranium and other hazardous substances released from the BRR, determine concentrations in the environment, and assess exposure to the public.

The Independent Environmental Monitoring Program (IEMP) results for 2017, 2014 and 2013 confirm that the public and the environment in the vicinity of BRR site are protected and that there are no expected health or environmental impacts.

Legend

[ ] Guideline/Reference Level

Blind River Refinery

Sample Type Sample Description Parameter 2017 Result 2014 Result 2013 Result Guideline/
Reference Level
Expected Health Impact (Yes/No) Background Sample Code
Soil 0 - 5 cm Uranium 1.46 mg/kg 23 mg/kg No N/A BR27-S10
Water Surface Uranium 0.19 µg/L 15 µg/L No N/A BR27-W10
Water Surface Nitrate 0.22 mg/L 13 mg/L No N/A BR27-W10
Water Surface pH 7.2 6.5-9.0 No N/A BR27-W10
Water Surface Uranium 0.19 µg/L 15 µg/L No N/A BR18-W05
Water Surface Nitrate 0.23 mg/L 13 mg/L No N/A BR18-W05
Water Surface pH 7.2 6.5-9.0 No N/A BR18-W05
Soil 0 - 5 cm Uranium 1.37 mg/kg 23 mg/kg No N/A BR18-S08
Air Uranium <0.001 mg/m3 0.03 µg/m3 No N/A BR18-A03
Water Surface Uranium 0.19 µg/L 15 µg/L No N/A BR01-W01
Water Surface Nitrate 0.22 mg/L 13 mg/L No N/A BR01-W01
Water Surface pH 7.2 6.5-9.0 No N/A BR01-W01
Water Surface Uranium 0.26 µg/L 0.25 µg/L 15 µg/L No N/A BR01-W01
Water Surface Nitrate 0.23 mg/L 1.49 mg/L 13 mg/L No N/A BR01-W01
Water Surface pH 7.33 7.14 6.5-9.0 No N/A BR01-W01
Water Surface Uranium 0.25 µg/L 0.25 µg/L 15 µg/L No N/A BR02-W02
Water Surface Nitrate 1.45 mg/L 0.75 mg/L 13 mg/L No N/A BR02-W02
Water Surface pH 7.02 7.13 6.5-9.0 No N/A BR02-W02
Water Surface Uranium 0.18 µg/L 15 µg/L No N/A BR02-W02
Water Surface Nitrate 0.22 mg/L 13 mg/L No N/A BR02-W02
Water Surface pH 7.1 6.5-9.0 No N/A BR02-W02
Air Uranium <0.001 mg/m3 0.03 µg/m3 No N/A BR29-A04
Soil 0 - 5 cm Uranium 2.38 mg/kg 23 mg/kg No N/A BR03-S01
Soil Surface Uranium 1.8 mg/kg 1.45 mg/kg 23 mg/kg No N/A BR03-S01A
Air Uranium 0.0013 µg/m3 0.004 µg/m3 0.03 µg/m3 No N/A BR06-A01
Water Surface Uranium 0.18 µg/L 15 µg/L No N/A BR04-W03
Water Surface Nitrate 0.23 mg/L 13 mg/L No N/A BR04-W03
Water Surface pH 7.1 6.5-9.0 No N/A BR04-W03
Water Surface Uranium 0.25 µg/L 0.27 µg/L 15 µg/L No N/A BR04-W03
Water Surface Nitrate 0.31 mg/L 0.32 mg/L 13 mg/L No N/A BR04-W03
Water Surface pH 7.06 7.22 6.5-9.0 No N/A BR04-W03
Water Surface Uranium 0.17 µg/L 15 µg/L No N/A BR05-W04
Water Surface Nitrate 0.24 mg/L 13 mg/L No N/A BR05-W04
Water Surface pH 7.2 6.5-9.0 No N/A BR05-W04
Water Surface Uranium 0.28 µg/L 0.26 µg/L 15 µg/L No N/A BR05-W04
Water Surface Nitrate 1.41 mg/L 0.34 mg/L 13 mg/L No N/A BR05-W04
Water Surface pH 7.1 6.92 6.5-9.0 No N/A BR05-W04
Soil 0 - 5 cm Uranium 0.83 mg/kg 23 mg/kg No N/A BR26-S09
Water Surface Uranium <0.10 µg/L 15 µg/L No N/A BR21-W09
Water Surface Nitrate <0.06 mg/L 13 mg/L No N/A BR21-W09
Water Surface pH 7 6.5-9.0 No N/A BR21-W09
Soil 0 - 5 cm Uranium 1.16 mg/kg 23 mg/kg No N/A BR23-S06
Soil 0 - 5 cm Uranium 0.86 mg/kg 23 mg/kg No N/A BR24-S07
Air Uranium <0.001 mg/m3 0.03 µg/m3 No N/A BR17-A02
Soil 0 - 5 cm Uranium 0.88 mg/kg 23 mg/kg No N/A BR17-S05
Water Surface Uranium <0.10 µg/L 15 µg/L No N/A BR20-W06
Water Surface Nitrate 0.10 mg/L 13 mg/L No N/A BR20-W06
Water Surface pH 6.9 6.5-9.0 No N/A BR20-W06
Water Surface Uranium 0.04 µg/L 0.08 µg/L 15 µg/L No N/A BR07-W05
Water Surface Nitrate 0.08 mg/L <0.38 mg/L 13 mg/L No N/A BR07-W05
Water Surface pH 7.1 6.99 6.5-9.0 No N/A BR07-W05
Air Uranium <0.0003 µg/m3 <0.0004 µg/m3 0.03 µg/m3 No N/A BR08-A02
Water Surface Uranium 0.04 µg/L 0.06 µg/L 15 µg/L No N/A BR09-W06
Water Surface Nitrate 1.4 mg/L <0.38 mg/L 13 mg/L No N/A BR09-W06
Water Surface pH 6.88 7.18 6.5-9.0 No N/A BR09-W06
Water Surface Uranium 0.10 µg/L 15 µg/L No N/A BR28-W07
Water Surface Nitrate 0.36 mg/L 13 mg/L No N/A BR28-W07
Water Surface pH 7.5 6.5-9.0 No N/A BR28-W07
Soil 10-20 cm Uranium N/A 3.86 mg/kg 23 mg/kg No N/A BR11-S02B
Soil 0 - 5 cm Uranium 3.42 mg/kg 23 mg/kg No N/A BR11-S02
Soil Surface Uranium 1.1 mg/kg 3.38 mg/kg 23 mg/kg No N/A BR11-S02A
Water Surface Uranium 0.19 µg/L 0.12 µg/L 15 µg/L No N/A BR10-W07
Water Surface Nitrate 0.93 mg/L 0.5 mg/L 13 mg/L No N/A BR10-W07
Water Surface pH 7.5 6.77 6.5-9.0 No N/A BR10-W07
Soil Surface Uranium 3.8 mg/kg 1.3 mg/kg 23 mg/kg No N/A BR12-S03A
Soil 10-20 cm Uranium N/A 1.62 mg/kg 23 mg/kg No N/A BR12-S03B
Water Surface Uranium <0.10 µg/L 15 µg/L No N/A BR13-W08
Water Surface Nitrate 0.11 mg/L 13 mg/L No N/A BR13-W08
Water Surface pH 7.3 6.5-9.0 No N/A BR13-W08
Water Surface Uranium 0.15 µg/L 0.16 µg/L 15 µg/L No N/A BR13-W08
Water Surface Nitrate 1.53 mg/L <0.38 mg/L 13 mg/L No N/A BR13-W08
Water Surface pH 7.33 6.85 6.5-9.0 No N/A BR13-W08
Soil 0 - 5 cm Uranium 1.17 mg/kg 23 mg/kg No N/A BR12-S03
Water Surface Uranium 0.05 µg/L 0.04 µg/L 15 µg/L No N/A BR15-W09
Water Surface Nitrate 1.81 mg/L <0.38 mg/L 13 mg/L No N/A BR15-W09
Water Surface pH 6.87 6.48 6.5-9.0 No N/A BR15-W09
Soil Surface Uranium 0.5 mg/kg 1.71 mg/kg 23 mg/kg No N/A BR14-S04A
Water Surface Uranium 0.04 µg/L 0.05 µg/L 15 µg/L No N/A BR16-W10
Water Surface Nitrate 0.97 mg/L <0.38 mg/L 13 mg/L No N/A BR16-W10
Water Surface pH 7.17 6.79 6.5-9.0 No N/A BR16-W10
Table Footnotes

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

2 For water samples, the results for hazardous substances are compared to the CCME Canadian Water Quality Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life; where no CCME guidelines exist, the Health Canada Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality are used.

3 For soil samples, the results for hazardous substances are compared to CCME Canadian Soil Quality Guidelines for the Protection of Environmental and Human Health.

4 For air samples, the results are compared to Ontario’s Ambient Air Quality Criteria.

5 "-" No data available due to air-sampler malfunctioning.

Background

Under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act (NSCA), licensees of nuclear facilities are required to implement an environmental monitoring program 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 protected. 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 radioactive 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. The BRR site was sampled in 2017, 2014 and 2013.

2017 Results

CNSC staff collect air samples at Binojee Nagdawenjigamik Daycare on Mississauga First Nation land near the Blind River Refinery, 2017.

The 2017 IEMP sampling plan for the BRR site focused on uranium, nitrate and pH. The IEMP assesses uranium against its more sensitive (that is, more restrictive) chemical toxicity thresholds as a potentially toxic metal (hazardous substance). 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 October 2017, samples were collected in publicly accessible areas outside the BRR site perimeter fence and included air, soil and water. View detailed sampling data.

The concentrations of uranium and nitrate in water measured in the samples were below the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment’s (CCME) guideline levels. Although the concentrations of uranium in soil at two sampling locations were above the urban parkland and rural parkland background level for Ontario of 1.9 to 2.1 µg of uranium per g of soil (µg/g), the concentrations at all locations sampled in 2017 were below the applicable CCME soil quality guideline for residential and parkland use (23 µg/g). The measured concentrations of uranium in air were below the levels set by Ontario’s Ambient Air Quality Criteria. With regard to pH levels in water, the measured levels were within the CCME guidelines. No health or environmental impacts are expected at these levels.

The 2017 sampling campaign also included sites on Mississauga First Nation (MFN) land. Samples of air, soil and water at seven sites were selected based on prior discussions between CNSC staff and MFN. The results for the samples obtained on MFN land were below applicable guidelines. The results are also similar to what was found from the 2013 and 2014 sampling campaigns as well as the results for the other sampling sites outside the BRR site perimeter for 2017.

The results for the three sampling years are similar and are below all applicable guidelines. Since the IEMP results represent a snapshot in time, the small differences between sample results can be attributed to slight differences in the sampling locations, seasonal variations, facility operations, meteorological conditions, and/or natural variations in background radiation. Over time, CNSC staff will have sufficient data to establish a baseline and monitor trends.

2014 and 2013 Results

The 2014 and 2013 IEMP sampling plans for the BRR site were similar to the 2017 plan and focused on uranium, nitrate and pH. The difference between the sampling campaign for 2017 and the ones in 2014 and 2013 is noted in the discussion on the 2017 results. Air, soil and water samples were collected by CNSC staff in publicly accessible areas outside the BRR facility site perimeter for both sampling campaigns. View detailed sampling data.

The 2014 and 2013 IEMP results confirmed that the public and the environment in the vicinity of the BRR site were protected from the releases from the facility and that there were no health or environmental impacts expected at these levels.

Conclusions

The IEMP results for 2017, 2014 and 2013 confirm that the public and the environment around the BRR site are protected and that there are no expected health impacts. These results are consistent with the results submitted by Cameco, confirming that the licensee’s environmental protection program protects the health and safety of people and the environment.

To obtain the full technical IEMP reports, contact us at cnsc.info.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 requested.

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