Independent Environmental Monitoring Program: BWXT Nuclear Energy Canada Inc. - Peterborough

BWXT Nuclear Energy Canada Inc. (BWXT), formerly GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Canada, is licensed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to operate a nuclear fuel fabrication facility, located in Peterborough, Ontario. BWXT manufactures nuclear fuel bundles for Canada’s nuclear power plants from uranium dioxide (UO2) powder. The BWXT Peterborough facility assembles UO2 pellets into CANDU reactor fuel bundles. BWXT has a comprehensive environmental protection program to monitor and control nuclear and hazardous substances released from the site, determine concentrations in the environment, and assess exposure to the public.

Independent Environmental Monitoring Program (IEMP) results from 2014, 2018 and 2019, along with the conclusions of available health studies for uranium processing facilities, confirm that the public and the environment in the vicinity of the BWXT Peterborough facility are protected and that there are no expected health impacts. 

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[ ] Guideline/Reference Level

BWXT Nuclear Energy Canada Inc. - Peterborough

Sample Type Sample Description Parameter 2014 2018 2019 Guideline/
Reference Level
Expected Health Impact (Yes/No) Sample Code
Soil 0-5 cm Uranium 1.2 mg/kg dry weight 1.38 mg/kg dry weight 1.42 mg/kg dry weight 23 mg/kg dry weight No GP01-S01
Soil 0-5 cm Beryllium 0.8 mg/kg dry weight 1.27 mg/kg dry weight 1.33 mg/kg dry weight 4.0 mg/kg dry weight No GP01-S01
Air Ambient Uranium N/A N/A <0.00009 µg/m3 0.03 µg/m3 No GP02-A02
Air Ambient Beryllium N/A N/A <0.0003 µg/m3 0.01 µg/m3 No GP02-A02
Soil 0-5 cm Uranium 1.8 mg/kg dry weight 1.75 mg/kg dry weight 1.60 mg/kg dry weight 23 mg/kg dry weight No GP02-S02
Soil 0-5 cm Beryllium 1.1 mg/kg dry weight 1.14 mg/kg dry weight 1.34 mg/kg dry weight 4.0 mg/kg dry weight No GP02-S02
Air Ambient Uranium N/A <0.003 µg/m3 N/A 0.03 µg/m3 No GP03-A03
Air Ambient Beryllium N/A <0.003 µg/m3 N/A 0.01 µg/m3 No GP03-A03
Soil 0-5 cm Uranium 1.6 mg/kg dry weight 1.63 mg/kg dry weight 1.21 mg/kg dry weight 23 mg/kg dry weight No GP03-S03
Soil 0-5 cm Beryllium 1.1 mg/kg dry weight 1.28 mg/kg dry weight 1.10 mg/kg dry weight 4.0 mg/kg dry weight No GP03-S03
Soil 0-5 cm Uranium 1.5 mg/kg dry weight 1.44 mg/kg dry weight 1.60 mg/kg dry weight 23 mg/kg dry weight No GP04-S04
Soil 0-5 cm Beryllium 0.9 mg/kg dry weight 1.08 mg/kg dry weight 1.17 mg/kg dry weight 4.0 mg/kg dry weight No GP04-S04
Air Ambient Uranium 0.0013 µg/m3 <0.003 µg/m3 <0.00009 µg/m3 0.03 µg/m3 No GP05-A01
Air Ambient Beryllium 0.000077 µg/m3 <0.003 µg/m3 <0.0003 µg/m3 0.01 µg/m3 No GP05-A01
Soil 0-5 cm Uranium 1.6 mg/kg dry weight 1.70 mg/kg dry weight 1.88 mg/kg dry weight 23 mg/kg dry weight No GP05-S05
Soil 0-5 cm Beryllium 1.0 mg/kg dry weight 1.27 mg/kg dry weight 2.34 mg/kg dry weight 4.0 mg/kg dry weight No GP05-S05
Air Ambient Uranium N/A <0.003 µg/m3 <0.00009 µg/m3 0.03 µg/m3 No GP06-A06
Air Ambient Beryllium N/A <0.003 µg/m3 <0.0003 µg/m3 0.01 µg/m3 No GP06-A06
Soil 0-5 cm Uranium 1.5 mg/kg dry weight 1.65 mg/kg dry weight 1.97 mg/kg dry weight 23 mg/kg dry weight No GP06-S06
Soil 0-5 cm Beryllium 1.0 mg/kg dry weight 1.24 mg/kg dry weight 1.44 mg/kg dry weight 4.0 mg/kg dry weight No GP06-S06
Air Ambient Uranium N/A <0.003 µg/m3 <0.00009 µg/m3 0.03 µg/m3 No GP07-A07
Air Ambient Beryllium N/A <0.003 µg/m3 <0.0003 µg/m3 0.01 µg/m3 No GP07-A07
Soil 0-5 cm Uranium 1.0 mg/kg dry weight 1.67 mg/kg dry weight 1.37 mg/kg dry weight 23 mg/kg dry weight No GP07-S07
Soil 0-5 cm Beryllium 0.7 mg/kg dry weight 1.34 mg/kg dry weight 1.28 mg/kg dry weight 4.0 mg/kg dry weight No GP07-S07
Soil 0-5 cm Uranium 1.7 mg/kg dry weight 1.92 mg/kg dry weight 2.05 mg/kg dry weight 23 mg/kg dry weight No GP08-S08
Soil 0-5 cm Beryllium 1.0 mg/kg dry weight 1.19 mg/kg dry weight 1.33 mg/kg dry weight 4.0 mg/kg dry weight No GP08-S08
Water Surface water Uranium N/A 0.2 µg/L 0.34 µg/L 15 µg/L No GP09-W01
Water Surface water Beryllium N/A <0.1 µg/L <0.01 µg/L N/A No GP09-W01
Water Surface water Uranium N/A 0.2 µg/L 0.29 µg/L 15 µg/L No GP10-W02
Water Surface water Beryllium N/A <0.1 µg/L <0.01 µg/L N/A No GP10-W02
Soil 0-5 cm Uranium N/A N/A 1.28 mg/kg dry weight 23 mg/kg dry weight No GP11-S11
Soil 0-5 cm Beryllium N/A N/A 1.25 mg/kg dry weight 4.0 mg/kg dry weight No GP11-S11

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

2 N/A – not available

CNSC staff collecting water and soil samples near BWXT Peterborough 2019

Background

Under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, licensees of nuclear facilities are required to implement environmental protection programs to demonstrate that the public and the environment are protected from emissions related to the facilities’ nuclear activities. The results from monitoring programs are submitted to the CNSC to ensure compliance within 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 publicly accessible 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 laboratory for testing and analysis. The area outside the BWXT Peterborough site perimeter was sampled in 2014, 2018 and 2019.

2014, 2018 and 2019 results

The IEMP sampling plans for the BWXT Peterborough facility focused on both radioactive and hazardous substances, such as uranium and beryllium. Uranium is both a radioactive substance (it decays at a slow rate by emitting gamma radiation) and a hazardous substance (since exposure to uranium leads to chemical toxicity). Beryllium is a hazardous substance used in the fuel bundle manufacturing process. A site-specific sampling plan was developed based on the CNSC’s regulatory experience with the site. In July 2014, July 2018 and May 2019, CNSC staff collected air, soil and water samples in areas outside the BWXT Peterborough site perimeter. The levels of uranium and beryllium measured in the samples were below available guidelines.

In response to public concerns about beryllium in soil

All results are within the upper range of the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Park’s typical background concentrations for beryllium in soil (2.5 mg/kg) and below the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) soil quality guidelines for the protection of environmental health (4 mg/kg) and human health (75 mg/kg). Therefore, according to the soil standards, there is no indication that emissions of beryllium resulting from BWXT operations have affected Peterborough soils, and there is no risk to the public from current concentrations of beryllium in soil. The range of measured concentrations likely reflects short-term variations that are within the background range. These variations are typical and cannot be used to characterize the long-term trends of beryllium behaviour in the environment.

In light of the expressed public interest, the CNSC’s next steps will be to conduct follow-up soil sampling in the summer of 2020 in Peterborough. These results will be posted on the CNSC website, and CNSC staff will provide an update to the public and the Commission in December 2020 as part of the Regulatory Oversight Report for Uranium and Nuclear Substance Processing Facilities in Canada: 2019. CNSC staff plan to conduct a full IEMP sampling program in 2022.

Focus on health

The CNSC also conducts studies to assess the health of the public near nuclear facilities. Several studies have been carried out in Port Hope, Ontario, where uranium has been processed to manufacture nuclear fuel for decades. These studies have consistently demonstrated that people who live near uranium processing facilities, such as BWXT, are as healthy as the rest of the Canadian general population. Access the CNSC’s library of health studies and third-party research.

Conclusions

The IEMP 2014, 2018 and 2019 results indicate that the public and the environment in the vicinity of the BWXT Peterborough facility are protected and that there are no expected health impacts.

The CNSC is transitioning to an online reporting format for the IEMP. All IEMP information will be available on the online dashboard once this upgrade is complete. The CNSC recommends referencing online material for the most up-to-date and accurate data.

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