Independent Environmental Monitoring Program: McArthur River mine

Publication date: September 18, 2015

Cameco Corporation (Cameco) is licensed by the CNSC to operate the McArthur River mine, located 620 kilometres north of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Cameco discovered the McArthur River ore body in 1988. Construction of the underground and surface facilities began in 1997 and 1998 respectively, with production mining beginning in late 1999. McArthur River is the world’s largest high-grade uranium mine. Cameco maintains a comprehensive environmental protection program to monitor and control nuclear and hazardous substances released from the McArthur River mine and to determine concentrations of contaminants in the environment.

The Independent Environmental Monitoring Program (IEMP) results for 2014 confirm that the public and the environment around the McArthur River mine are safe and that there are no health impacts.

Legend

[ ] Guideline/Reference Level
< below the provided laboratory analytical detection limit

 

McArthur River Mine Points

Sample Type Sample Description Parameter 2014 Result Guideline/
Reference Level
Expected Health
Impact (Yes/No)
Background Sample Code
WaterSurfaceRadium-226< 0.002 Bq/L0.5 Bq/LNo0.00005 - 0.1 Bq/L MR01-W01
WaterSurfaceRadium-226 0.004 Bq/L0.5 Bq/LNo0.00005 - 0.1 Bq/L MR02-W03
WaterSurfacePolonium-210< 0.01 Bq/L0.1 Bq/LNo0.002 - 0.16 Bq/L MR01-W01
WaterSurfacePolonium-210< 0.01 Bq/L0.1 Bq/LNo0.002 - 0.16 Bq/L MR02-W03
WaterSurfaceUranium 0.06 µg/L15 µg/LNo0.005 - 6 µg/L MR01-W01
WaterSurfaceUranium 0.1 µg/L15 µg/LNo0.005 - 6 µg/L MR02-W03
WaterSurfaceLead 0.05 µg/L1 - 7 µg/LNo0.05 - 20 µg/L MR01-W01
WaterSurfaceLead 0.04 µg/L1 - 7 µg/LNo0.05 - 20 µg/L MR02-W03
WaterSurfaceSelenium< 0.11 µg/L1 µg/LNo0.05 - 3 µg/L MR01-W01
WaterSurfaceSelenium 0.12 µg/L1 µg/LNo0.05 - 3 µg/L MR02-W03
WaterSurfaceMolybdenum <1.5 µg/L73 µg/LNo0.05 - 78 µg/L MR01-W01
WaterSurfaceMolybdenum 5.44 µg/L73 µg/LNo0.05 - 78 µg/L MR02-W03
WaterSurfaceArsenic 0.14 µg/L5 µg/LNo0.05 - 8 µg/L MR01-W01
WaterSurfaceArsenic 0.13 µg/L5 µg/LNo0.05 - 8 µg/L MR02-W03
WaterSurfaceNickel 0.09 µg/L25 - 150 µg/LNo0.05 - 94 µg/L MR01-W01
WaterSurfaceNickel 0.09 µg/L25 - 150 µg/LNo0.05 - 94 µg/L MR02-W03
WaterSurfaceCopper 0.14 µg/L2 - 4 µg/LNo0.1 - 15 µg/L MR01-W01
WaterSurfaceCopper 0.24 µg/L2 - 4 µg/LNo0.1 - 15 µg/L MR02-W03
WaterSurfaceZinc< 0.12 µg/L30 µg/LNo0.25 - 50 µg/L MR01-W01
WaterSurfaceZinc 0.51 µg/L30 µg/LNo0.25 - 50 µg/L MR02-W03
WaterSurfacepH 6.68 6.5-9.0No5.8 - 7.4 MR01-W01
WaterSurfacepH 6.57 6.5-9.0No5.8 - 7.4 MR02-W03

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

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

3N/A - Not Available

4Regional background taken from CNSCs report Environmental Performance of Uranium Mine or Mill Regulated Under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act: Based on Environmental Data Associated with Operating Uranium Mines and Mills (2000-2012) presented at the Quebec Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement  (BAPE), 2014.

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 safe. 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 radiological (nuclear)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. Sampling for the IEMP of the area outside of the McArthur River mine site perimeter was conducted in 2014.

Results

The 2014 IEMP sampling plan for the McArthur River mine focused on both radiological (nuclear) and non-radiological (hazardous) contaminants. 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 2014, water samples were collected at a reference station upstream of the effluent discharge point, and at an exposure station downstream of the effluent discharge point, both located outside the McArthur River Mine site perimeter. View detailed sampling data.

The measured radioactivity in the samples was well below drinking water quality guidelines. No health impacts are expected at these levels.

With respect to the non-radiological analysis, the concentrations of analyzed substances in water were below the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment’s guidelines and within the natural background levels. No health or environmental impacts are expected at these levels.

Conclusions

The IEMP results confirm that the public and the environment around the McArthur River mine are safe and that there are no 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.