Independent Environmental Monitoring Program: Blind River Refinery
|Facility name||Blind River Refinery|
|Licensee||Cameco Corporation (Cameco)|
|Site name||Blind River Refinery (BRR)|
|Facility location||Blind River, Ontario|
|Facility description||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.|
All CNSC licensees must maintain a comprehensive environmental protection program to monitor and control radiological (nuclear) and hazardous substances released from the facilities they oversee, in order to determine concentrations of contaminants in the environment and assess potential exposure routes to the public.
The CNSC’s Independent Environmental Monitoring Program (IEMP) results in 2020 indicate that the public and the environment in the vicinity of BRR are protected and that there are no expected health impacts.
- Interactive map and IEMP results
- Data table Blind River Refinery CSV (20.6 KB)
- Results: (2020) (2018) (2013, 2014 and 2017)
- Focus on health
[ ] Guideline/Reference Level
Blind River Refinery
|Sample Type||Sample Description||Parameter||2013||2014||2017||2018||2020||Guideline/
|Expected Health Impact (Yes/No)||Sample Code|
|Water||Surface||Uranium||0.25 µg/L||0.26 µg/L||0.19 µg/L||0.27 µg/L||0.24 µg/L||15 µg/L||No||BR01-W01|
|Water||Surface||Nitrate||1.49 mg/L||0.23 mg/L||0.22 mg/L||0.21 mg/L||<0.10 mg/L||13 mg/L||No||BR01-W01|
|Water||Surface||Radium-226||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||<0.03 Bq/L||0.5 Bq/L||No||BR01-W01|
|Water||Surface||Uranium||0.25 µg/L||0.25 µg/L||0.18 µg/L||0.27 µg/L||0.23 µg/L||15 µg/L||No||BR02-W02|
|Water||Surface||Nitrate||0.75 mg/L||1.45 mg/L||0.22 mg/L||0.21 mg/L||<0.10 mg/L||13 mg/L||No||BR02-W02|
|Water||Surface||Radium-226||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||<0.03 Bq/L||0.5 Bq/L||No||BR02-W02|
|Soil||0 - 5 cm||Uranium||N/A||N/A||2.38 mg/kg||2.03 mg/kg||1.30 mg/kg||23 mg/kg||No||BR03-S01|
|Soil||0 - 5 cm||Uranium||1.45 mg/kg||1.8 mg/kg||N/A||N/A||N/A||23 mg/kg||No||BR03-S01A|
|Water||Surface||Uranium||0.27 µg/L||0.25 µg/L||0.18 µg/L||0.27 µg/L||0.47 µg/L||15 µg/L||No||BR04-W03|
|Water||Surface||Nitrate||0.32 mg/L||0.31 mg/L||0.23 mg/L||0.21 mg/L||<0.10 mg/L||13 mg/L||No||BR04-W03|
|Water||Surface||Radium-226||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||<0.03 Bq/L||0.5 Bq/L||No||BR04-W03|
|Water||Surface||Uranium||0.26 µg/L||0.28 µg/L||0.17 µg/L||0.28 µg/L||0.25 µg/L||15 µg/L||No||BR05-W04|
|Water||Surface||Nitrate||0.34 mg/L||1.41 mg/L||0.24 mg/L||0.22 mg/L||<0.10 mg/L||13 mg/L||No||BR05-W04|
|Water||Surface||Radium-226||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||<0.03 Bq/L||0.5 Bq/L||No||BR05-W04|
|Air||Ambient||Uranium||0.0040 µg/m3||0.0013 µg/m3||N/A||N/A||N/A||0.03 µg/m3||No||BR06-A01|
|Water||Surface||Uranium||0.08 µg/L||0.04 µg/L||N/A||N/A||N/A||15 µg/L||No||BR07-W05|
|Water||Surface||Nitrate||<0.38 mg/L||0.08 mg/L||N/A||N/A||N/A||13 mg/L||No||BR07-W05|
|Air||Ambient||Uranium||<0.0004 µg/m3||<0.0003 µg/m3||N/A||N/A||N/A||0.03 µg/m3||No||BR08-A02|
|Water||Surface||Uranium||0.06 µg/L||0.04 µg/L||N/A||N/A||N/A||15 µg/L||No||BR09-W06|
|Water||Surface||Nitrate||<0.38 mg/L||1.4 mg/L||N/A||N/A||N/A||13 mg/L||No||BR09-W06|
|Water||Surface||Uranium||0.12 µg/L||0.19 µg/L||N/A||N/A||N/A||15 µg/L||No||BR10-W07|
|Water||Surface||Nitrate||0.50 mg/L||0.93 mg/L||N/A||N/A||N/A||13 mg/L||No||BR10-W07|
|Soil||0 - 5 cm||Uranium||N/A||N/A||3.42 mg/kg||3.88 mg/kg||2.84 mg/kg||23 mg/kg||No||BR11-S02|
|Soil||0 - 5 cm||Uranium||3.38 mg/kg||1.1 mg/kg||N/A||N/A||N/A||23 mg/kg||No||BR11-S02A|
|Soil||10-20 cm||Uranium||3.86 mg/kg||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||23 mg/kg||No||BR11-S02B|
|Air||Ambient||Uranium||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||<0.0005 µg/m3||0.03 µg/m3||No||BR12-A12|
|Soil||0 - 5 cm||Uranium||1.30 mg/kg||3.8 mg/kg||1.17 mg/kg||1.49 mg/kg||0.95 mg/kg||23 mg/kg||No||BR12-S03|
|Soil||10-20 cm||Uranium||1.62 mg/kg||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||23 mg/kg||No||BR12-S03B|
|Water||Surface||Uranium||0.16 µg/L||0.15 µg/L||<0.10 µg/L||0.12 µg/L||0.15 µg/L||15 µg/L||No||BR13-W08|
|Water||Surface||Nitrate||<0.38 mg/L||1.53 mg/L||0.11 mg/L||0.32 mg/L||<0.10 mg/L||13 mg/L||No||BR13-W08|
|Water||Surface||Radium-226||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||<0.03 Bq/L||0.5 Bq/L||No||BR13-W08|
|Soil||0 - 5 cm||Uranium||1.71 mg/kg||0.5 mg/kg||N/A||N/A||N/A||23 mg/kg||No||BR14-S04A|
|Water||Surface||Uranium||0.04 µg/L||0.05 µg/L||N/A||N/A||N/A||15 µg/L||No||BR15-W09|
|Water||Surface||Nitrate||<0.38 mg/L||1.81 mg/L||N/A||N/A||N/A||13 mg/L||No||BR15-W09|
|Water||Surface||Uranium||0.05 µg/L||0.04 µg/L||N/A||N/A||N/A||15 µg/L||No||BR16-W10|
|Water||Surface||Nitrate||<0.38 mg/L||0.97 mg/L||N/A||N/A||N/A||13 mg/L||No||BR16-W10|
|Air||Ambient||Uranium||N/A||N/A||<0.001 mg/m3||<0.003 µg/m3||<0.0005 µg/m3||0.03 µg/m3||No||BR17-A02|
|Soil||0 - 5 cm||Uranium||N/A||N/A||0.88 mg/kg||1.11 mg/kg||0.52 mg/kg||23 mg/kg||No||BR17-S05|
|Air||Ambient||Uranium||N/A||N/A||<0.001 mg/m3||<0.003 µg/m3||<0.0005 µg/m3||0.03 µg/m3||No||BR18-A03|
|Soil||0 - 5 cm||Uranium||N/A||N/A||1.37 mg/kg||1.32 mg/kg||0.82 mg/kg||23 mg/kg||No||BR18-S08|
|Water||Surface||Uranium||N/A||N/A||0.19 µg/L||0.26 µg/L||0.23 µg/L||15 µg/L||No||BR18-W05|
|Water||Surface||Nitrate||N/A||N/A||0.23 mg/L||0.20 mg/L||<0.10 mg/L||13 mg/L||No||BR18-W05|
|Water||Surface||Radium-226||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||<0.03 Bq/L||0.5 Bq/L||No||BR18-W05|
|Water||Surface||Uranium||N/A||N/A||<0.10 µg/L||N/A||N/A||15 µg/L||No||BR20-W06|
|Water||Surface||Nitrate||N/A||N/A||0.10 mg/L||N/A||N/A||13 mg/L||No||BR20-W06|
|Water||Surface||Uranium||N/A||N/A||<0.10 µg/L||N/A||N/A||15 µg/L||No||BR21-W09|
|Water||Surface||Nitrate||N/A||N/A||<0.06 mg/L||N/A||N/A||13 mg/L||No||BR21-W09|
|Soil||0 - 5 cm||Uranium||N/A||N/A||1.16 mg/kg||0.93 mg/kg||0.55 mg/kg||23 mg/kg||No||BR23-S06|
|Soil||0 - 5 cm||Uranium||N/A||N/A||0.86 mg/kg||1.03 mg/kg||0.58 mg/kg||23 mg/kg||No||BR24-S07|
|Soil||0 - 5 cm||Uranium||N/A||N/A||0.83 mg/kg||1.06 mg/kg||0.48 mg/kg||23 mg/kg||No||BR26-S09|
|Soil||0 - 5 cm||Uranium||N/A||N/A||1.46 mg/kg||1.54 mg/kg||1.00 mg/kg||23 mg/kg||No||BR27-S10|
|Water||Surface||Uranium||N/A||N/A||0.19 µg/L||0.27 µg/L||0.25 µg/L||15 µg/L||No||BR27-W10|
|Water||Surface||Nitrate||N/A||N/A||0.22 mg/L||0.20 mg/L||<0.10 mg/L||13 mg/L||No||BR27-W10|
|Water||Surface||Radium-226||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||<0.03 Bq/L||0.5 Bq/L||No||BR27-W10|
|Water||Surface||Uranium||N/A||N/A||0.10 µg/L||0.09 µg/L||0.11 µg/L||15 µg/L||No||BR28-W07|
|Water||Surface||Nitrate||N/A||N/A||0.36 mg/L||0.31 mg/L||<0.10 mg/L||13 mg/L||No||BR28-W07|
|Water||Surface||Radium-226||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||<0.03 Bq/L||0.5 Bq/L||No||BR28-W07|
|Air||Ambient||Uranium||N/A||N/A||<0.001 mg/m3||<0.003 µg/m3||<0.0005 µg/m3||0.03 µg/m3||No||BR29-A04|
|Soil||0 - 5 cm||Uranium||N/A||N/A||N/A||3.95 mg/kg||2.61 mg/kg||23 mg/kg||No||BR30-S11|
|Water||Surface||Uranium||N/A||N/A||N/A||0.27 µg/L||0.22 µg/L||15 µg/L||No||BR30-W11|
|Water||Surface||Nitrate||N/A||N/A||N/A||0.22 mg/L||<0.10 mg/L||13 mg/L||No||BR30-W11|
|Water||Surface||Radium-226||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||<0.03 Bq/L||0.5 Bq/L||No||BR30-W11|
1 The < symbol indicates that a result is below the provided laboratory analytical detection limit.
2 N/A – not available
3 For water samples, the results for non-radiological parameters are compared to Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life. Where no CCME guidelines exist, Health Canada’s Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality are used.
4 For soil samples, the CNSC laboratory began using the partial digestion method as opposed to the total digestion method used before 2020. This change was made so that the 2020 results could be compared with the CCME guidelines. As a result, soil concentrations are lower than in previous years.
The 2020 IEMP sampling plan for BRR focused on radium-226, uranium, nitrate and pH. A site-specific sampling plan was developed based on the licensee’s approved environmental monitoring program and the CNSC’s regulatory experience with the site. In September 2020, CNSC staff collected air, soil and water samples in publicly accessible areas outside the facility perimeter.
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 (15 mg/L for uranium and 13 mg/L for nitrate). The concentrations of uranium in soil at all locations sampled in 2020 were below the applicable CCME soil quality guideline for residential and parkland use (23 mg/kg). The measured concentrations of uranium in air were below the levels set by Ontario’s Ambient Air Quality Criteria (0.03 µg of uranium per cubic metre of air (µg/m3)). For pH in water, the measured levels were within the CCME guidelines (pH between 6.5 and 9.0). No health or environmental impacts are expected at these levels.
2020 marks the first year that radium-226 was analyzed in water. All of the radium-226 results are below 0.03 Bq/L and Health Canada’s drinking water quality guideline of 0.5 Bq/L.
This year the CNSC laboratory analyzed the soil results using the same methodology as that used to establish the CCME guidelines. As a result, soil concentrations are lower than those in previous years and are more accurately comparable with the CCME guidelines.With the exception of uranium in soil (which is lower, due to the change in laboratory method), the results for 2020 were similar to those obtained for 2018, 2017, 2014 and 2013.
The 2018 IEMP sampling plan for the BRR site focused on uranium, nitrate and pH. The IEMP assessed uranium against its more sensitive and therefore 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 2018, 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 (15 mg/L for uranium and 13 mg/L for nitrate). The concentrations of uranium in soil at all locations sampled in 2018 were below the applicable CCME soil quality guideline for residential and parkland use (23 mg/kg). The measured concentrations of uranium in air were below the levels set by Ontario's Ambient Air Quality Criteria (0.03 µg of uranium per cubic meter of air (µg/m3)). With regard to pH levels in water, the measured levels were within the CCME guidelines (pH between 6.5 and 9.0). No health or environmental impacts are expected at these levels.
The 2018 sampling campaign also included sites on Mississauga First Nations (MFN) land. Samples of air, soil and water at several 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 were also similar to what was found from the 2013, 2014 and 2017 sampling campaigns as well as the results for the other sampling sites outside the BRR site perimeter for 2018.
The results for the four 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.
2013, 2014 and 2017 results
The 2013, 2014 and 2017 IEMP sampling plans for the BRR site were similar to the 2018 plan and focused on uranium, nitrate and pH. Air, soil and water samples were collected by CNSC staff in publicly accessible areas outside the BRR facility site perimeter for the sampling campaigns. View detailed sampling data.
The 2013, 2014 and 2017 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.
The IEMP results from 2020, 2018, 2017, 2014 and 2013 indicate that the public and the environment in the vicinity of BRR are protected and that there are no expected health impacts. These results are consistent with the results submitted by Cameco, demonstrating that the licensee’s environmental protection program protects the health and safety of people and the environment.
Focus on health
The CNSC reviews the results of existing health reports and conducts health studies to provide further independent verification that the health of people in and around the BRR are protected.
Several studies have been carried out in Port Hope, Ontario, where uranium has been processed to manufacture nuclear fuel for decades. Environmental and epidemiological studies conducted in Port Hope indicate that levels of exposure to radioactive and non-radioactive contaminants are below levels known to cause adverse health effects. These studies demonstrate that people who live near uranium-processing facilities, such as the BRR, are as healthy as the rest of the Canadian general population.
Based on exposure and health data, CNSC staff have not observed and do not expect any adverse health outcomes to result from BRR operations. Access the CNSC’s library of health studies and third-party research.
If you would like more general health information and data for your community, please visit the following websites:
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