Environment & Safety

Safety

The Port Hope conversion facility has an excellent safety record. The operation has systematic programs to identify, evaluate and mitigate risks and engage all workers and managers in development of a strong safety culture. These programs follow the international OHSAS 18001 model and have delivered excellent safety performance.

Full-time equivalent dose

(mSv/yr)

  2015
Port Hope Conversion Facility 1.48 

Radiation Protection

Radiation risks are effectively managed at the Port Hope conversion facility through a formal radiation protection program and dedicated personnel who ensure that doses to workers are as low as reasonably achievable. The program ensures that radiation protection is considered in the physical design of all facilities and operating procedures. It also provides for systematic monitoring of radiation in work areas and tracking the exposures of individual workers using a combination of monitoring devices and health testing. Radiation exposures at the facility are far below regulatory limits.

Environmental Protection

Environmental protection at the Port Hope conversion facility is assured through an ISO 14001-certified environmental management system. These programs ensure that the environmental aspects associated with the facilities are systematically identified and controlled. Comprehensive environmental monitoring ensures that emissions to air and water are kept as low as reasonably achievable and well below regulatory limits.

Environmental Incidents and Other Events​​

Environmental incidents and other events are reported to regulatory agencies as required by federal and provincial regulations. This includes releases to the environment reportable to Ontario Ministry of Environment's Spills Action Centre.

Latest incident or event:

Date February 19, 2017
Incident

Fluorine leak within the UF6 plant.

Details

During routine operation, a small fluorine leak occurred inside the UF6 plant. The plant’s systems activated and operated as designed to control the fluorine. No employees required treatment as a result of this event. No environmental action levels were exceeded.

Corrective Action

Cameco is assessing the fluorine system. The valve identified as the source of the leak is being replaced. The CNSC was notified of the incident.

Cameco Environmental Effect Rating 1 - no measureable impact to the environment

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Date February 19, 2017
Incident

Fluorine leak within the UF6 plant.

Details

During routine operation, a small fluorine leak occurred inside the UF6 plant. The plant’s systems activated and operated as designed to control the fluorine. No employees required treatment as a result of this event. No environmental action levels were exceeded.

Corrective Action

Cameco is assessing the fluorine system. The valve identified as the source of the leak is being replaced.  The CNSC was notified of the incident.

Cameco Environmental Effect Rating 1

 

Date February 2, 2017
Incident

Fluorine leak within the UF6 plant.

Details

During routine operation, a small fluorine leak occurred in the UF6 plant.  The plant’s systems activated and operated as designed to control the fluorine.  While three employees in the area smelled fluorine, they had no related symptoms and were – as a precaution – provided with treatment at the site. No environmental action levels were exceeded. 

Corrective Action

The valve identified as the source of the leak is being replaced and Cameco is further assessing the system. The CNSC was notified of the incident.

Cameco Environmental Effect Rating 1

 

Date February 2, 2017
Incident

Fluorine leak within the UF6 plant.

Details

During routine operation, a small fluorine leak occurred in the UF6 plant.  The plant’s systems activated and operated as designed to control the fluorine.  While three employees in the area smelled fluorine, they had no related symptoms and were – as a precaution – provided with treatment at the site. No environmental action levels were exceeded. 

Corrective Action

The valve identified as the source of the leak is being replaced and Cameco is further assessing the system. The CNSC was notified of the incident.

Cameco Environmental Effect Rating 1

 

Date January 7, 2017
Incident

A small leak of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) occurred, which was contained within the UF6 plant.

Details

An HF detector within the plant activated indicating a potential leak of UF6. The site’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) investigated and confirmed a gasket in the plant was leaking. There were no injuries and no uptakes, or ingestion of the chemical, were reported. Measurements were taken, with a maximum concentration in the area of 1.3 ppm.  Further, monitoring confirmed that the safety systems and response ensured this was contained within the plant. 

Corrective Action

The gasket will be replaced.  The CNSC was notified of the event.

Cameco Environmental Effect Rating 1

 

Date September 4, 2016
Incident

Pump failure 

Details A security guard on routine patrol observed light smoke coming from the Port Hope conversion facility’s cooling water pump house. The guard notified the powerhouse operating engineer who determined a pump was offline and activated the site’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) to investigate. Initial investigation indicates that a pump had burned out.
Corrective Action The pump was shut down and another pump was put online. There were no injuries or environmental impacts. The CNSC was notified of the event.
Cameco Environmental Effect Rating 1

 

Date April 1, 2016 
Incident

Unplanned release of diluted nitric acid solution. 

Details At approximately 1:15 a.m., a gasket failure on a tank in the UO2 plant caused an estimated 1,850 litres of nitric acid solution to be released into the plant’s secondary containment system.  There was no personnel exposure or measurable impact to the environment as the various systems functioned as designed. The solution, which contained nitric acid at a diluted concentration of about 25 to 30 percent mixed with water, was contained within the plant. The Ontario Spills Action Centre, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the Municipality of Port Hope have all been notified.
Corrective Action The release into secondary containment was identified quickly by operators. The various systems functioned as designed and therefore there was no personnel exposure or measurable impact to the environment.  
Cameco Environmental Effect Rating 1

 

Date January 26, 2016
Incident An employee observed that a piece of material handling equipment was leaking hydraulic fluid.
Details On January 26, 2016 at approximately 9 a.m. it was discovered that an assembly used to invert UO3 tote bins was leaking hydraulic fluid. A small amount (less than 500 mL) had been released to asphalt and a portion of the fluid was carried in snow melt/rain runoff to the nearby storm catch basin, which releases into the Port Hope harbour. The Ontario Spills Action Centre, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the Municipality of Port Hope have all been notified.
Corrective Action The area around the leak point was bermed and the catch basin was isolated. The residue in the catch basin and the spill location were cleaned up with absorbent material and the inverter was moved indoors to prevent further leaks to the environment. 
Cameco Environmental Effect Rating 1

 

Date July 8, 2015
Incident On July 7, a white, dry, chalky substance was observed over portions of a building rooftop, piping infrastructure and on the ground. The source of the substance has been traced to liquid discharges from one of the wastewater evaporator stacks.
Details

The substance was scanned for radiation and samples sent to the laboratory for analysis. The presence of uranium and calcium confirmed that the material was discharged from the evaporator stack. There were no visible impacts present at the downstream storm sewer catch basins. Elevated levels of uranium and calcium were found in the local storm basins but all have now been cleaned. There has been no change to water quality in the Port Hope harbour. The Ontario Spills Action Centre, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the Municipality of Port Hope have all been notified.

Corrective Action Investigation is underway. Cameco’s emergency response team was activated to initiate clean-up activities and downstream catch basins were isolated and cleaned.
Environmental Effect 1

 

Date February 20, 2015
Incident Analysis of cooling water discharge on February 10 indicated that the north discharge did not meet one of the testing requirements.
Details

Results from the routine testing of the north cooling water discharge indicated samples did not meet the toxicity requirement for Daphnia magna (water fleas). The testing on rainbow trout passed the toxicity requirement. The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the Municipality of Port Hope have all been notified.

Corrective Action Investigation is underway. All monitoring parameters for the samples, including uranium and fluoride, fell within the normal range before, during and after the toxicity testing. Additional water samples have been taken and the results are pending.  

March 23 update: After extensive investigation, recirculation of chlorinated water caused by frozen conditions in the inner harbour is suspected to be the cause of the toxicity failure. Chlorinated water (drinking water) is toxic to Daphnia magna.
Environmental Effect 1

 

Date November 26, 2014
Incident A small release of anhydrous hydrogen fluoride (AHF) occurred within the uranium hexafluoride (UF6) plant.
Details

Employees were investigating a blocked AHF feed line in the cell room of the UF6 plant when an operator noticed a small puff of AHF. The operator immediately closed the valve. Sensors in the area detected AHF and the local area alarms were automatically activated.  The AHF sensors also automatically shut down the cell room and activated the emergency ventilation.  The cell room was cleared of AHF fumes within 15 minutes. As per Cameco protocol, three employees who potentially were exposed to AHF received medical treatment at the facility and were then transferred to Northumberland Hills Hospital for further treatment. All three employees were released within a few hours. There was no impact to the environment as all of the AHF was contained within the building. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the Municipality of Port Hope were both notified.

Clarification December 8: Three employees received precautionary medical treatment at the Northumberland Hills Hospital. Two of those employees received initial treatment in the facility’s on-site medical centre prior to being transferred to the hospital. They were not showing any symptoms of chemical exposure but received precautionary treatment to ensure symptoms did not develop later. A third employee began feeling some skin irritation at home and also went to the hospital where he was treated and released without showing any further symptoms. 

Corrective Action An initial investigation has been completed. A root cause investigation is underway and will be completed in a timely manner.
Environmental Effect 1

 

Date Oct 10, 2014
Incident Analysis of cooling water discharge on October 7 indicated that the north discharge did not meet one of the testing requirements.
Details Results from the routine testing of the north cooling water discharge indicated the sample did not meet the toxicity requirement for Daphnia magna (water fleas). The testing on rainbow trout passed the toxicity requirement. The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change's Spills Action Centre, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the Municipality of Port Hope have all been notified.
Corrective Action The toxicity failure occurred during a period when the facility was experiencing issues with pumping of cooling water from the harbour. Potable water (municipal drinking water) flow to equipment in the UF6 plant continued. Due to the higher-than normal concentration of potable water relative to harbour water in the discharge, elevated levels of chlorine residual were found in the samples. Chlorine in municipal drinking water is toxic to Daphnia magna. Additional water samples have been taken and the results are pending.

October 23 update:  Results from follow-up testing of the north north cooling water discharge confirmed that the toxicity requirement for Daphnia magna has been met.  This matter is now considered closed.
Environmental Effect 1

 

Cameco Environmental Effect Rating

  • Level 1 - no measurable impact to the environment
  • Level 2 - negligible impact
  • Level 3 - short-term, seasonal impact
  • Level 4 - mortality of some species, but not affecting ecosystem function
  • Level 5 - impairment of ecosystem function
  • N/A - not applicable

Notes

  1. 1

    Includes all releases to the environment reportable to Ontario Ministry of Environment's Spills Action Centre and other significant events.

Waste Management

Solid wastes contaminated by uranium are reprocessed, recycled and re-used to the extent possible. Waste materials that cannot be reprocessed, recycled or re-used are safely stored on site until appropriate disposal options are available.

Wastes generated at the facility are segregated at the point of generation into contaminated and non-contaminated. Non-contaminated waste is either recycled or transferred to a suitable facility. Contaminated waste is stored in appropriate containers pending assessment of recycling or disposal options.

Decommissioning

Detailed plans and financial guarantees are in place to restore the conversion facility site to public use once the facility reaches the end of its productive life.

Environmental Assessment

All new significant changes to existing operations are subject to environmental assessments to identify potential effects on the environment.

Regulatory Oversight

The Port Hope conversion facility is licensed and regulated by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). The operation is also subject to other federal and provincial regulations for the protection of people and the environment, including by Environment Canada and Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment. Federal and provincial regulators conduct regular site inspections and audits to verify that people and the environment are protected.