Environment & Safety

Setting A New Safety Standard

In June, 2021 our Blind River Refinery celebrated the remarkable achievement of operating for 15 years without a lost-time injury.  The safety culture that exists at the Refinery is a reflection of the commitment of every employee to put safety first – for themselves and for those around them.

Since 1990, Blind River has received Cameco's top award for safety performance, the Mary-Jean Mitchell Green Award, more times than any other Cameco facility.

Safety

We manage the safety of our workers through programs, systems, and standards, with our Safety, Health, Environment and Quality (SHEQ) Policy providing overarching guidance. There are many aspects of the management system that contribute to a safe work environment, a few examples include:

  • Risk assessments help identify issues and determine the appropriate controls; the corrective action process verifies that incidents and near misses are reported, tracked, investigated and shared with colleagues; and emergency preparedness and planning prepare us to respond to serious incidents.
  • We have developed 12 corporate safety standards to help protect our workers from our most common hazards. Some standards guide our general safety practices, such as our job hazard analysis and our job task observation, and other standards deal with specific hazardous situations (similar to other companies’ life saving rules): such as fall protection, confined space entry, rigging and hoisting, and control of hazardous energy (also referred to as lockout/tagout).
  • Routine audits are conducted to monitor compliance with regulations and our own requirements. These and other aspects of the management system are routinely examined to verify that they continue to be effective at keeping our workers safe.

Radiation Protection

Radiation risks are effectively managed at Blind River through a formal radiation protection program and dedicated personnel who ensure that workers are safe. 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 Blind River are far below regulatory limits.

Environmental Protection

At Cameco, protection of the environment is one of our highest corporate priorities during all stages of our activities, from exploration through development, operations, decommissioning, and reclamation.

We monitor our performance by tracking corporate and site-specific key performance indicators, conducting environmental monitoring programs, and regularly auditing our adherence to the requirements of these programs We use the information from all of our programs to help us to identify opportunities to improve.

Environmental management system

We have a ISO 14001-certified environmental management system used across our operating sites, which is supported by a corporate Environmental Management Program that outlines the operating requirements sites must meet. Our environmental management system encourages and promotes continuous adaptation of our practices based on new information and technologies.

Environmental risk assessments

We complete environmental risk assessments to systematically identify, quantify, and to characterize the potential risks to the environment, workers, and the public. We use our environmental risk assessments to inform our decisions and actions. Additionally, we complete an iterative process, where required, to verify that our proposed measures to protect the environment and the public are effective. We review or update the assessments every five years, incorporating results from our environmental monitoring programs and other scientific advances.

Corrective action process

We have a corrective action process in place to systematically investigate and address the causes of non-conformance to regulatory requirements or internal standards. The process includes classifying the non-conformance, assigning the appropriate level of investigation (dependent on incident significance), and tracking the recommended corrective actions to prevent and mitigate similar occurrences.

Audits

To support our culture of continuous improvement, our processes and operations undergo regular audits, including:

  • Our environmental management system is audited by a third-party every three years as a requirement to maintain our ISO 14001 certification.
  • Our SHEQ team conducts an internal audit of our SHEQ programs on a three-year cycle. The total audit scope is split in half and executed on a rotating basis. This means that all our sites undergo at least two audits to cover all aspects of our SHEQ programs within every three-year period. The audit follows the ISO 19001 process and encompasses our environmental and safety programs.
  • We also maintain and implement an internal audit program at our corporate office. Results and recommendations from this systematic and documented process are presented to senior management, who are responsible for implementing them and correcting any deficiencies. The internal audit group reports to the audit and finance committee of the board.

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.

If you have questions about any of the items posted here, please contact us.

Latest incident or event:

Posting Date December 20, 2021
Incident Date December 20, 2021
Incident

Transportation Incident

Details

At approximately 9:00 a.m., a tractor and trailer carrying four empty UO3 bins from the Port Hope Conversion Facility to the Blind River Refinery was involved in a traffic accident on Highway 7 near Omemee. A vehicle attempted to pass the tractor and trailer causing a collision with an oncoming vehicle which subsequently hit the tractor. There was no damage to the empty UO3 tote bins, and they remained secured on the trailer.

The OPP attended the scene of the accident.

Corrective Action

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission was notified. A new tractor was dispatched to connect the trailer and continue its journey to the Blind River Refinery.

Cameco Environmental Effect Rating 1

Past reporting

Posting Date December 20, 2021
Incident Date December 20, 2021
Incident

Transportation Incident 

Details

At approximately 9:00 a.m., a tractor and trailer carrying four empty UO3 bins from the Port Hope Conversion Facility to the Blind River Refinery was involved in a traffic accident on Highway 7 near Omemee. A vehicle attempted to pass the tractor and trailer causing a collision with an oncoming vehicle which subsequently hit the tractor. There was no damage to the empty UO3 tote bins, and they remained secured on the trailer.

The OPP attended the scene of the accident.

Corrective Action

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission was notified. A new tractor was dispatched to connect the trailer and continue its journey to the Blind River Refinery.

Cameco Environmental Effect Rating 1

 

Posting Date November 1, 2021
Incident Date November 1, 2021
Incident

Transportation Incident

Details

At approximately 5:40 a.m., after being parked overnight, a transport truck carrying uranium ore concentrate rolled backwards into a ditch at the edge of the parking lot when attempting to leave the Broken Canoe Trading Post in Mississiauga First Nation near Blind River. The truck had not been fully engaged into gear before the driver released the brake allowing the second (and last) trailer to roll backwards very slowly. There was no damage to the trailer, or the drums and there was no release of material. 

No one was injured and there was no impact on the health or safety of the public or the environment.

Corrective Action

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and the Chief of Mississauga First Nation were notified. A tow truck was dispatched, and the trailer was successfully pulled out of the ditch and inspected by Cameco personnel prior to continuing its journey to the Blind River Refinery.

Cameco Environmental Effect Rating

1

 

Posting Date November 4, 2020
Incident Date November 3, 2020
Incident

Transportation Incident

Details

At approximately 7:00 p.m., a transport truck carrying empty tote bins to the Blind River Refinery struck a bull moose on Highway 69 between Noble and Pointe-au-Baril, Ontario. The tote bins, which were empty at the time of the incident, are used in the shipping of uranium trioxide. There were no injuries and no damage to the trailer or the empty tote bins. The truck suffered damage and was towed from the scene. A spare truck was dispatched to retrieve the trailer to complete the delivery to the Refinery.

No one was injured and there was no impact on the health or safety of the public or the environment.

Corrective Action

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission was notified.

Cameco Environmental Effect Rating

1

 

Date April 24, 2020
Incident

Fire in yard

Details

At approximately 4:00 p.m., combustible material (garbage) stored in the south east yard area at the Blind River Refinery caught fire. The fire department was called and the fire was declared extinguished by the fire department at approximately 6:15 p.m.

No one was injured and there was no impact on the health or safety of the public or the environment.

Corrective Action

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the Mayor of Blind River and the Chief of Mississauga First Nation were all notified. The cause of the fire is being investigated and additional monitoring and fire watch has been put in place. Environmental samples are being collected for analysis.  

Cameco Environmental Effect Rating

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.

Decommissioning

Detailed plans and financial guarantees are in place to restore the Blind River 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 Blind River refinment 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.

Sustainability at Cameco

When measuring the sustainability and ethical impact of a company, environmental, social and governance (ESG) are key factors considered by the public and investors. Sustainability and ESG matters have been an important focus at Cameco for many years and we have a strong performance record.

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