million cubic metres of low-level radioactive wastes are located in the
three Ontario communities of Clarington, Hope Township and the Town of Port
Hope. They were produced by the former federal Crown Corporation Eldorado
Nuclear Limited at its Port Hope refinery beginning in the 1930s. They were
disposed of initially at various sites in the Town of Port Hope, then in the
Welcome waste disposal facility in Hope Township, and subsequently, the Port
Granby facility in the Municipality of Clarington. The Welcome and Port
Granby waste management facilities are licensed by the Canadian Nuclear
Safety Commission (CNSC), and are owned and operated by Cameco Corporation.
While the wastes are being managed safely in their current locations, the
present situation is not considered appropriate for the long term by the
CNSC, the Government of Canada or the communities themselves.
The Government of Canada initiated a siting exercise in 1988 to locate a
disposal facility for these wastes. Despite efforts to identify a solution,
ultimately none resulted. In 1997, the municipalities passed resolutions
supporting a local solution. Specially appointed municipal committees with
public representation met with federal officials and consultants, and then
reported back to their respective councils on options for addressing the
long-term management of the wastes within their own communities.
The preferred option is a locally developed solution to clean up and store
the wastes in three long-term storage facilities, one in each of the
municipalities. The facilities would be engineered to last for at least 500
years, with minimal maintenance costs.
The conceptual designs vary somewhat in each community. In Port Hope and
Hope Township, the proposals involve complete encapsulation of the low-level
radioactive wastes in engineered facilities that would fit into the existing
contours of the sites. The facilities would be constructed with a liner
beneath them to isolate the buried material from underlying soils and
groundwater. They would be protected on the surface by seven-layer cover
systems and landscaped. After the clean up, the sites would be monitored on
an ongoing basis, but could be safely used for recreational purposes.
Clarington has opted for in situ management of the wastes, constructing a
groundwater interceptor trench around the Port Granby waste facility, then
capping the wastes with a multi-layer low-permeability cover. The Clarington
proposal also involves stabilizing the facility to counteract erosion of the
bluffs and shoreline at the location, which borders Lake Ontario. Like the
other two facilities, the Clarington facility would undergo long-term
monitoring and would be developed for recreational purposes.
The three community facilities are estimated to cost $260 million. This
estimate includes costs associated with environmental assessment, regulatory
review, site clean ups, remediation, waste transportation, facility
construction, waste emplacement, facility closure and ongoing monitoring.
The full project cycle is expected to take up to 10 years. The first step is
to initial the Principles of Understanding, which federal and municipal
negotiations have developed over the next eight months. The Government of
Canada will then work with the communities to develop a legal agreement
based on the Principles of Understanding. Once the agreement is finalized,
it will be reviewed by the Municipal Councils and Cabinet prior to
signature. The preconstruction and regulatory phases can then commence, and
are expected to take five years. The project will be subject to a full
environmental assessment, with public input. After regulatory review, the
clean-up implementation phase will last another five years. Implementation
will be managed by Natural Resources Canada, through the Low-Level
Radioactive Waste Management Office.
For more information, media may contact:
Director, Uranium and Radioactive Division
Natural Resources Canada
Advisor, Radioactive Waste
Natural Resources Canada