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Toxic Hearing: Cameco in Port Hope Day 1

by Zach Ruiter

Toxic Hearing: Cameco in Port Hope Day 1
Toxic Hearing: Cameco in Port Hope Day 1

(Watch this short video associated with the article)

Three Days for Five Years: Cameco’s License Renewal Hearing at the CNSC

"Cameco is using Lake Ontario as a nuclear waste dump"

Hearings at the CNSC Tribunal in Port Hope on Cameco’s 5-year license renewal application will consider if Cameco, which sits on a Lake Ontario Harbour, will be granted the ability to “retain the flexibility to discharge a treated liquid process effluent.”

According to Cameco’s presentation, the discovery of groundwater contamination under the plant in 2007 necessitated creating a “network of nine groundwater collection wells," which pump and treat the groundwater to “reduce overall contaminant loadings to the harbor from the groundwater by reducing the total volume of groundwater that reaches the harbor.” According to Cameco, the “existing water treatment facility is nearing its capacity.”

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Chair Michel Binder questioned Cameco representative Andy Thorn if the requested increase in effluent was related to Cameco’s stated plans to double its uranium production by 2018. Thorn claimed “treated water discharge relates to the pump and treatment system to protect the environment” and “those two things are not related.”

According to Thorn, “the Port Hope conversion facilities have no plans to increase production; at the Blind River [facility] we are requesting to change the amount from 18,000 to 24,000 tons…the increase in Blind river is being asked so that we have the flexibility to react to market conditions as they present themselves.”

Mark Mattson, President of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper argues the license should not allow Cameco to discharge process effluent into the environment: “in the last four years alone, nine instances of major leaks or excessive levels of contamination at the facility have been reported by Cameco and the Port Hope press. Both of the plants comprising the Port Hope conversation facility were shutdown for some part of the most recently licensing period due to spills or contamination.”

Cameco’s 2009 Annual Compliance Report indicates that storm water discharge from the facility has an average uranium concentration of 43 times higher than Ontario’s Provincial Water Quality Objective for uranium. 

Brennain Lloyd of Northwatch, a North-Eastern based coalition of environmental and social justice groups is concerned with revelations in today’s hearing that Cameco has made preliminary plans to move radioactive decommissioning wastes to Blind River, according to Lloyd “concerns are not lessened with the plan, its not public.”

According to Kevin Kamps, of Beyond Nuclear who came from Washington D.C. to intervene on behalf of FARE (Families Against Radiation Exposure), nuclear is a false solution to climate change: “its unimaginably expensive and takes too long; we could spend unimaginable amounts on climate with nuclear and it wouldn’t solve the problem; plus nuclear weapons proliferation, the waste problem, and the terrorist threat, and health risks, you’d be trading one ecological disaster for another.”

Linda Thompson, Mayor of Port Hope acknowledged that nuclear industries have been the hallmark of this community for over 70 years. The mayor says “the municipality shares the goal of reducing negative perception of Port Hope by working with Port Hope Area Initiative, Cameco, and others. We’ve requested help from the federal and provincial government to get the good news about Port Hope out.”

“We have had an increased number of positive stories throughout the media and we continue to monitor that and we are currently working on the development of a community rebranding process,” concluded Mayor Thompson. 

Christine Fahey, the project director of Port Hope Initiative, a division of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (ACEL), announced the planned creation of  “a new solid above ground mound, 1.2 million metres-cubed of waste at the site of the existing Welcome Waste Management facility.”  The ‘Vision 2010 Project’ will remediate the harbor at the Cameco facility by dredging 70 years of radioactive waste, over the span of five years.  Delivery of waste materials to the waste facility will be by truck. 

Dr. Linda Harvey, representing Physicians for Global Survival, argues "cancers are presenting in rates in excess of the background Ontario population - there are statistically significant increases in cancers of the trachea, bronchus, lung, and sinuses, all of these are structures which contamination passes on its way into the body if its in an airborne form and alot of the contamination in Port Hope are airborne, we've got airborne emissions from Cameco we've got radioactive dust blowing around on the ground." The fear for many residents is that dredging 70 years of radioactive waste from the harbour and transporting it to the Welcome Waste Management facility near the local high school, will result in an increase in airborne radioactive particles as well as radioactive storm water being added back into Lake Ontario and the Ganaraska River which runs through downtown Port Hope. 

Darrent Durrant and Genevieve Fuji Johnson in their book ‘Nuclear Waste Management in Canada’ have examined the record of public consultations and found “…dominant actors and organizations have not always taken seriously the genuine conflicts among social actors” adding “They have deployed many different strategies to incorporate, yet simultaneously disenfranchise dissident voices.”

Derrick Kelly, the president of FARE, says the first day was “pretty typical, the decision has already been made to give Cameco their license, this is just a political window-dressing theatre, going through the motions to make it look like there could be evidence that could change things, but there isn’t.”


Thank-you to Tyler Rouse, Head of Security for Cameco Corp for proof reading the first iteration of this article and catching the word 'conversation' where it should have read 'conversion'

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