News Local

Port Hope cleanup focus of CNSC meeting

By Valerie MacDonald, Northumberland Today

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, headed by CEO and president Dr. Michael Binder, received an update on the Port Hope Area Initiative low-level radioactive waste cleanup Thursday at the Town Park Recreation Centre.
VALERIE MACDONALD/Northumberland Today

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, headed by CEO and president Dr. Michael Binder, received an update on the Port Hope Area Initiative low-level radioactive waste cleanup Thursday at the Town Park Recreation Centre. VALERIE MACDONALD/Northumberland Today

PORT HOPE - 

Described as one of the biggest low-level radioactive waste cleanups in Canada into the largest facilities in all of North America, the Port Hope Area Initiative was the focus of a Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission update meeting in Port Hope on Thursday.

Amidst significant uniformed and plain-clothed security personnel scanning people and searching their bags and briefcases before allowing them into the session held at the Port Hope Recreation Centre on McCaul Street, the five-member Commission listened to presentations about what has been accomplished so far on the Port Granby and Port Hope (Welcome) facilities that will permanently house the historic low-level radioactive waste from Eldorado. It included how the scan of Port Hope properties and streets is going, in terms of finding low level radioactive waste in order to transport it to the facilities, and how the environment and people will be protected while it all takes place.

Concerns about the cleanup were far ranging including the program’s impact on Lake Ontario in general and the Port Hope harbour, in particular, to how the Municipality still has to resolve including how its own “respective agencies require will be met to ensure a comprehensive clean up” will be achieved, quoting a letter from Port Hope Mayor Sanderson that was given to the Commission.

Through a series of articles, Northumberland Today will look at the questions raised by intervenors like Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, and the Commissioners members themselves, plus the responses provided by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) which is overseeing the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), which, under a granted licence, is undertaking the Port Hope Area Initiative project, as well as from the federal and provincial environmental bodies at these governmental levels who are to monitor environmental impacts.

Most of the day focused on the Port Hope cleanup.

Commission head, Dr. Michael Binder, asked several times in a variety of ways if each and every one of the 4,800 properties in Port Hope had been, or were being, checked for low-level radioactive waste and whether citizens could check in their own files to see what has been found about the properties where they live.

Dr. Binder played devil’s advocate by suggesting he be one of the residents who might only believe what they see. He was told by CNSC staff that these records can be accessed locally.

Based on previous information, it was estimated that about 400 to 450 residential properties require cleanup and that is about 8 to 10% of the total, PHAI General Manager Craig Hebert said.

However, John Benson of CNL told the Commission that so far only 300 properties have been found. Remediation designs for the specific sites will be created, he said, and then the actual remediation will begin in 2018 when the contaminated materials are moved to the permanent Port Hope low-level radioactive waste site at Welcome.

Dr. Binder said he was surprised that only 8 to 10% of homes will need remediation and asked how it is being determined which homes are targeted.

Benson replied that a radon survey of all 4,800 properties are being undertaken. If there are elevated levels, then an investigation is undertaken including a gamma survey conducted on all properties.

In addition to residential homes, a set number of industrial sites are part of the cleanup project which is being paid for by the Government of Canada, as well as Port Hope’s harbour, its West Beach and the county-owned and the closed Highland Drive landfill site.

Roads will also be remediated and an investigation of which are contaminated is ongoing at this time, the Commission was told.

Asked what the top three risks of the project were, Bryan Tyers of CNL itemized them as: safety (for workers, the environment and the public); dealing with the harbourfront which will involve Cameco, the community and the environment; and the actual remediation work where there is “interfacing with the public.”

He assured the Commission that that remediation will be “intentionally methodical.”

Concerns about the harbour work were raised by Lake Ontario Waterkeeper representatives, and Commissioner members themselves, and it was found that some procedures related to stopping contamination from getting into the lake and monitoring it, are still not developed.

The next in this series of articles will review these concerns and some of the responses about keeping Lake Ontario safe while historic low-level radioactive waste is dredge out of the harbour.

vmacdonald@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/NT_vmacdonald