Canadian long-term waste storage project completed

08 November 2021

A project to relocate low-level radioactive waste from historic Canadian radium and uranium refining operations to a new, above-ground long-term storage facility has been completed, with the final layers of topsoil and grass placed on the engineered mound, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) has announced. The capping and closure of the mound at the Port Granby Project Long-Term Waste Management Facility completes a project begun in 2016.

The capped and closed storage facility at Port Granby (Image: PHAI)

The project has involved the transfer of about 1.3 million tonnes of contaminated soil and industrial waste from a legacy storage site on the shoreline of Lake Ontario in Southeast Clarington, to the new facility, where maintenance and monitoring will continue far into the future. The capping and closure of the engineered storage mound is a major milestone for the Port Granby community and the Port Hope Area Initiative (PHAI), of which the Port Granby project is part, CNL said. It also marks the transition of the project to Phase 3, long-term monitoring and maintenance.

“CNL is cleaning up and safely managing this historic waste on behalf of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, and that is a responsibility we take very seriously” CNL President and CEO Joe McBrearty said. “In pursuit of that goal, CNL is applying proven engineering containment methods that have been used internationally to tackle challenging environmental issues like the cleanup in Port Granby.”

The historic waste is from radium and uranium refining operations of the former Crown corporation Eldorado Nuclear and its private sector predecessors, which operated from the 1930s to 1988. During that time, waste had been buried in two gorges and 76 trenches at the 17-hectare Port Granby Legacy Waste Management Site. However, the terrain - along a receding shoreline, with eroding bluffs and porous sandy soils - was unsuitable for long-term waste storage.

Construction of the Port Granby storage mound began in 2016 and involved the installation of multi-layered base liner and cover systems to safely isolate the waste from the environment. The excavation and transfer of historic waste was completed in November 2020. Dedicated systems within the mound and around the perimeter of the facility will allow maintenance and monitoring of the facility’s safety and performance for hundreds of years into the future, CNL said.

PHAI was established in 2001 as the Canadian government's commitment, working with the local municipalities, to develop and implement a safe, long-term solution for the management of low-level historic wastes. The initiative is being implemented on behalf of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited by CNL, through its Historic Waste Program.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News