Independent Environmental Monitoring Program: Port Hope Conversion Facility and Cameco Fuel Manufacturing

Facility name Port Hope Conversion Facility and Cameco Fuel Manufacturing
Licensee Cameco Corporation (Cameco)
Site name Port Hope Conversion Facility (PHCF) and Cameco Fuel Manufacturing (CFM)
Facility location Municipality of Port Hope, Ontario
Facility description PHCF converts uranium trioxide (UO3) powder into uranium dioxide (UO2) and uranium hexafluoride (UF6). UF6 is further processed elsewhere into fuel for light-water reactors, while the UO2 powder is further processed elsewhere into fuel for CANDU reactors. At CFM, UO2 powder is pressed into pellets and loaded into zirconium tubes. The tubes are then used to create finished reactor fuel bundles.

All CNSC licensees must maintain a comprehensive environmental protection program to monitor and control radiological (nuclear) and hazardous substances released from the facilities they oversee to determine concentrations of contaminants in the environment and assess potential exposure routes to the public.

The CNSC’s Independent Environmental Monitoring Program (IEMP) results in 2020 indicate that the public and the environment in the vicinity of the PHCF and CFM are protected and that no human health impacts are expected. 

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[ ] Guideline/Reference Level

Port Hope Conversion Facility and Cameco Fuel Manufacturing

Sample Type Sample Description Parameter 2014 2015 2017 2020 Guideline/
Reference Level
Expected Health Impact (Yes/No) Sample Code
Vegetation Grass Uranium 0.41 mg/kg dry weight N/A N/A N/A N/A No PH01-V01
Water Lake surface Uranium 0.34 µg/L N/A 0.38 µg/L N/A 15 µg/L No PH02-W01
Water Lake surface Uranium N/A N/A N/A 0.36 µg/L 15 µg/L No PH02-W08
Water Lake surface Nitrate N/A N/A N/A 1.33 mg/L 13 mg/L No PH02-W08
Water Lake surface Fluoride N/A N/A N/A 0.13 mg/L 0.12 mg/L No PH02-W08
Water Lake surface Ammonia N/A N/A N/A <0.24 mg/L 0.3 mg/L No PH02-W08
Vegetation Grass Uranium 0.26 mg/kg dry weight N/A N/A N/A N/A No PH04-V02
Water Creek surface Uranium 0.98 µg/L 4.00 µg/L 0.97 µg/L 1.05 µg/L 15 µg/L No PH04-W02
Air Ambient Uranium <0.0003 µg/m3 0.0017 µg/m3 <0.001 µg/m3 <0.005 µg/m3 0.03 µg/m3 No PH05-A01
Soil 0-5 cm Uranium 2.58 mg/kg dry weight 2.22 mg/kg dry weight 1.67 mg/kg dry weight N/A 23 mg/kg dry weight No PH05-S01
Vegetation Grass Uranium 0.17 mg/kg dry weight <0.01 mg/kg dry weight N/A N/A N/A No PH05-V03
Water Inlet Uranium 4.97 µg/L N/A N/A N/A 15 µg/L No PH05-W03
Water Outlet Uranium 3.46 µg/L N/A N/A N/A 15 µg/L No PH05-W04
Water Lake surface Uranium 0.54 µg/L N/A N/A N/A 15 µg/L No PH05-W05
Air Ambient Uranium N/A 0.00093 µg/m3 N/A N/A 0.03 µg/m3 No PH06-A05
Soil 0-5 cm Uranium 1.80 mg/kg dry weight 2.56 mg/kg dry weight 1.43 mg/kg dry weight 0.96 mg/kg dry weight 23 mg/kg dry weight No PH06-S02
Vegetation Grass Uranium 0.17 mg/kg dry weight <0.01 mg/kg dry weight N/A N/A N/A No PH06-V04
Air Ambient Uranium <0.0003 µg/m3 N/A N/A N/A 0.03 µg/m3 No PH07-A02
Soil 0-5 cm Uranium 1.49 mg/kg dry weight N/A N/A N/A 23 mg/kg dry weight No PH07-S03
Vegetation Grass Uranium 0.01 mg/kg dry weight N/A N/A N/A N/A No PH07-V05
Water Tap water Uranium 0.42 µg/L N/A N/A N/A 15 µg/L No PH07-W06
Soil 0-5 cm Uranium 6.04 mg/kg dry weight 5.38 mg/kg dry weight 2.12 mg/kg dry weight N/A 23 mg/kg dry weight No PH08-S04
Vegetation Grass Uranium 0.02 mg/kg dry weight <0.01 mg/kg dry weight N/A N/A N/A No PH08-V06
Water River surface Uranium 0.67 µg/L 0.68 µg/L 0.76 µg/L N/A 15 µg/L No PH08-W07
Water River surface Nitrate 3.6 mg/L 2.18 mg/L 3.22 mg/L N/A 13 mg/L No PH08-W07
Water River surface Fluoride 0.07 mg/L 0.10 mg/L 0.08 mg/L N/A 0.12 mg/L No PH08-W07
Water River surface Ammonia <0.1 mg/L <0.1 mg/L <0.1 mg/L N/A 0.3 mg/L No PH08-W07
Air Ambient Uranium <0.0003 µg/m3 N/A N/A N/A 0.03 µg/m3 No PH09-A03
Soil 0-5 cm Uranium 9.28 mg/kg dry weight N/A N/A N/A 23 mg/kg dry weight No PH09-S05
Vegetation Grass Uranium <0.01 mg/kg dry weight N/A N/A N/A N/A No PH09-V07
Water Tap water Uranium 0.51 µg/L N/A N/A N/A 15 µg/L No PH09-W08
Water Tap water Nitrate 1.21 mg/L N/A N/A N/A 13 mg/L No PH09-W08
Water Tap water Fluoride 0.19 mg/L N/A N/A N/A 0.12 mg/L No PH09-W08
Water Tap water Ammonia <0.1 mg/L N/A N/A N/A 0.3 mg/L No PH09-W08
Soil 0-5 cm Uranium 18.12 mg/kg dry weight 10.18 mg/kg dry weight 3.37 mg/kg dry weight N/A 23 mg/kg dry weight No PH10-S06
Vegetation Grass Uranium 0.05 mg/kg dry weight 0.07 mg/kg dry weight N/A N/A N/A No PH10-V08
Water Lake surface Uranium 3.45 µg/L 2.43 µg/L 2.68 µg/L N/A 15 µg/L No PH10-W09
Water Lake surface Nitrate 1.79 mg/L 0.16 mg/L 3.06 mg/L N/A 13 mg/L No PH10-W09
Water Lake surface Fluoride 0.19 mg/L 0.11 mg/L 0.11 mg/L N/A 0.12 mg/L No PH10-W09
Water Lake surface Ammonia 0.2 mg/L <0.1 mg/L <0.1 mg/L N/A 0.3 mg/L No PH10-W09
Air Ambient Uranium <0.0003 µg/m3 0.00053 µg/m3 <0.001 µg/m3 N/A 0.03 µg/m3 No PH11-A04
Soil 0-5 cm Uranium 1.69 mg/kg dry weight 3.27 mg/kg dry weight 1.56 mg/kg dry weight N/A 23 mg/kg dry weight No PH11-S07
Vegetation Grass Uranium 0.02 mg/kg dry weight <0.01 mg/kg dry weight N/A N/A N/A No PH11-V09
Water Inlet Uranium 0.33 µg/L N/A N/A N/A 15 µg/L No PH11-W10
Water Inlet Nitrate 1.22 mg/L N/A N/A N/A 13 mg/L No PH11-W10
Water Inlet Fluoride 0.18 mg/L N/A N/A N/A 0.12 mg/L No PH11-W10
Water Inlet Ammonia <0.1 mg/L N/A N/A N/A 0.3 mg/L No PH11-W10
Water Outlet Uranium 0.35 µg/L N/A N/A N/A 15 µg/L No PH11-W11
Water Outlet Nitrate 1.17 mg/L N/A N/A N/A 13 mg/L No PH11-W11
Water Outlet Fluoride 0.13 mg/L N/A N/A N/A 0.12 mg/L No PH11-W11
Water Outlet Ammonia <0.1 mg/L N/A N/A N/A 0.3 mg/L No PH11-W11
Water Lake surface Uranium 3.90 µg/L 0.47 µg/L N/A N/A 15 µg/L No PH11-W12
Water Lake surface Nitrate 2.73 mg/L 1.38 mg/L N/A mg/L N/A 13 mg/L No PH11-W12
Water Lake surface Fluoride 0.17 mg/L 0.23 mg/L N/A N/A 0.12 mg/L No PH11-W12
Water Lake surface Ammonia <0.1 mg/L <0.1 mg/L N/A N/A 0.3 mg/L No PH11-W12
Air Ambient Uranium N/A N/A N/A 0.00135 µg/m3 0.03 µg/m3 No PH13-A03
Air Ambient Uranium N/A 0.0028 µg/m3 <0.001 µg/m3 N/A 0.03 µg/m3 No PH13-A06
Soil 0-5 cm Uranium N/A 4.58 mg/kg dry weight 5.08 mg/kg dry weight N/A 23 mg/kg dry weight No PH13-S08
Air Ambient Uranium N/A N/A N/A 0.0013 µg/m3 0.03 µg/m3 No PH14-A04
Air Ambient Uranium N/A 0.0055 µg/m3 <0.001 µg/m3 N/A 0.03 µg/m3 No PH14-A07
Soil 0-5 cm Uranium N/A 11.82 mg/kg dry weight 12.17 mg/kg dry weight N/A 23 mg/kg dry weight No PH14-S09
Vegetation Grass Uranium N/A <0.01 mg/kg dry weight N/A N/A N/A No PH14-V11
Water Lake surface Uranium N/A 7.33 µg/L 1.29 µg/L N/A 15 µg/L No PH14-W13
Water Lake surface Nitrate N/A 1.23 mg/L 1.46 mg/L N/A 13 mg/L No PH14-W13
Water Lake surface Fluoride N/A 0.20 mg/L 0.16 mg/L N/A 0.12 mg/L No PH14-W13
Water Lake surface Ammonia N/A <0.1 mg/L <0.1 mg/L N/A 0.3 mg/L No PH14-W13
Water Inlet Uranium N/A 0.97 µg/L 0.62 µg/L N/A 15 µg/L No PH15-W01
Water Lake surface Uranium N/A N/A N/A 0.42 µg/L 15 µg/L No PH15-W01
Water Lake surface Uranium N/A N/A N/A 0.41 µg/L 15 µg/L No PH16-W03
Water Lake surface Nitrate N/A N/A N/A 1.81 mg/L 13 mg/L No PH16-W03
Water Lake surface Fluoride N/A N/A N/A 0.14 mg/L 0.12 mg/L No PH16-W03
Water Lake surface Ammonia N/A N/A N/A <0.24 mg/L 0.3 mg/L No PH16-W03
Water Lake surface Uranium N/A N/A 2.31 µg/L N/A 15 µg/L No PH17-W05
Water Lake surface Nitrate N/A N/A 2.90 mg/L N/A 13 mg/L No PH17-W05
Water Lake surface Fluoride N/A N/A 0.10 mg/L N/A 0.12 mg/L No PH17-W05
Water Lake surface Ammonia N/A N/A <0.1 mg/L N/A 0.3 mg/L No PH17-W05
Water Lake surface Uranium N/A N/A N/A 0.40 µg/L 15 µg/L No PH18-W06
Water Lake surface Nitrate N/A N/A N/A 1.59 mg/L 13 mg/L No PH18-W06
Water Lake surface Fluoride N/A N/A N/A 0.13 mg/L 0.12 mg/L No PH18-W06
Water Lake surface Ammonia N/A N/A N/A <0.24 mg/L 0.3 mg/L No PH18-W06
Soil 0-5 cm Uranium N/A N/A N/A 2.87 mg/kg dry weight 24 mg/kg dry weight No PH21-S04
Soil 0-5 cm Uranium N/A N/A N/A 1.08 mg/kg dry weight 23 mg/kg dry weight No PH23-S06
Soil 0-5 cm Uranium N/A N/A N/A 4.44 mg/kg dry weight 23 mg/kg dry weight No PH24-S07
Soil 0-5 cm Uranium N/A N/A 1.77 mg/kg dry weight 0.76 mg/kg dry weight 23 mg/kg dry weight No PH25-S08
Air Ambient Uranium N/A N/A N/A <0.005 µg/m3 0.03 µg/m3 No PH26-A26
Soil 0-5 cm Uranium N/A N/A N/A 0.97 mg/kg dry weight 23 mg/kg dry weight No PH26-S09

1 The < symbol indicates that a result is below the provided laboratory analytical detection limit.

2 N/A – not available

3 For water samples, the results for non-radiological parameters are compared to the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) Canadian Water Quality Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life. Where no CCME guidelines exist, the Health Canada Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality are used.

4 For ammonia, the results for total ammonia are compared to the CCME Canadian Water Quality Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life for fresh water based on a pH of 8.2 and temperature of 20ºC.

5 For soil samples, the CNSC laboratory began using the partial digestion method as opposed to the total digestion method that was used before 2020. This change was made in order for the results to be comparable to the CCME guidelines. As a result, soil concentrations are lower than previous years.

6 2020 sampling locations PH08, PH17 and PH20 were no longer accessible due to harbour remediation activities.

2020 results

The 2020 IEMP sampling plan for PHCF and CFM focused on the measurement of relevant facility releases into the air, soil and water environment. A site-specific sampling plan was developed based on the licensee’s approved environmental monitoring programs and the CNSC’s regulatory experience with the sites. In October 2020, CNSC staff collected air, soil and water samples in publicly accessible areas outside the PHCF and CFM site perimeters.

Port Hope Conversion Facility

Around PHCF, the concentrations of uranium, nitrate and ammonia measured in air, water and soil in 2020 were all below the available guideline levels. These results are similar to IEMP measurements from previous years. Three fluoride concentrations measured in lake water samples were slightly above the CCME freshwater quality guideline for the protection of aquatic life (0.12 mg/L), but were below Health Canada's guidelines for drinking water quality (1.5 mg/L), and well below the CCME toxicity benchmark (11.5 mg/L) for sensitive aquatic biota. Even though the fluoride results are above the CCME guideline, adverse effects are not expected because the guidelines were derived with conservative assumptions and were derived to protect the most sensitive species over the long term. Adverse effects to human health and aquatic life including fish and benthic invertebrates are not likely to occur at these levels of fluoride in water.

Cameco Fuel Manufacturing

Around CFM, the concentrations of uranium in air, water and soil in 2020 were all below the available guideline levels. For air and water, these results are similar to IEMP measurements from previous years. However, for soil this year the CNSC laboratory analyzed the soil results using the same methodology as that used to establish the CCME guidelines. As a result, soil concentrations are more accurately comparable to the CCME guidelines and as a result lower than IEMP measurements from previous years.

View detailed sampling data.

2017 results

CNSC staff taking a soil sample in the vicinity of the Port Hope Conversion Facility, 2017

CNSC staff taking a soil sample in the vicinity of the Port Hope Conversion Facility, 2017.

The 2017 IEMP sampling plan for PHCF and CFM focused on uranium as a hazardous substance. The IEMP assesses uranium against its more sensitive (that is, more restrictive) chemical toxicity thresholds as a potentially toxic metal (hazardous substance). A site-specific sampling plan was developed based on the licensee's approved environmental monitoring program and the CNSC's regulatory experience with the site. In May 2017, CNSC staff collected air, soil and water samples in publicly accessible areas outside the PHCF and CFM site perimeters.

The concentrations of uranium in air, water and soil, as well as of fluoride, nitrate and ammonia in water were all below the available guideline levels, with the exception of two fluoride concentrations measured in lake water samples obtained near the PHCF. The water sample results (0.16 mg/L) were slightly above the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) freshwater quality guideline for the protection of aquatic life (0.12 mg/L), but were below Health Canada's guidelines for drinking water quality (1.5 mg/L), and well below the CCME toxicity benchmark (11.5 mg/L) for sensitive aquatic biota. Adverse effects to human health and aquatic life including fish and benthic invertebrates are not likely to occur at these levels of fluoride in water.

The measured concentrations of uranium in soil were above the urban parkland and rural parkland background level for Ontario of 1.9 to 2.1 µg of uranium per g of soil (µg/g) at three sampling locations and below the CCME soil quality guideline for residential and parkland use (23 µg/g) at all locations sampled. No adverse health or environmental impacts are expected at these levels of uranium in soil.

The results for 2017 were similar to those obtained for 2015 and 2014 for the concentrations of uranium in air, water and soil as well as fluoride, nitrate and ammonia in water. Since the IEMP results represent a snapshot in time, the small differences between sample results can be attributed to slight differences in the sampling locations, seasonal variations, facility operations, meteorological conditions, and/or natural variations in background radiation. Over time, CNSC staff will have sufficient data to establish baseline and monitor trends. View detailed sampling data.

2015 and 2014 results

The 2015 and 2014 IEMP sampling plans for the PHCF and CFM sites were very similar to the 2017 plan and focused on uranium. CNSC staff collected air, soil and water samples in publicly accessible areas outside the site perimeters for both sampling campaigns. View detailed sampling data.

The 2015 and 2014 IEMP results confirmed that the public and the environment in the vicinity of the PHCF and CFM sites were protected from the releases from the facility and that there were no health or environmental impacts expected at these levels.

Conclusions

The IEMP results for 2017, 2015 and 2014 confirm that the public and the environment in the vicinity of the PHCF and CFM facility are protected and that there are no expected health impacts. These results are consistent with the results submitted by Cameco, demonstrating that the licensee's environmental protection program protects the health and safety of people and the environment.

To obtain the full technical IEMP reports, contact us at cnsc.info.ccsn@cnsc-ccsn.gc.ca or call 613-995-5894 or 1-800-668-5284 (in Canada). Please provide the name of the facility and the report year requested.

Focus on health

The CNSC reviews the results of existing health reports and conducts health studies to provide further independent verification that the health of people in and around the Port Hope Conversion Facility are protected.

Many health studies have been performed in the area due to the historical and current presence of the nuclear industry in the community of Port Hope, Ontario, where the radium and uranium refining, processing, and fabrication industry has existed since 1932. Environmental and epidemiological studies conducted in Port Hope indicated that levels of exposure to radioactive and non-radioactive contaminants are below levels known to cause adverse health effects. Epidemiological studies provide no evidence of health effects because of past and present activities of the Port Hope nuclear industries. These findings are consistent with research studies conducted in other countries.

Based on exposure and health data, CNSC staff have not observed and do not expect any adverse health outcomes due to Port Hope Conversion Facility operations. Access the CNSC’s library of health studies and third-party research.

If you would like more general health information and data for your community, please visit the following websites:

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