Independent Environmental Monitoring Program: Whiteshell Laboratories site

Publication date: April 12, 2018

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) is licensed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to decommission the Whiteshell Laboratories site located in Pinawa, Manitoba. CNL implements a comprehensive environmental protection and monitoring program, which controls and monitors emissions of radioactive and hazardous substances from the site and assesses any impacts to the public and the environment.

In the early 1960s, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) established the site for nuclear research. A major focus of the program was the Whiteshell Reactor #1 (WR-1 Reactor), an organically cooled research reactor, which was shut down in 1985. In 1997, AECL discontinued the program, and decommissioning planning began.

As part of its decommissioning process, CNL is proposing to decommission the WR-1 Reactor through an in situ (leaving in place) approach. Before the CNSC can make a licensing decision on this proposal, the CNSC must undertake, and is undertaking, an environmental assessment conducted under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 to determine if the proposed activities will cause significant adverse environmental effects.

The Independent Environmental Monitoring Program (IEMP) results for 2017 indicate that the public and the environment in the vicinity of Whiteshell Laboratories site are protected and that there are no expected health impacts.

Legend

[ ] Guideline/Reference Level

Whiteshell Laboratories site

Sample Type Sample Description Parameter 2017 Guideline/
Reference Level
Expected Health Impact (Yes/No) Sample Code
Soil 0 - 5 cm Cesium-137 1.5 Bq/kg dry weight 58.6 Bq/kg dry weight No WL01-S03
Soil 0 - 5 cm Cobalt-60 <0.97 Bq/kg dry weight 14 Bq/kg dry weight No WL01-S03
Vegetation Grass Organically Bound Tritium <1.3 Bq/kg fresh weight 21,700 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL01-V03
Vegetation Grass Cesium-137 <3.4 Bq/kg fresh weight 52 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL01-V03
Vegetation Grass Tritiated water <3.0 Bq/kg fresh weight 64,200,000 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL01-V03
Vegetation Grass Cobalt-60 <3.9 Bq/kg fresh weight 605 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL01-V03
Water Stream/River Gross Alpha <0.07 Bq/L 0.5 Bq/L No WL01-W02
Water Stream/River Gross Beta <0.13 Bq/L 1.0 Bq/L No WL01-W02
Water Stream/River Cesium-137 <0.25 Bq/L 10.0 Bq/L No WL01-W02
Water Stream/River Tritiated water <3.0 Bq/L 7,000 Bq/L No WL01-W02
Water Stream/River Cobalt-60 <0.27 Bq/L 12.1 Bq/L No WL01-W02
Soil 0 - 5 cm Cesium-137 8.9 Bq/kg dry weight 58.6 Bq/kg dry weight No WL02-S02
Soil 0 - 5 cm Cobalt-60 <0.97 Bq/kg dry weight 14 Bq/kg dry weight No WL02-S02
Sediment 0 - 5 cm Cesium-137 <0.98 Bq/kg dry weight 37,300 Bq/kg dry weight No WL02-SE01
Sediment 0 - 5 cm Cobalt-60 <0.97 Bq/kg dry weight 5,870 Bq/kg dry weight No WL02-SE01
Vegetation Grass Organically Bound Tritium <1.3 Bq/kg fresh weight 21,700 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL02-V02
Vegetation Grass Cesium-137 <3.4 Bq/kg fresh weight 52 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL02-V02
Vegetation Grass Tritiated water <3.0 Bq/kg fresh weight 64,200,000 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL02-V02
Vegetation Grass Cobalt-60 <3.9 Bq/kg fresh weight 605 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL02-V02
Water Stream/River Gross Alpha <0.07 Bq/L 0.5 Bq/L No WL02-W01
Water Stream/River Gross Beta <0.13 Bq/L 1.0 Bq/L No WL02-W01
Water Stream/River Cesium-137 <0.25 Bq/L 10.0 Bq/L No WL02-W01
Water Stream/River Tritiated water <3.0 Bq/L 7,000 Bq/L No WL02-W01
Water Stream/River Cobalt-60 <0.27 Bq/L 12.1 Bq/L No WL02-W01
Air Ambient Cesium-137 <0.000049 Bq/m3 2.56 Bq/m3 No WL03-A01
Air Ambient Cobalt-60 <0.000064 Bq/m3 0.832 Bq/m³ No WL03-A01
Soil 0 - 5 cm Cesium-137 <0.98 Bq/kg dry weight 58.6 Bq/kg dry weight No WL03-S01
Soil 0 - 5 cm Cobalt-60 <0.97 Bq/kg dry weight 14 Bq/kg dry weight No WL03-S01
Vegetation Grass Organically Bound Tritium <1.3 Bq/kg fresh weight 21,700 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL03-V01
Vegetation Grass Cesium-137 <3.4 Bq/kg fresh weight 52 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL03-V01
Vegetation Grass Tritiated water <3.0 Bq/kg fresh weight 64,200,000 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL03-V01
Vegetation Grass Cobalt-60 <3.9 Bq/kg fresh weight 605 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL03-V01
Water Stream Gross Alpha 0.30 Bq/L 0.5 Bq/L No WL03-W03
Water Stream Gross Beta 0.24 Bq/L 1.0 Bq/L No WL03-W03
Water Stream Cesium-137 <0.25 Bq/L 10.0 Bq/L No WL03-W03
Water Stream Tritiated water <3.0 Bq/L 7,000 Bq/L No WL03-W03
Water Stream Cobalt-60 <0.27 Bq/L 12.1 Bq/L No WL03-W03
Fish Fish - Northern Pike Organically Bound Tritium 1.3 Bq/kg fresh weight 212,000 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL04-F01
Fish Fish - Northern Pike Cesium-137 <1.1 Bq/kg fresh weight 1,040 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL04-F01
Fish Fish - Northern Pike Tritiated water <3.0 Bq/kg fresh weight 488,000 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL04-F01
Fish Fish - Northern Pike Cobalt-60 <1.2 Bq/kg fresh weight 1,350 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL04-F01
Fish Fish - Northern Pike Organically Bound Tritium <0.9 Bq/kg fresh weight 212,000 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL05-F02
Fish Fish - Northern Pike Cesium-137 <1.1 Bq/kg fresh weight 1,040 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL05-F02
Fish Fish - Northern Pike Tritiated water <3.0 Bq/kg fresh weight 488,000 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL05-F02
Fish Fish - Northern Pike Cobalt-60 <1.2 Bq/kg fresh weight 1,350 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL05-F02
Fish Fish - Northern Pike Organically Bound Tritium <0.9 Bq/kg fresh weight 212,000 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL06-F03
Fish Fish - Northern Pike Cesium-137 <1.1 Bq/kg fresh weight 1,040 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL06-F03
Fish Fish - Northern Pike Tritiated water <3.0 Bq/kg fresh weight 488,000 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL06-F03
Fish Fish - Northern Pike Cobalt-60 <1.2 Bq/kg fresh weight 1,350 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL06-F03
Food Carrots Organically Bound Tritium <0.9 Bq/kg fresh weight 45,200 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL07-F04
Food Carrots Cesium-137 <1.0 Bq/kg fresh weight 160 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL07-F04
Food Carrots Tritiated water <3.0 Bq/kg fresh weight 104,000 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL07-F04
Food Carrots Cobalt-60 <1.3 Bq/kg fresh weight 373 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL07-F04
Food Kale Organically Bound Tritium <0.9 Bq/kg fresh weight 45,200 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL07-F05
Food Kale Cesium-137 <1.4 Bq/kg fresh weight 160 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL07-F05
Food Kale Tritiated water <3.0 Bq/kg fresh weight 104,000 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL07-F05
Food Kale Cobalt-60 <1.5 Bq/kg fresh weight 373 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL07-F05
Food Cucumber Organically Bound Tritium <0.9 Bq/kg fresh weight 45,200 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL07-F06
Food Cucumber Cesium-137 <1.2 Bq/kg fresh weight 160 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL07-F06
Food Cucumber Tritiated water <3.0 Bq/kg fresh weight 104,000 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL07-F06
Food Cucumber Cobalt-60 <1.5 Bq/kg fresh weight 373 Bq/kg fresh weight No WL07-F06

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

2 N/A – Not available

3 For radiological parameters where no guidelines exist, CNSC screening levels (also known as reference levels) were established based on conservative assumptions using CSA Group Standard N288.1-14 and ICRP 119. The screening level for a particular radionuclide in a particular medium (e.g., water, air, food) represents the activity concentration that would result in a dose of 0.1 mSv/y (millisieverts/year), a dose at which no health impacts are expected.

4 Tritiated water (HTO) is a radioactive form of water where the usual hydrogen atoms in H2O are replaced with tritium. Elemental tritium (HT) refers to the radioactive form of hydrogen gas.

Background

Under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act (NSCA), licensees of nuclear facilities are required to implement an environmental monitoring program (EMP) to demonstrate that the public and the environment are protected from emissions related to the facilities' nuclear activities. The results of these monitoring programs are submitted to the CNSC to ensure compliance with applicable guidelines and limits, as set out in regulations that oversee Canada's nuclear industry.

The CNSC has implemented its IEMP to verify that the public and the environment around licensed nuclear facilities are protected. It is separate from, but complementary to, the CNSC's ongoing compliance verification program. The IEMP involves taking samples from public areas around the facilities, and measuring and analyzing the amount of radioactiveand hazardous substances in those samples. CNSC staff collect the samples and send them to the CNSC's state-of-the-art laboratory for testing and analysis. The area outside of the Whiteshell Laboratories site perimeter was sampled as part of the IEMP in 2017.

2017 Results

CSNC staff collect air samples near the Whiteshell Laboratories site, 2017.

The 2017 IEMP sampling plan for Whiteshell Laboratories focused on radioactive contaminants. A site-specific sampling plan was developed based on the CNL's approved environmental monitoring program and the CNSC's regulatory experience with the site. In 2017, CNSC staff collected air, soil, sediment, vegetation, food and water samples in publicly accessible areas outside the Whiteshell Laboratories site perimeter. CSNC staff also worked with the Sagkeeng First Nation to sample a Northern Pike from the Winnipeg River, caught downstream from the Whiteshell Laboratories site. CNSC staff will continue to work with Indigenous communities in future sampling campaigns to ensure meaningful results are obtained.

The levels of radioactivity in all the samples were below available guidelines and CNSC screening levels. These screening levels are based on conservative assumptions about the exposure that would result in a dose of 0.1 mSv/year, which represents one tenth of the CNSC's public dose limit of 1 mSv/year. No health or environmental impacts are expected at these levels.

Conclusions

The IEMP results confirm that the public and the environment in the vicinity of the Whiteshell Laboratories facility are protected and that there are no expected health impacts. These results are consistent with the results submitted by CNL, demonstrating that the licensee's environmental protection program protects the health and safety of people and the environment.

To obtain the full technical IEMP report, 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.

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