Fluoride Action Network

Cameco to reopen Ontario uranium plant

Source: Calgary Herald | Canwest News Service
Posted on September 18th, 2008
Industry type: Nuclear Industry

Cameco Corp. plans to reopen its Port Hope, Ont., facility in the next few days after doing repairs to the leaking uranium-conversion plant.

Cameco said it has resolved the issue of underground leaking with a combination of groundwater control measures, repairs and improvements to the plant.

The company provided the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission with reports on its actions and received word on Sept. 12 that the commission had accepted its plan to restart the plant.

Cameco discovered in July 2007 that material from the plant had leached into soil and groundwater. Operations were suspended to investigate and fix the leak.

“Since the plant has been shut down for over a year, we have been following a cautious, thorough approach to restart in order to ensure it happens properly and safely,” said Andy Oliver, vice-president of Cameco’s fuel-services division.

Oliver also said a third-party risk assessment has shown the contaminant levels in the soil and groundwater do not pose a threat to human health or the environment.

“We have carried out a broad series of corrective actions and other control and preventative measures inside and outside the plant to resolve the issue and to ensure leaks do not occur in the future,” Oliver said. “Cameco has learned a lot from the experience and will apply those lessons to other areas of its Port Hope operations and right across the company.”

Remediation costs will come in between $50 million and $55 million, Cameco said.

Port Hope will open at reduced capacity, due to a disagreement over the supply of hydrofluoric acid, an ingredient required to produce UF6, an intermediate product of uranium that it ultimately processed into a fuel for nuclear reactors. Port Hope is one of three UF6 plants in the Western Hemisphere.

Cameco has enough hydrofluoric acid for about a month of production. Its sole supplier of the acid has terminated its long-term contract with Cameco and has offered to provide it at a higher price.

Cameco, headquartered in Saskatoon, says it is working on resolving the issue and investigating other supply sources.

© The Calgary Herald 2008